“The government of Norway is seriously concerned about both procedural and substantives issues raised by the draft notification,” said a letter from the Norwegian Embassy in Thailand to the NTC, according to a report in the local Thai newspaper, The Nation.
The Norwegian government is the major shareholder of Telenor which holds a 32.9-percent stake in Total Access Communication (DTAC), one of the big telecom operators in Thailand, as well as a 25-percent stake in United Communication Industry (Ucom).
The Norwegian government also says rules being drawn up by NTC could interfere with the rights and interests of foreign shareholders of Thai telecom firms.
“We are concerned that the proposed provisions of the draft notification infringe the laws of Thailand and unfairly prejudice the rights and interests of foreign shareholders of Thai companies as well as foreign companies,” said the letter.
The commission’s board approved the first draft on March 23 and posted it on its website www.ntc.or.th for interested parties to send comments via e-mail, with no deadline. It recently posted an amended draft on the website and invited interested parties to send comments by May 12.
The Norwegian Embassy’s letter said the NTC should provide sufficient time for interested parties to review “such crucial issues” and for those issues to be openly debated.
There was a similar protest made by the European Commission delegation to Thailand following this concern.
Besides DTAC, Shin Corp Plc, the parent of Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS) that is Thailand’s largest cellular operator, is likely to be affected by the new NTC regulations. Currently, Cedar Holdings and Aspen Holdings, subsidiaries of Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, own 51.98 per cent and 44.14 per cent of Shin, respectively.
Under current Thai law, the multi-tiered shareholding structures that give Telenor control of DTAC and Temasek control of Shin are legal. Neither DTAC nor Shin is considered “owned” by foreigners, although both are mainly “controlled” by foreigners.
Actions deemed to be foreign dominance of local telecom operators include foreigners’ shareholdings (as well as those of their nominees) exceeding the legal ceiling of 49 per cent, and foreign shareholders or their representatives having voting rights exceeding the entitlement of their actual shareholding.
Dominance also means foreign shareholders or their representatives appointing or removing key policy-makers of a Thai operator, the use of nominees to dominate them or the appointment of foreigners linked to foreign shareholders to key policy-making posts.
If dominance is exerted by a foreign government or foreign state enterprise, and the NTC believes that the dominance poses a threat to national security, it will consult with certain local agencies, such as the National Security Council.