Govt defends airport transfer move

Govt defends airport transfer move

No breach of bidding law, says ministry

The Transport Ministry defended the transfer of the management of three regional airports to the Airports of Thailand as part of its budget-saving plan, insisting it is not a sale of state assets.

The ministry said the management transfer of Udon Thani, Krabi and Buri Ram airports from the Department of Airports (DoA) to the Airports of Thailand (AoT), a state enterprise, was considered by the Council of State, the government's legal arm.

It was part of a plan to revamp the airport network and streamline airspace management, under the commercial airport development masterplan.

The ministry also moved to dispel concern that the transfer of the airports would violate the law against fixed bids, saying no bids had been called and no price tender had been made to accommodate the management transfer.

Earlier, former transport minister Thaworn Senneam said the transfer may have broken the law as no other parties were allowed to compete for the right to run the airports.

No state properties or assets were to be handed over to a private company since the AoT remains a state enterprise despite parts of its shares being traded on the stock exchange.

In fact, the AoT needs to pay rent to use facilities and land to the Treasury Department, according to the ministry.

The ministry also addressed claims that the DoA had invested a large amount of money in the airports only to see them handed over to the AoT. The ministry said none of the assets, buildings or land is owned by the DoA, adding they belong to the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department merely granted permission to the DoA to use the assets.

When the AoT takes over the management of the airports, it will have to sign a contract to lease the land and rent the facilities from the Treasury Department.

The AoT must also accept the terms of commercial development of the airports, which require the agency to charge a reasonable amount in airport service fees and support local businesses.

After the AoT steps in to oversee the airport management, it can help reduce the state budget, which otherwise would have been disbursed in the form of a subsidy to the DoA to run the airports.

In the first five years of a takeover, the AoT has the obligation to make the necessary airport investments to make them competitive.

The DoA, meanwhile, said the AoT's role in managing the three airports will help the expansion of the airports' overall transport and logistical capacities, which drives economic growth.

The AoT has also pledged to provide the DoA with funds to assist in developing the remaining regional airports under the department's supervision.

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