Acting THAI president: Piyasvasti sacking due to new aircraft procurement conflict

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BANGKOK, May 25 – Thailand’s national flag carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) issued a statement from the executive board of directors reasserting that the dismissal of former president Piyasvasti Amaranand was caused by a conflict between him and the company’s board over the procurement of 38 new aircraft.

The statement from the THAI board came as the company’s labour union threatened to mobilise its members unless they were informed by board chairman Ampon Kittampon of the reasons for Mr Piyasvasti’s contract termination.

But Mr Ampon did not appear at today’s news conference. Instead he sent THAI acting president Chokchai Panyayong to clarify the matter and distribute the board’s statement which explained that the board and Mr Piyasvasti had different views on the procurement of new airplanes.

The board had considered the issue earlier, in March, when company executives raised the procurement of 12 of the 38 new planes as a provisional agenda item for quick approval.

According to the statement, the board believed that the new aircraft procurement must proceed carefully, with advice from the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board and the Budget Bureau needed.

The Budget Bureau later advised that the procurement needed to be reviewed and resubmitted to the Cabinet as the purchase would affect the company’s financial status, the statement said.

The board terminated the former president’s employment contract as it doubted his compliance with the board sentiment after he commented that the delayed purchase of the new aircraft would damage the company.

The board statement said THAI lost Bt21.4 billion in 2008 and the current board has worked to resolve the losses even before Mr Piyasvasti took the post in 2009, meaning that the company’s profits did not represent the performance of any particular person, but of the board, executives and all employees.

After the news conference the acting president conceded that the company’s income this year may not reach the targeted profit of Bt6-7 billion as it already missed target in the first quarter, while the second and the third quarters are in the low season.

THAI labour union chairperson Jamsri Sukchotrat said the absence of the board chairman is considered “irresponsible” by the employees, the organisation and the public who awaited the clarification.

Ms Jamsri said that the conflict over the procurement is common as people could have differing views and this should not be the reason of Mr Piyasvasti’s sacking.

The union president added she will petition the finance and transport ministers, urging Mr Ampon to clarify the issue to the public himself.

The THAI board on Tuesday resolved with 12 out of 13 votes to end Mr Piyasvati’s employment contract although he passed his performance assessment, while Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asserted that the dismissal was done properly under the authority of the company’s board of directors.

Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan earlier denied that the board decision was politically motivated as the resolution was made unanimously and seven of the 12 board members who agreed with the contract termination were appointed during the previous government.