The cabinet yesterday approved the draft amendments to the Trade Competition Act aimed at enhancing competition and reducing business monopolies and political meddling.
Government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said key components of the amendments were enforcement against state enterprises that ran businesses in competition with the private sector and the establishment of an independent regulatory body to supervise trade competition.
That means the 10 state enterprises including oil and gas conglomerate PTT Plc, the largest listed company on the Stock Exchange of Thailand by market capitalisation, would be covered by the draft's enforcement.
Other state enterprises include Thai Airways International Plc, TOT Plc and CAT Telecom Plc.
The seven-member regulatory body will have a six-year term that can be extended only once.
The government will give financial support to the regulatory body in the first year, but it will then be supported by business registration fees.
To prevent any business collusion or market dominance, the draft amendments also require mergers to be approved by the new regulatory body and redefine the word "entrepreneur" to cover a company or partnership under the same group, Maj Gen Sansern said.
Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn earlier said competition conditions also needed to take into account factors such as market structure including the number of players, positioning, concentration and access obstacles, access to manufacturing bases and distribution channels, natural resources and infrastructure, investment and networking.
Since the Trade Competition Act took effect in 1999, a total of 85 cases have been filed with the Trade Competition Board for vetting.
However, not a single case has proceeded to a ruling in these 17 years.
One case was submitted to prosecutors but dropped because the Office of the Attorney-General found there was insufficient evidence to take up the case against the alleged offender.
The draft amendments to the Act had earlier passed through the Trade Competition Board for approval, but certain parts of the private sector still felt unhappy.
Public hearings were held throughout 2015 to gather comments from all relevant parties before resubmission to the board late in the year.
The draft was recently endorsed by Mrs Apiradi and acknowledged by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.