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ACT warns again on duty-free graft risk

Government 'turns deaf ear' to integrity pact call

The Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand accuses Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha - seen here at a rally in December - of refusing to acknowledge its warnings on duty-free contract bidding. (File photo)

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A national anti-corruption network has once again repeated its calls for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to adopt an integrity pact to prevent graft in the bidding process for duty-free operations at four major airports, which will be combined into a single concession.

Lee: Korean firms interested

The secretary-general for the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), Mana Nimitmongkol, said the agency has once again asked the government to consider adopting such pact as the duty-free concessions will be put up for auction soon.

"We submitted a petition to the prime minister on Nov 1 to use the pact, but after four months, there has been no adequate response to our request," Mr Mana said.

"As such, we decided to submit another petition again on Tuesday."

The pact would allow representatives from the public sector to participate in the vetting process of the bidders.

Airports of Thailand (AoT) president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said the agency has decided to streamline the duty-free operations at Thailand's four airports into a single concession, which he believes will make more the deal more attractive to prospective investors.

About 82% of all duty-free revenues are from Suvarnabhumi airport, 0.04% comes from Hat Yai airport, while the remainder comes from duty-free operations in Phuket and Chiang Mai airports, he said.

"Merging the operations under a single concession will make enable Thai airport duty-free operations to compete with those in other countries," continued Mr Nitinai, who said that AoT has invited private companies to join the bidding process.

The concession will allow the winning bidder to operate for 10 years -- from Sept 28, 2020 to March 31, 2031.

In addition to the duty-free concession, the AoT is also auctioning off concessions to run non-duty free commercial operations at Suvarnabhumi airport, he said.

Bidding documents for both concessions will be available from March 19 to April 1, Mr Nitinai said.

Interested parties may submit their proposals to run duty-free operations at the four airports on April 30 between 9-11am. Qualified candidates will be announced at about 11am.

Meanwhile, parties interested in bidding for non-duty free commercial operations at Suvarnabhumi airport may lodge their proposals on April 30 between 1-3pm. Qualified bidders will be announced at 3pm.

"Qualified bidders will have to present their technical proposals on May 7 and 8," said Mr Nitinai. "Bid envelopes will be unsealed on that day, and the winners will be announced on May 10."

Mr Nitinai said it is likely that duty-free operators from Europe and Asia will take part in the bidding for duty-free operations, alongside Thai operators.

At present, King Power International Group is the sole licence holder for duty-free operations.

In a related development, South Korea on Wendesday expressed the intention of several Korean duty-free operators to join the concession auction.

Lee Wook-heon, the South Korean ambassador to Thailand met Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Wednesday to discuss the progress of the bidding process for the dutyfree concessions.

He said the government have ordered the AoT to ensure the transparency of the bidding process, especially since several South Korean companies have expressed their interest to take part in other infrastructure projects.

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