Monday, September 20, 2010

Thailand - Govt is confident that a new law can be approved in 3 weeks to sort out the 3G spectrum auction

[bangkok post] Government whips are confident they can finish deliberating the frequency allocation bill in three to four weeks.

However, the legal process surrounding the 3G auction which would proceed from the passage of the frequency bill could take up to three years, experts say.

The Organisation Allocating Broadcasting Frequency and Supervising Radio/Television Broadcasting and Telecommunication Businesses Bill is needed to provide for the setting up of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) and so clear the way for a 3G auction.

Government whip Pongsri Taraphum, a Democrat MP for Lop Buri, said yesterday the government whips had made the bill an urgent matter on the parliamentary agenda.

"We think we can table the bill for parliamentary endorsement in the next three to four weeks," Ms Pongsri said.

The Senate made some amendments and approved the bill in its second and third readings last month before sending it to the lower house.

Passage of the bill would allow for the formation of the NBTC to replace the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which oversees the telecom and broadcasting sectors.

The unclear constitutional status of the NTC, set up under the 1997 constitution, is one of the core reasons behind the Administrative Court's injunction halting a 3G auction earlier scheduled to be held yesterday. The auction process is now delayed awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court on Thursday.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said at the weekend he wanted the government whips to take the bill into consideration as quickly as possible as an alternative if the Supreme Administrative Court or the Constitution Court stopped the NTC's 3G auction, which is facilitated by a law under the 1997 constitution.

Ms Pongsri said a joint house-senate committee was expected to be set up to scrutinise the proposed amendments to the bill. If the joint committee approved the amended bill, the bill was expected to receive parliamentary endorsement and come into effect soon. Members of the upper house yesterday also debated the pros and cons of the 3G auction.

Senator Lertrat Rattanawanich said even though the frequency allocation bill might receive endorsement and become law within five months, this did not mean the NBTC could be formed within one or two months of the promulgation of the law.

Gen Lertrat said it would take at least a year before the process to select members of the NBTC was complete.

He said it was unrealistic and misleading for the government to predict that the NBTC would come into existence within four months.

Radio waves bill 'ready soon'

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