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TOT goes ahead with army project

By Komsan Tortermvasana

The TOT board yesterday admitted it had accepted the army's request to provide support for the installation of electronic surveillance equipment, supposedly for use in the restive South.

The board, chaired by assistant army chief Saprang Kalayanamitr, clarified its controversial resolution on June 21, which has put the TOT under the spotlight over its apparent attempts to give special assistance to the army.

The board resolved to support the agency by assisting in the installation of an electronic intelligence gathering system as requested, acting TOT president Natee Sukolrat said without identifying the agency's name.

"But we've still not discussed it in detail or talked about the equipment and budget," he said.

"Those who leaked the resolution and then proceeded to take it out of context were acting very inappropriately."

Col Natee was made acting TOT president last week. His predecessor Vuthiphong Priebjrivat lost his job after opposing the board's decision to support the project.

Mr Vuthiphong said the army should purchase the eavesdropping equipment with its own money.

Col Natee said the TOT board received a letter from a security agency on June 4, seeking its support with a supply of "electronic equipment for intelligence missions" to be used in the strife-torn provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat.

The agency claimed insurgents had disguised themselves as security officers, harming the army's attempts to crack down on the separatist movement.

"So the army wishes to request your assistance in providing the electronic equipment to develop our intelligence," the letter said.

The TOT is a state enterprise under the Information and Communications Technology Ministry and is duty-bound to help with national security improvement when called upon, Col Natee said.

He said the help would be in the form of supplying hardware which also complements its local telephone network.

Stronger and better security in the country would benefit the telecommunications industry and the whole economy, he added.

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