Vultures circle NBTC after 3G auction fiasco

19 Oct 2012
Earlier, NBTC commissioner for legal Suthipol Thaweechaikarn defiantly said that the NBTC was not bound by public-sector procurement rules and could hold the auction any way it wanted.
In the upper house, senator Paiboon Nititawan as head of a senate anti-corruption sub-committee has taken up the cause to investigate the NBTC for collusion and fixing the auction. He has asked the NBTC to provide all documents and communications, especially those regarding the design of the auction, over the past four months that are relevant to the bid as a first step.
Elsewhere, NGO Surasak Siripornadulsilp, has lodged a 57,904-strong petition with the senate speaker seeking removal of the the entire eleven-board NBTC. The organizers said that the petition’s aims were twofold, first to protest the NBTC’s alleged fixing of the auction, and secondly to object to the NBTC’s ham-fisted media reform policies. An auction for digital TV is due next year and already commissioner Dr Natee Sukonrat has said that provocative programs will not be allowed.
The organizers said that the move for a petition was made just after the spectrum cap reduction and that in one month, they managed to get 57,000 signatories and ID documents to support the inquest, a clear sign of public awareness and displeasure at the alleged fix.
Surasak also highlighted a number of inconsistencies in the NBTC’s figure of 4.5 billion baht as a reserve price, pointing out that an often-cited report by Chulalongkorn university recommended a 6.44 billion reserve price with six bidders, and a reserve as high as 8 billion if only three bidders were present.
The NBTC took the 6.44 billion as the value of the spectrum and then used 67% as a starting reserve price, saw it was the same as the price of two years ago, so added inflation to it.
Back at the courts, the administrative court spokesperson has confirmed that six lawsuits have been filed asking for the auction to be suspended or annulled. Three have been dismissed, while judges are still considering the fate of the other three, including one by a former TOT union leader.
The question is, what will happen next?
Will the NBTC succeed in issuing the licences or will the commissioners find themselves looking for a new job first? Did they seriously think that lowering the spectrum cap to nullify the auction would hold? Or was it all an elaborate play with the intent for the status quo to continue?

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