Prayut: Soldiers won't run oil corp

Prayut: Soldiers won't run oil corp

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha turns down the idea of having the Defence Energy Department run a national oil corporation, at Government House on Tuesday. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha turns down the idea of having the Defence Energy Department run a national oil corporation, at Government House on Tuesday. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has rejected the idea of having the Defence Energy Department initially run the national oil corporation if it is to be set up.

The comment came after MR Pradiyathorn Devakula said on Monday a group of soldiers were trying to amend the national petroleum bill being deliberated by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA).

The former deputy PM said these soldiers wanted to insert a section stipulating the setup of such corporation even though it was not there in the first reading.

MR Pridiyathorn said the revised bill also provided the Defence Energy Department run the corporation in the initial phase.

Six of the NLA's energy panel vetting the bill are soldiers.

On the following day, Gen Prayut said the idea of having the national oil corporation had been lobbied for a long time by the Thai Energy Reform group led by Rossana Tositrakul, ML Kornkasiwat Kasemsri and Panthep Puapongphan.

"They made several proposals to the cabinet, which reviewed and forwarded them to lawmakers to be further scrutinised by the NLA's energy panel. But I learned they kept trying to lobby the panel members too to ensure the national oil corporation is set up.

"I said more than once that we're not ready. We already have a company majority-owned by the Finance Ministry. Having another one could be redundant so I have the NLA consider it," Gen Prayut said, referring to PTT Plc.

The largest company in Thailand by capitalisation is 51.1% owned by the Finance Ministry and 14.8% by the government's Vayupak funds.

While Gen Prayut seemed vague on whether the corporation should be set up or not, he flatly denied the possibility that the Defence Energy Department would run it in the initial phase if it sees the light of the day.

"This is impossible. It [Defence Energy Department] doesn't have the capabilities and I won't allow that," he said.

Also on Tuesday, Thirachai Puvanartnarubala wrote an open letter arguing the concerns raised by MR Pridiyathorn and supporting the national oil corporation idea although not the part where the Defence Energy Department should initially run it.

"I don't think having a national oil corporation is going backwards 50 years like MR Pridiyathorn suggested," he wrote.

As several energy concessions are expiring, there is a need for a state-owned company to manage them, he added.

"It's not fair to give them all to PTT because it's a public company and we shouldn't hand over state assets to its shareholders just like that.

"Allowing ministries to manage them is not as flexible and efficient as setting up a corporation to do so," he added.


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