Thailand sets new deadline for oil and gas concession bids

Thailand sets new deadline for oil and gas concession bids
Activists gather in front of a complaint-receiving centre near Government House yesterday to submit an open letter to the premier demanding that he halt the new round of bidding for oil and gas exploration and production concessions.

The National Energy Policy Council yesterday extended the closing date to apply for the 21st tender of oil and gas exploration and production concessions by four weeks - till March 16.

Energy Minister Narongchai Akrasanee said yesterday the resolution of a council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was in response to a request by many public groups.

The government will convene a public hearing on Friday to clarify the situation with the groups which have opposed the bidding. The event will be telecast live.

No firm had applied yet, he said, but companies understood the situation well and were still confident in the government's policy.

Kurujit Nakornthap, deputy permanent secretary of the Energy Ministry, said the ministry was ready to clear doubts over key issues, from the remaining fuel reserves to public concern about petroleum production under the concession system.

A group of civil networks submitted an open letter to the premier, asking the government to set up an energy reform panel.

It also asked the government to set up another panel to gather information both positive and negative about the awarding of fuel concessions in the past.

The panel should have six months to collecting information.

The group also asked the premier to take part in the forum on Friday.

Before the energy policy council's meeting, Prayut said his government would wait for results of the public hearing on Friday before deciding on a new deadline for the submission of bids for the 21st round.

Talks on Friday would focus on facts and would be based on national benefit and interest, he said.

With the government providing both the opportunity and the venue, hopefully both opponents and proponents will turn up for the debate, he said.

If the issue was put off until there was an elected government, the country's attempts to save energy would be delayed indefinitely, he added.

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