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Telecom sector mirrors Thai democracy

The telecom sector mirrors the state and level of "democracy" in Thailand. It also mirrors the lack of understanding of the important issue of conflict of interest. Thailand can never be democratic or able to fight corruption before conflict of interest is integrally understood and part of the thinking of the vast numbers of Thais - or at the very least their leaders. Here is a reminder of how it should not be:

l AIS pays a lower revenue rate to the state than competing telecom companies when Thaksin is PM. Thaksin's AIS stocks are unlawfully hidden and tax not paid when stocks finally are sold.

l An auction for 3G frequencies is reportedly turned into a fixed sale through heavy pressure from True Move, benefiting it, not the consumers supposedly served by the telecom sector. Giving this process the name "auction" was a joke! In addition, the starting price for bidding was set very low, probably to satisfy True. The payback plan was also seemingly adjusted to fit True. The result: True wins all and consumers are the losers.

l Direct deals are done between AIS and state-run TOT and between True Move and state-run CAT without open auctions for all participants in this business field. Those non-competing state-private deals are wide open to corruption and full of possibility for conflict of interest.

l True Move is given a 3G concession and a 3G kick-start long before its competitors are given the green light to start up a 3G service.

l State-owned CAT runs its own business, cooperating with True Move and at the same time administering frequencies for which competing Dtac has a concession - a situation filled with possibility for unfairness and conflict of interest.

l Running two parallel state telecom entities is a waste of consumers' money and only possible via an absence of democracy in a system exploited by two privileged groups. Recent Thai telecom history shows that the more cooks there are, the bigger themess.

The state telecom sector together with other state institutions and entities urgently need reforms so that they start functioning as a part of a true democracy.

A Johnsen

Chon Buri




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