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The end of privatisation?

By Post Reporters

The Cabinet has approved a draft bill that would keep some state enterprises nationalised forever, and ban privatising still others like the Government Lottery Office because of their questionable social status.

Ministers approved a draft privatisation bill which disallows the privatisation of state enterprises like the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), Metropolitan Water Works Authority (MWWA), and the agencies in charge of health services.

Stricter rules and more transparent privatisation processes are being introduced under the bill, said Areephong Bhoocha-oom, deputy director-general of the State Enterprise Policy Office.

This means an attempt to privatise such state enterprises as the Egat and the MWWA would be unlawful once the bill is enacted.

The privatisation of certain businesses deemed to be harmful to public health and those which could also cause social problems, including the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly and the Government Lottery Office, would also not be allowed, he said.

The bill also demands that the state enterprises eligible for privatisation must return all their assets to the government once the cabinet gives the agency the approval to become a private company.

The bill will now be forwarded to the Council of State, the government's legal arm, before it is tabled in the National Legislative Assembly for consideration in July.

Privatisation of state enterprises has become a burning issue in Thailand over the past few years, following a public outcry over an attempt to privatise the Egat in the past.

Consumer groups blocked its privatisation by filing a complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court, successfully seeking a court order to annul the Egat privatisation.

They said the privatisation process was illegitimate due to a lack of a public hearing.

They also claimed that if successful, it would force the public to pay more for electricity.

The court ruled in favour of the consumer rights activists on Mar 23 last year and ordered the Egat to resume its status as a state enterprise.

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