Draft air navigation bill progresses

Draft air navigation bill progresses

Aiming to lure foreign investors into aviation

Aircraft at Suvarnabhumi airport. The aviation city at U-tapao is expected to funnel 60 million passengers annually upon completion. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
Aircraft at Suvarnabhumi airport. The aviation city at U-tapao is expected to funnel 60 million passengers annually upon completion. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

The cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft bill for the air navigation law, allowing foreign investors who win Board of Investment (BoI) promotional privileges to own up to 100% of shares.

Three categories -- aircraft manufacturing, aircraft parts manufacturing, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for aircraft -- will be allowed to enjoy 100% foreign ownership under the draft bill, said Nathporn Chatusripitak, an adviser to the Prime Minister's Office.

The move aims to attract foreign investors to the aviation industry, which is one of 12 targeted industries the government is promoting for its flagship Eastern Economic Corridor project.

The plan aims to help Thailand become an aviation hub in Southeast Asia, Mr Nathporn said.

The Air Navigation Act of 1954 requires Thai companies to hold a 51% share in the three categories.

Mr Nathporn said the Royal Thai Navy is in the process of opening bids for the first phase of the U-tapao aviation city project.

The first phase covers 6,500 rai and includes the third terminal, a second runway, a commercial gateway, the second phase of the MRO hub, a cargo village or free-trade zone, and a human resources training centre.

The aviation city is expected to be able to accommodate 60 million passengers annually, putting it on a par with Suvarnabhumi, and to yield economic returns worth 189 billion baht every year.

The aviation city project is scheduled to be completed in five years, in line with plans to build a high-speed railway linking three airports, including Suvarnabhumi.

The navy is scheduled to announce the winning bidders for the first phase in March after the document submission process is allowed on Feb 28.

Mr Nathporn said many aviation companies, aerospace parts makers and MRO firms have shown interest in investing in the EEC. Some of them have proposed to the government that they are willing to hold shares of more than 51%.

As of Oct 2, the BoI reported that there were 26 aircraft and parts manufacturers and 14 companies operating in MRO with a total investment of 23 billion baht.

Mr Nathporn said the Transport Ministry was instructed to propose a draft bill as an urgent item to be vetted by the Council of State and the National Legislative Assembly by Dec 28.

In a related development, the cabinet on Tuesday approved a royal decree to allow the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand to develop an electric rail or tram in Nakhon Ratchasima.

The cabinet also approved a master plan for Nakhon Ratchasima's light rail project with three routes: Green (11.17km and an extension of 12.12km), Orange (9.81km and an extension of 5.37km) and Purple (7.14km and an extension of 4.48km).

The project will be implemented under the public-private partnership scheme and is expected to begin operations within five years.

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