Thailand threatens to fine operators $7b

Dylan Bushell-Embling
02 Feb 2011

The Thai government may seek to fine private operators nearly $7 billion for alleged unauthorized concession amendments and unpaid fees.

Thai state-owned operator TOT will has threatened to initiate a lawsuit seeking 76.4 billion baht ($2.39 billion) in damages from AIS, the operator founded by former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Bangkok Postreported.

The company would also seek 97 billion baht from DTAC, 36.4 billion baht from True Corp and 700 million baht from TT&T in the lawsuit, Bloombergsaid.

The mooted fines relate to changes to concession fee agreements with TOT that the government has since declared illegal. The ICT ministry will have 15 days to try to renegotiate back to their original agreements, or the government will pursue legal recourse.

TOT's complaint with AIS also center on accusations that Thaksin introduced license fee regulatory changes that gave the operator a leg-up and reduced the total amount concession fees paid to TOT. The Supreme Court in February last year found in favor of these claims.

Of the threatened fines, a combined 138.6 billion baht relates to disputes over alleged unpaid access fees. Operators stopped paying this charge to TOT in 2006 after it was replaced by a license agreement.

AIS has in the past complained of being unfairly targeted during the concession dispute because of its prior connection to Thaksin.

But SingTel, which owns a direct 21% stake in AIS, yesterday revealed that it had been assured by the prime minister that “there will be fair treatment for all operators.”

AIS' majority owner, Shin Corporation, is also 42% owned by SingTel's own major shareholder, Temasek holdings.

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