Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin says he is looking into a rumour that retail investors have threatened to pause trading on the stock market next Monday, and insists he has never interfered with the exchange.
Speaking in San Francisco where he is attending the Apec meetings, Mr Srettha said he was not aware of any serious problem with confidence in the Stock Exchange of Thailand that would justify a rumoured trading boycott.
“This is a big issue that needs to be looked into,” he said late Wednesday local time in San Francisco. “The government has not issued any long-term measures that would harm the SET. On the contrary, it is trying to improve many aspects of the exchange.”
The prime minister said he was ready to consider any proposal from retail investors that would improve the SET.
On Monday, he said, he had his chief adviser Kittiratt Na Ranong, a former SET president, discuss market policies with officials of the SET and the Securities and Exchange Commission. “I am not sure if that was the cause of the rumour,” he said.
He insisted he did not interfere with the SET. Lately, he said, his main concern has been the slow progress in the investigations into scandals involving two listed companies, More Return and Stark Corporation Plc.
The SEC in late June filed complaints with the police Economic Crime Suppression Division and the Anti-Money Laundering Office against 32 individuals for their involvement in the 800-million-baht share manipulation of More Return Plc (MORE), an energy-saving equipment and water distribution company.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI), meanwhile, in July pressed charges against two former executives of Stark Corporation, a wire and cable manufacturer, for breaching the Securities and Exchange Act.
The SET said recently that it is preparing to strengthen its supervision of listed companies on both the main bourse and the Market for Alternative Investment next year to bolster fraud prevention and warn investors about potential misconduct.
Data to November from SETSMART showed that retail investors account for 32% of average daily turnover on the local equity market. Foreign investors account for 52%, institutional investors 8% and brokers 7.6%.
The SET has been one of the worst-performing bourses in Asia this year, having declined 15.4% since the start of the year.
Last week the market was briefly gripped by a rumour that regulators were preparing to ban short-selling, which authorities quickly denied.
Short-selling is typically done mainly by large funds and foreign investors, and in some markets it has been blamed for working against the interests of retail investors. South Korea has banned the practice until next June while it reviews the issue.
Mr Srettha said that the SEC had looked into short-selling in the local market and did not find any unusual patterns.