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Telenor must comply with martial law: NBTC

Settapong Malisuwan

Settapong Malisuwan

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission yesterday lashed out at a comment by Norway's Telenor, warning that Thailand is now ruled by martial law and all companies must comply with the military rule.

Now Thailand is under martial law, we are not using only the Frequency Allocation Law 2010 anymore, so everyone needs to respect the martial law," said Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of NBTC's telecom committee.

Tor Odland, vice president of Telenor Asia, the major shareholder of Total Access Communication, reportedly said that DTAC was ordered to prevent its customers from accessing Facebook through its mobile network on May 28 by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and NBTC.

Settapong insisted that the NBTC had never issued such an order.

Meanwhile, he told Boonchai Bencharongkakul, chairman of DTAC, Sigve Brekke, chairman of Telenor Asia, and Jon Eddy Abdullah, CEO of DTAC, to stop "lobbying" NBTC from making negative comments about Telenor.

Expressing his dissatisfaction over this issue, he said Telenor should consider investing elsewhere if Thailand presents too much trouble for its business.

"If it wants to continue investing in Thailand, it should respect Thai law," Settapong said. Following the May 22 coup, Facebook and other social media were used by anti-coup protesters to organise protests.

On May 28, Facebook users briefly could not access their pages, leading to speculation that the NCPO had ordered the shutdown. The junta later said that it did not have such a policy. Later, it was reported that more than 100 Facebook accounts were blocked.

In his e-mail to Aftenposten, a Norwegian newspaper, Telenor's Odland said the company had received a call from the NBTC, which has been under the NCPO since the May 22 coup, asking it to temporarily to stop its customers from entering Facebook. The restriction was carried out at 3.35pm, affecting about 10 million DTAC users, Odland said.

Settapong said NBTC would strictly examine foreign ownership in telecom operators to prevent foreign dominance in the industry and to protect national security.

The NBTC will set up a committee to probe the direct and indirect shareholdings of foreign entities in telecom operators. This is the commission's duty and complies with regulations, and everyone will be treated on an equal basis, he said.

The NBTC has also reviewed whether it is appropriate to allow foreign ownership in telecom operators at the present maximum of 49 per cent under the Telecom Business Act and Foreign Business Act.

Telecom operators cannot take part in licence auctions for segments of the 1,800- and 900-megahertz spectra this year if they are found to breach the foreign-ownership law and NBTC regulations governing foreign dominance in the telecom business, he said.

Currently, Telenor Asia is holding 42.61 per cent in DTAC, followed by a 23-per-cent stake by Thai Telecom Holdings, which is majority-owned by the Bencharongkakul family. Vichai Bencharongkakul, director of Thai Telecom Holdings, insisted that his family is not anybody’s nominee.


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