Mekong Utility Watch

Burma to lose out in Thai energy industry shake-up

Burma to Lose Out in Thai Energy Industry Shake-up

By WILLIAM BOOT/BANGKOK Friday, November 10, 2006


Thailand will not rely o­n Burma for gas supplies or electricity from controversial river hydro dam schemes for the country’s energy needs in the next decade, new Energy Minister Piyasvati Amranand said in Bangkok Friday.

Under post-Thaksin revised planning for Thailand’s power generating expansion beyond 2011, gas will be bought elsewhere, Piyasvati told a conference o­n the country’s economic development.

At present more than o­ne-third of Thailand’s gas comes from concessions in Burmese offshore wells in the Andaman Sea.

Piyasvati said his brief is to open up the country’s power industry to fair competition and private investment.

Thailand would aim to depend less o­n natural gas, which is currently the main fuel for power generation, Piyasvati said.The plan is to reduce gas use from almost 70 percent of power generation to about 40 percent, and liquid natural gas would be bought overseas.

LNG eliminates costly pipelines now used to pump gas from wells in Burmese waters of the Andaman Sea and from Thailand’s own wells in the Gulf of Thailand.

“It is probably inevitable that we will have to rely o­n gas to play a crucial role in power supply, and this will probably have to be imported,” Piyasvati told the conference, which was attended by five ministers of the new military coup-appointed government.

“Where it will come from will be decided in the next 12 months,” he said. “It could be Iran, or Indonesia, or Australia.”

The energy minister said he wanted to promote more fair competition and private investment in Thailand’s power industry than ever before.

Among other things, partially privatized but majority state- owned PTT, the country’s oil and gas conglomerate, will lose its gas pipelines monopoly. PTT is currently bidding for the huge tranche of gas discovered in the Shwe offshore fields of Burma’s west coast, but most analysts expect either China or India to secure exclusive purchase.

PTT’s overseas exploration arm PTTEP is currently drilling in other prospective Burmese oil and gas fields of the Andaman sea area.

Although Thailand needs to invest in more non-fossil renewable energy sources, it will turn away from excessive reliance o­n hydro-electric schemes in Burma. Thailand is now committed to the US$1 billion Hatgyi hydro dam project o­n the Salween River in Karen State with the Chinese Sinohydro Corp and Burmese state authorities.

Future plans also call for more investment in hydro-electric projects in Laos. Piyasvati said the government hoped to sign a tentative agreement next month for an extra 2,000 megawatts of electricity from Lao projects beyond 2010.

Several other government speakers at the conference, organized by institutions including the Stock Exchange of Thailand, said corruption and political interference had dominated much of Thailand’s economy for the last five years.

New Communications Technology Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said the telecoms industry was “in a mess.”

“The last five years was the dark ages for telecommunications in Thailand,” he said. He said his mandate was to quickly assess the situation, publish a report to be made public and then introduce a fair, competitive system.

The family of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra owned Thailand’s biggest mobile phone network until earlier this year. Thaksin’s government also had friendly business links with the Burmese government.

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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