Thailand’s courts have refused to hear a lawsuit trying to invalidate the 3G auction, paving the way for 2.1-GHz licences to be issued by January.
After two weeks of pre-trial testimony and deliberation, the administrative court has dismissed the lawsuit filed by the office of the ombudsman seeking to withhold the issuance of 3G licences.
The court held that the ombudsman has no duty to investigate the independent regulator, the national telecommunications and broadcasting commission (NBTC).
The ombudsman claimed that the NBTC had delegated its constitutional duty to the telecom sub-board, which it could not do; that the auction was not an spectrum auction but an auction for selecting spectrum first; and that the auction was not held in a competitive manner.
At the end, however, none of the evidence was taken into account. The court ruled that the office of the ombudsman only had jurisdiction over civil servants and bureaucrats, not an independent organisation such as the NBTC.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit welcomed the news but said that licences would still be withheld until a 15-20% price reduction was agreed to by the auction winners. The price reduction was initiated to placate public anger over the auction that saw the spectrum go for for a tiny premium with two of the three telcos getting the spectrum at reserve price.
Previously, many have pointed out that a retail price cap without regulation of the wholesale market, controlled by state telcos CAT and TOT, is a recipe for disaster.
The court decision was not unanimous. The dissenting judge said that it left a dangerous precedent as now it would seem that the NBTC is above the law. The judge added that a more liberal interpretation of the ombudsman’s constitutional duty to include independent agencies would be keeping with the spirit of the law that set up the administrative court for matters of public administration.