The increased political risk of Thailand’s Facebook block
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The increased political risk of Thailand’s Facebook block

The background is that on May 28 Facebook was unavailable in Thailand for around one hour. This was claimed to be because of technical issues and not that it was specifically blocked, but then mysteriously Facebook was then available again for all.  Most people fell into line and modified previous statements to follow the official story that the problem was because of technical issues.

However, Telenor, which owns DTAC (the second largest mobile telephone operator in Thailand), revealed that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) ordered the block, but an NBTC commissioner criticized Telenor stating that the statement was not appropriate and lacked manners/etiquette in the current situation and then threatened DTAC stating the NBTC may not allow DTAC to participate in 4G auction and may be subject to further punishment. Telenor then apologized for embarrassing the NBTC.


A few days after it received the wrist-slap, Telenor issued the apology. Dtac released a separate statement stressing that the company “is gearing up” for the planned auctions and is “confident it’s qualified.”

The Facebook (outage) row is alarming because it shows that political interference and coercion in foreign and domestic business operations may increase in the near future,” said Pavida Pananond, an associate professor of international business at Thailand’s Thammasat Business School, Thammasat University. “If so, this would raise the risk of doing business in Thailand dramatically.

BP: Indeed.

Btw, Pavida also has another quote in the Nikkei article:

Thammasat University’s Pavida says the junta’s house-cleaning can only work if it is truly transparent. “Putting men in uniforms, or good friends of men in uniform, back on the boards of key state-owned enterprises may bring back memories of when these businesses were places for vested interests,” she said. “This will mean Thailand has made a U-turn on corporate governance.”

BP: She will be a speaker at the FCCT Wednesday, July 2 at at panel discussion entitled “Business and the Generals: Is There a Coup Dividend?“:

During months of political unrest in the run-up to the successful putsch on 22 May 2014, Thailand’s historically buoyant economy was dipping into negative territory, alarming businessmen, investors and ordinary people whose livelihoods were affected — particularly in the sensitive travel and tourism sector. Thailand’s five-week-old junta, The National Council for Peace and Order, has won plaudits in some quarters for stabilizing the overall security situation, calling for greater transparency and declaring war on corruption. The farmers have been paid, the bourse has rallied and the casinos have been busted. Brokers are talking up Thailand’s undervalued stocks and confidence is returning to the business environment.

So far, so good — maybe. But Is this all righteous and sustainable, or have the military taken on complex, deeply entrenched problems that will eventually overwhelm their best declared intentions? To find out what is going on in the Thai economy, where it is coming from and what might happen next, come and listen to our distinguished panel:

Pavida Pananond is associate professor of international business at Thammasat Business School, Thammasat University, and holds a PhD from the University of Reading in the UK. Her research focuses on the internationalisation of firms, with a particular interest in emerging market multinationals, and has appeared in leading academic journals as well as in local and international media.

Adrian Dunn is the CEO of Brooker Dunn Asset Advisory and manager of the Brooker Sukhothai Fund. He has 28 years in the securities industry, 20 of them specializing in the Thai market. He has lived in Thailand since 1999, working first as head of equity research at HSBC Securities then at UOB Kay Hian Securities.

Angus Kent has been managing director of Macquarie Securities Thailand since 2006. He worked previously for Merrill Lynch and Jardine Flemming/JPMorgan in various roles in Thailand, Hong Kong and New York. He has lived and worked in Thailand on and off for more than 20 years, and has a Masters in economics and finance from the University of Queensland and is a chartered financial analyst.

BP: Should be an interesting talk….