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Shin Corp Sale or “Sinful” Sale - Thaksin and his family under scrutiny

Updated On: Feb 03, 2006

Since the news of the Shin Corp sale was released, the fallout has been far and deep.

The latest has been the advocation for a probe to be carried out by Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to declare the sale null and void. Opponents of the deal are themselves looking into the rules and procedures to find out if the prime minister's children or their overseas partners may have contravened any rules. There are intense efforts to detect any irregularities with the deal conjured from political intrigue and more out of political gains than actual substantiated proof. Some like media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul have gone to the extreme of rallying for the Thai king to name a new prime minister.

Fortunately, in terms of international relations, the Shin Corp saga has not dampened Singapore-Thai ties. This is because most seem to understand that this is merely a commercial transaction from the viewpoint of Singaporeand not a conspiracy theory to own Shin Corp's military-sensitive assets. Strangely instead, the relationship that had been put on some strain is US-Thai rapport over their bilateral FTA. Somkiat Tangkitvanich, a TDRI research director, argued that Shin Corp's decision might complicate the Thai-US FTA negotiations. This is because the USis interested in selling satellite service directly and competing with Shin Corp. This is one of the main issues in their bilateral negotiations.

The USinsisted on fair market access and liberalization of the telecommunications market. Thus, some like Somkiat are expressing their worries over whether the Thai negotiating team on the ICT sector would be sufficiently autonomous or independent enough to make decisions on liberalization given the controversy over the sale of Shin Corp and because of the Thaksin family's special hold on the industry. The UShas also demanded open access to the operation of satellites, 3G mobile phones and lease lines. They are supported by consumers who want lower prices for usage.

The prime minister has himself come out to defend the deal. He shrugged off foreign ownership by explaining that, although foreigners hold shares through investment funds, the management is still under the original Thai team. Moreover, he explained that this is reciprocal as Thai companies invest in overseas as well. Foreigners also have deep pockets which the company expansion needs. To further shatter the conspiracy theorists, Thai regulators cleared the prime minister's children of insider trading charges. The Stock Exchange Commission (SEC) chief Thirachai confirmed that Thaksin's two children, Pantongtae and Pintongta, did not break any laws on insider trading.

Sources

* DSI to probe Shin Corp sell-off (BP, Feb 1)

* US-THAI FTA: Shin Corp deal could affect FTA talks (The Nation, Jan 17)

* Thai PM defends Shin Corp sale, hints at third term (CNA, Jan 24)

* Thai regulators rule no insider trading in Shin Corp sale (CNA, Feb 2)