NBTC committee's power challenged

A member of the Group of 40 Senators on Tuesday petitioned the Office of the Ombudsman asking that it request the Constitution Court to rule whether the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's (NBTC) telecom committee has the authority to endorse the result of the auction of 3G licences.

Paiboon Nititawan filed the petition with Chief Ombudsman Panit Nitithanprapas, after the Administrative Court on Monday cleared the way for the NBTC to issue 3G licences by rejecting a lawsuit brought by the Office of the Ombudsman to halt the 3G licensing process.

The court said the Ombudsman was not a party to the matter and had no mandate to bring the case.

The senator said that under Article 40 of the law on agencies authorised to allocate frequencies - used by the NBTC to issue 3G licences - the NBTC's telecom committee is empowered to act on behalf of the NBTC on various issues as mentioned in Article 27 of the same law.

There is a problem, he argued, in that Article 27 (4) states that the telecom committee is empowered to act on behalf of the NBTC in granting licences and supervising use of frequencies in broadcasting and telecommunications businesses, but Section 305 (1) of the constitution states differently.

Section 305 (1) of the constitution gives the telecom committee the authority to supervise telecommunications businesses only and does not give it authority to allocate frequencies or issue licences for use of frequencies.

Therefore, the telecom committee's endorsement of the result of the 3G auction on Oct 16 might be illegal, according to Mr Paiboon.

Mr Paiboon said he wanted the Office of the Ombudsman to ask the Constitution Court to rule whether Article 27 (4) of the law on agencies authorised to allocate frequencies conflicts with Section 305 (1) of the constitution.

If the Constitution Court ruled that they were contradictory, the 3G auction result would therefore be null and void, said the senator.

Mr Paiboon said the Office of the Ombudsman had the authority to seek a legal interpretation.

He said in fact the NBTC's telecom committee could still review its endorsement of the 3G auction result.  If the telecom commission asked the NBTC to endorse the result, the auction would be legal and constitutional, Mr Paiboon added.

Mrs Panit, the chief ombudsman, said the senator's petition would be considered urgently, today, by the Office of the Ombudsman because it is a matter concerning public interests.

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