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Govt defers energy concessions deadline

Feb 15. 2015
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By THE NATION

Says public forum will be held on friday to debate new round of drilling licences
THE PRAYUT government has decided to extend the period for the submission of applications for the 21st round of bids for oil and gas exploration and production concessions after facing opposition from civic groups.
  The government will hold a |public forum at Government House on Friday to discuss the plan and would welcome all parties for further debate on the issue, deputy government spokesman Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.
  “The government has consulted with the Energy Ministry and we agreed to extend [the deadline of the bidding]. The ministry will later announce the new deadline,” he said. 
The deadline for the end of bid applications, opened by the pro-concession Energy Ministry in October last year, was initially scheduled to be Wednesday. However, the National Reform Council (NRC) voted against the plan in January – a landmark decision hailed by the public, which has reportedly prompted the government to rethink its plans, and now to hold the public forum on Friday.
The forum would start at 9.30am at the Santi Maitree building for parties involved, including proponents and opponents of the proposed move, as well as investors, he said. 
“The main objective of the event is to give all parties an equal chance to discuss what doubts remain in order to find answers and ways out to the government, the National Assembly and the NRC, and the general public,” he said.
A network of energy reformists, who oppose the government’s stance to allow new concessions to explore for oil and gas, without heeding the NRC members’ vote against it last month, thanked the government after the news emerged yesterday. 
They said it was not right that the government still wants to go ahead with the concessions before holding further talks after the NRC vote against the move.
As a result, the network insisted yesterday it would still submit a letter to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha today, in a rally scheduled for 10am, at the government service centre opposite Government House, as well as another letter about the plan to hold the forum on Friday.
The network did not give details on how many people would gather for today’s rally, but Sansern said a group of 5-10 representatives would be enough – and would not result in traffic congestion at the centre.
A group of energy reformists, led by Dr Suphat Hasuwannakij, has submitted an open letter to Prayut calling on him, as head of the National Council for Peace and Order, to make public details of all 20 previous petroleum concessions for the sake of transparency and easy access for public scrutiny.
In his open letter released yesterday, Suphat also called on Prayut to set up a joint committee to study the 20 concessions to make a comparison between the negative and positive factors – and the profit-sharing arrangement proposed by energy reformists and NRC members opposed to more concessions being allowed.
Suphat said he believed in Prayut’s stance standing for the benefits of the country and Thai people, but a wrong decision could have been influenced by technocrats who misled him through distorted or incomplete information about the country’s entire energy system and petroleum concession system.

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