Govt invokes Section 44 to keep NBTC board in place

Govt invokes Section 44 to keep NBTC board in place

Chatchawal: Probing leaked audio clip
Chatchawal: Probing leaked audio clip

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has exercised its power under Section 44 to abort the selection of board members for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette.

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the current commission members will remain in office, and if any committee member leaves, the other members will take on their responsibilities as no replacements will be appointed for the time being.

NCPO leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha also urged the agencies involved to consider solutions for the selection of a commissioner and other issues that may arise in the future.

Lt Gen Sansern said that after the 14 shortlisted candidates were rejected by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) last week, the NCPO feared that the matter would not be handled for the upcoming spectrum auctions, and therefore issued the order under Section 44 to retain the NBTC board, whose actual term ended in October last year.

The three 1800-megahertz licences and the 850MHz licence held by DTAC are set to expire in September.

Last week, an audio clip emerged in which a man indicated the prime minister was not happy with the list of names, raising suspicions that the NCPO may have been behind the NLA's decision to reject all the shortlisted candidates for NBTC board.

Gen Prayut on Tuesday denied his involvement.

"Many people mentioned me. Now please find the evidence behind who mentioned my name in these projects," he said.

The NLA voted 118 to 25, with 20 abstentions, to reject the entire list of NBTC candidates after at least eight of the 14 shortlisted were deemed by the NLA to be unqualified.

They failed to meet the requirements laid out under Section 7 of the NBTC law, which bars current and former board members, executives or employees of a telecom business from being selected for the NBTC board, according to the NLA.

Pol Gen Chatchawal Suksomjit has been appointed to lead a five-member panel set up to probe the leaked audio. The first meeting will be convened tomorrow to lay out the framework of the probe. The clip will be transcribed and examined to verify its authenticity.

"The person in the clip will be invited to testify and give details of the place and issues in the clip. However, if the probe found the clip to be counterfeited, the maker will be traced and prosecuted," he said.

A member of the existing NBTC board, who asked not to be named, said the board may have to work till the end of this year as "amending laws and new recruitment process may take seven or eight months before appointing new NBTC board", he said.

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