Thai lawyer urges Oslo to block DTAC merger

Thai lawyer urges Oslo to block DTAC merger

A lawyer has petitioned the Norwegian government to pressure Norway's Telenor, the parent of Total Access Communication (DTAC), to abort the planned merger with True Corporation, saying it violates Thai laws and Thailand's constitution.

The petition was lodged by Somboon Boonyapirom via the Norwegian embassy in Bangkok on Thursday.

He also called on the Norwegian government to deliberate whether the merger was in line with the UN's guiding principles concerning business and human rights (UNGPs).

"A deliberation would be a confirmation of Norway's dignity as a country near the top of the global rankings for good corporate governance," said Mr Somboon.

He said the proposed merger is in violation of the Telecommunications Business Act's Section 21 that prevents acts that can cause monopoly or competition restrictions, with the regulator required to usher in measures to counter such acts.

Second, the deal will leave only two major players in the market, which is likely to take a toll on consumers in terms of service quality and pricing, as well as hindering the country's digital economy development, said Mr Somboon.

He said True and DTAC have respective market shares of 34% with 32.2 million subscribers and 20% with 19.6 million subscribers, while their key rival Advanced Info Service (AIS) has a market share of 46% with 44.1 million subscribers.

The merger would result in two large carriers that could dictate market prices and service quality, said Mr Somboon.

The remedy measures hastily drawn up by the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) have flaws in governing the deal, he said.

Several subcommittees of the NBTC tasked with scrutinising the planned merger have suggested the NBTC should not approve the deal.

Mr Somboon said another concern is freedom of communication for the public, which must not be interfered with by private firms or the state.

Fewer telecom operators increases the chance of interference or limits on information access, he said.

Private companies have a responsibility to protect human rights, in line with UNGPs, said Mr Somboon.

He said with the NBTC scheduled to hold a meeting to deliberate the planned merger on Oct 12, the Norwegian embassy should communicate with Telenor to investigate whether its subsidiary is violating business ethics in Thailand.

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