February 02, 2013 00:00 By Watcharapong Thongrung
Vichet, Benja seen as most likely choices after Norkhun's resignation
Former deputy transport minister Vichet Kasemthongsri and Customs Department director-general Benja Louicharoen are the most likely choices to become the new chairman of PTT, according to a source.
Prasert Bunsumpun, former chief executive officer of the national oil and gas company, is another likely candidate to replace Norkhun Sitthipong, who will resign as chairman soon, said the source, who asked not to be named.
Vichet is known for his close connection with Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal as they have worked for the Thai Rak Thai party. Both were also among the 111 executive members of Thai Rak Thai who completed their five-year political ban last May.
Benja, now a member of the PTT board, is believed have the support of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Benja was the deputy director-general of the Revenue Department who played a role in exempting Thaksin from taxation related to share sales.
Norkhun, who is also permanent secretary of the Energy Ministry, has informed the PTT board of directors of his decision, the source added, saying he wanted to move to other tasks and open up the post to other capable persons.
Norkhun has served as PTT’s chairman for more than five years. During the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, he briefly resigned from the post after criticisms over conflict of interest.
As the top official of the Energy Ministry, Norkhun regulated the entire industry, while PTT has been heavily criticised for its monopolistic role.
His resignation as PTT’s chairman is believed to stem from a conflict with Pongsak over the company’s operations. However, the source said Norkhun told directors he had no conflict with the newly appointed minister and they could talk openly on any issue as they both came from Chulalongkorn University’s engineering faculty.
PTT currently has 15 directors. According to its regulations, an outsider can be nominated as chairman. The directors will convene to nominate a new chairman who can work closely with the ministry.
Since PTT was privatised, the company’s board has been chaired by government officials on the belief that they would best represent the government’s interests. The Finance Ministry now holds a 51-per-cent stake in the company, which is the country’s biggest corporation by asset size and net profit.
PTT share price gained Bt13 or 3.81 per cent, to close at Bt354 yesterday.