Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thailand's Elite Card on the auction block

The cabinet on Tuesday assigned the Finance Ministry and National Economic and Social Development Board to draft conditions for the auction of Thailand Privilege Cards Co (TPC), operator of the Thailand Elite Card scheme, deputy government spokesman Vachara Kannikar said.

Mr Vachara said the intention is for a private firm to take over the scheme, which was launched by the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. The drafting of the auction conditions would be done within a month and the auction completed in two months.

He said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told the cabinet that some private firms had shown an interest in buying TPC and taking over its debt, on the condition that the government waive visa regulations for card members.

If there was no sale of TPC to the private sector in three months, the government would dissolve the company and transfer its membership to the care of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No new members would be accepted, the spokesman said.

The cabinet also assigned the Finance Ministry and TAT to check the status of the existing 2,570 Thailand Elite Card members, since 795 of them were believed to reside in Thailand in contravention of the membership rules.

The Thailand Elite Card scheme was launched by the Thaksin government in 2003. The cards promised fast-track immigration, discounts at luxury resorts and golf courses, and many other perks. The scheme was intended to attract the world's weathy and generate high revenue.

But after six years, there are only 2,570 members, and the TPC, set up by TAT to run the scheme, had a crippling net loss of 1.4 billion baht.

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