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NCPO transfers permanent secretary to PM’s Office amid delayed projects and online lese majeste attacks

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday removed the permanent secretary at the Digital Economy and Society Ministry.
Songporn Komolsuradej was transferred as special inspector to the PM’s Office. 
The NCPO promoted National Statistical Office director-general Wilailuck Chulewatanakul to replace Songporn at the ministry. Both appointments took effect yesterday.
The changes were made through an order by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who invoked his power as the junta chief under Article 44 of the post-coup interim charter.
Songporn is the third permanent secretary at the ministry, formerly known as the Information and Communications Technology Ministry, to be removed from the post by the junta.
After seizing power in May 2014, the junta removed ICT Ministry permanent secretary Surachai Srisaracam in the middle of 2014 and replaced him with the then ministry inspector Methinee Thepmanee. Methinee was replaced by Songporn, who was then deputy permanent secretary, in the middle of last year.
Following the renaming of the ICT Ministry as Digital Economy Ministry in September this year, Songporn became the first permanent secretary of the ministry. 
The new permanent secretary is expected to focus on hastening 
completion of the village broad-band Internet project and push through the mergers of core redundant businesses of TOT and CAT Telecom.
The other priority is to closely coordinate with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunic-ations Commission to continue cracking down on websites containing content deemed insulting to the monarchy. During the meeting of the Digital Economy ad hoc committee chaired by Prayut last Wednesday, Deputy PM Prajin Juntong said the premier and those in charge of the village broadband Internet project were unhappy with the lack of progress.
A government source added that the premier also asked about progress in the ministry’s planned mergers of three core redundant businesses of TOT and CAT.
The village broadband Internet project, aims to provide connectivity to 24,700 villages, and was initiated in January this year by former ICT minister Uttama Savanayana. Uttama resigned to pave way for the establishment of the Digital Economy Ministry of which Prajin is now acting minister. 

Reform of satellite industry
TOT was the only bidder for the project but last month the ministry informed TOT its decision to 
scrap the project, saying the state agency’s technical bid proposal did not match the procurement terms of reference. However, the ad hoc digital economy committee last Wednesday instructed the ministry to transfer the Bt15-billion budget to TOT to implement the project. 
A ministry source said the ministry took time to develop the project in order to ensure the project’s transparency.
CAT president Colonel Sanpachai Huvanandana said recently that CAT had already set a budget of Bt120 million to hire an adviser to study the merger of the three redundant businesses with those of TOT. It is expected to select the adviser this month.
Recently, the State Enterprise Policy Commission urged both TOT and CAT to finalise the hiring of advisers to study the mergers by the end of this year. 
The other issue the new permanent secretary is expected to focus on is the plan to reform the satellite industry. The ministry wants to discuss with Thaicom its plan to put the company’s Thaicom 7 and 8 satellites back into the ministry’s existing concession regime. 
The ministry believes that the two latest satellites, which operate under the NBTC’s licensing regime, should come under its concession regime, since the concession system is still in force.
Thaicom 4, 5 and 6 operate under the ministry’s concession, which finishes in 2021.

Published : November 05, 2016

By : The Sunday Nation