Friday, July 4, 2008

Thailand's AOT president resigns

AoT president Chana resigns
Source says he's tired of political pressure
AMORNRAT MAHITTHIROOK & WASSANA NANUAM

The president of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), Chana U-sathaporn, has tendered his resignation to return to the air force as he has grown weary of the political pressure, a source said.

The source at the airport agency said AM Chana tendered his resignation on Tuesday citing health problems. It will take effect on Aug 5.

But the reason behind the decision was pressure from politicians, according to the source.

The president, who took office at the airport agency in November last year, started to face pressure when the Samak Sundaravej government came into office, the source said.

Among the issues leading to his decision to turn his back on the AoT were orders to bypass procedures to speed up payment for non-contracted construction work at Suvarnabhumi airport and for settlement of legal disputes between the AoT and its duty-free shop operator King Power International Group, the source said.

Contractors had close connections with politicians and bypassing normal procedures in their favour would jeopardise AM Chana, the source said. Politicians did not have to take responsibility which would fall on the AoT president because he was the decision-maker, the source added.

AM Chana could not be reached for comment yesterday.

His seven months of work will be evaluated by the AoT's board of directors today.

AM Chana should have been evaluated after six months on the job. But as the new board had just taken office then, the evaluation was delayed for a month.

The source said that he agreed to bow out on condition that he will pass the evaluation today.

Under his contract, resignation after passing the evaluation makes him eligible for a compensation package worth 6-10 times as much as his salary. The compensation amount is likely to come to five to six million baht.

AM Chana will return to work at the air force under an agreement with air force chief ACM Chalit Phukpasuk, who encouraged him to be AoT president when he was a key member in the Council for National Security.

Rising to the top job at the AoT with backing from ACM Chalit and other coupmakers made him a target for the government, the source said. ''No matter how good he is, he cannot impress this government,'' the source said.

Transport Minister Santi Promphat said his resignation was not beyond expectation, saying that the AoT president had complained to him only about health problems.

The minister also said it came as no surprise either that AM Chana would return to the air force as work at the AoT was surrounded with problems and pressures from many parties. A person who could not put up with the situation should leave, he said.

Another source at the air force said there was a move to oust him as AoT chief by politicians because he was seen as a product of the CNS.

AM Chana had discussed political pressures with ACM Chalit last week.

''It is similar to the pressure at Thai Airways International over the replacement of the airline's president. It is normal for politicians to field their men who will take their orders,'' the source said.

AM Chana's last position at the air force before leaving for the AoT was director of the logistics office.

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