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SEC move piles pressure on BEC, Sorrayuth

Vorapol

Vorapol

Listed companies urged to be discreet in dealing with tainted individuals or firms; TV operator mum on media personality's future while its shares slide 4 per cent

The latest blow to media personality Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda yesterday following a plea to listed companies by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) resulted in a sharp drop in shares of BEC, which may lead to withdrawals of advertisements.

BEC's share price declined 4.4 per cent yesterday - the biggest percentage drop in a month - after the SEC warned listed companies to be careful in dealing with any individual or business accused of irregularities.

The company operates Channel 3, on which Sorrayuth's popular news programmes are aired.

Executives of BEC could not be reached for comment yesterday. A BEC executive told The Nation earlier this week that the company's policy is to keep its mouth shut, simply hoping that this negative development would fade away.



Following an open letter by the Anti-Corruption Network on October 9, the SEC - a key member of the network - yesterday issued a circular aimed at mobilising public support from all parties in the capital market to be "discreet" in dealing with Sorrayuth or his company, Raisom Co Ltd.

Sorrayuth has three of his daily programmes - "Ruang Lao Chao Nee", "Ruang Den Yen Nee" and "Ruang Lao Sao Athit" - running on Channel 3, which contribute about 20 per cent of BEC's revenue.

In the circular, the securities watchdog asked for cooperation from listed companies, securities companies, financial advisers and all associations involved in the capital market to restrain their contacts with corruption-tainted individuals. The SEC asked all to be "cautious and discreet" in doing business with individuals who are implicated in corruption "to help eradicate corruption in Thailand".

In the circular signed by SEC Secretary-General Vorapol Socatiyanurak, the watchdog referred to the Thai Journalists Association's resolution earlier that Sorrayuth has breached journalism ethics. That followed the National Anti-Corruption Commission's decision to take criminal action against Sorrayuth for his alleged role in the embezzlement of Bt138.79 million of MCOT's advertising revenue while producing a television show for Modernine in 2005 and 2006. Though the legal action against him has not yet been concluded, he apparently breached professional ethics, it said.

The SEC noted that the Anti-Corruption Network - a grouping of committed government agencies and private enterprises - won commendation from the Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA) and CLSA Asia-Pacific Market, but they also questioned the effectiveness of the collaboration. The SEC was also worried that corruption was acceptable to a majority of Thais (68.5 per cent), according to an Abac Poll, as long as they benefit from the action.

Vorapol said later that the watchdog did not aim its gun at any particular individual, but was mainly further raising awareness among organisations under the SEC's supervision about the problem of corruption in Thailand. Through the circular, the SEC aims to win voluntary support and it remains within the organisation's power to devise future moves.

Twatchai Yongkittkul, secretary-general of the Thai Bankers Association, said that upon receiving the circular, members of the association would convene and discuss what actions needed to be taken.

Pramon Sutivong, leader of the Anti-Corruption Network, added that it remains to be seen how these movements would affect the advertising revenue of Sorrayuth's programmes. Though BEC has not taken any action, he said he had sympathy for the TV operator as the case involving Sorrayuth had happened before the media personality joined the BEC family.

According to Isranews, from February 2011-May 2012, Raisom won advertising contracts worth nearly Bt20 million only from Government Savings Bank. PTT also awarded deals worth Bt16.56 million in September. Other main advertisers include Toyota Motor Thailand. PTT and Toyota executives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"As a director of Toyota, I told the company's executives that it's within their power to choose appropriate strategies, without having to report their actions to the network. The network's duty is to campaign against corruption and send out warnings against unethical business actions," Pramon said.


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