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Student tablet project hit as suppliers falter

NOT a single student will receive a device under the government's "One Tablet Per Child" project this academic year, as the Chinese supplier chosen by the administration has been having problems from the very beginning, and the Thai supplier has delivered just a few hundred tablet computers to date.

The figure is less than 0.1 per cent of the total the Thai firm it should have delivered. The Chinese supplier is Shenzhen Yitoa Intelligent Control, while the Thai firm is Jasmine Telecom Systems.

A senior official yesterday disclosed that just days after Shenzhen Yitoa Intelligent Control signed purchase contracts with the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) last September 25, it sought to delay delivery of the devices.

"The Chinese firm explained that a fire had hit the plant of a parts manufacturer, a DRAM manufacturer," the source said.

The plant reportedly caught fire on September 4 and sustained just partial damage. The Chinese supplier's request was rejected, as the firm was expected to procure DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips from other manufacturers. Under the purchase contracts signed with the Thai authority, Shenzhen Yitoa was required to deliver about 800,000 tablets to Thailand. The devices were to be handed out to Prathom 1 students across the country.

Of the total number, the first 100,000 tablets were to have been delivered within 35 days of the signing of the contract. The remaining devices were to be delivered within 90 days.

The deadline fell on December 25 last year, but Shenzhen Yitoa failed to make any deliveries.

Obec, which handles procurements, has since imposed a daily fine of more than Bt2 million on the Chinese supplier. The firm has submitted bank-guarantee letters covering the Bt120 million for the deals.

In early January, Shenzhen Yitoa representatives sought a meeting with caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang to request a delay in supplying the tablets.

"However, the Education Ministry stood firm on its stance that the supplier must honour the contract," the same source said.

To date, the Thai government has not paid any money to Shenzhen Yitoa Intelligent Control, which won the bids to provide tablets for two zones: Zone 1 and Zone 2 (covering all Prathom 1 students). After failing to get a lenient response from the Thai authorities, the Chinese supplier advised Obec on January 30 that it intended to terminate the purchase contracts.

"We will confiscate its security deposit," Kitti Limsakul said in his capacity as an adviser to Chaturon.

The caretaker education minister lamented that even if Thai authorities could confiscate the security deposit, it could not really compensate the damage suffered by students.

"Children have lost the opportunity to learn with these devices," Chaturon said.

Chaturon said though the procurements were not successful, they were definitely free from corruption. "The big problem has been the delay and inefficiency. So we have to review regulations. Lessons must be learnt so that we can find solutions," he said.

The Obec has not yet got a supplier for Zone 3 (Mathayom 1 students in the Central and Southern regions). For Zone 4 (Mathayom 1 students in the Northern and Northeastern regions), Jasmine Telecom Systems has delivered just a few hundred tablets. The firm says it will be able to deliver 20,000 to 30,000 more this week.

However, most schools will conclude their classes for the 2013 academic year by the end of this month.




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