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Thailand’s State Railway Says it Has No Money to Pay Hopewell Court Settlement

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BANGKOK – Thailand’s debt ridden State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is counting on the government’s help to settle the 11.88 billion baht in compensation it has been ordered to pay Hopewell over the cancellation of a large-scale transport project two decades ago.

Acting SRT governor Worawut Mala said on Tuesday his agency does not have enough cash to pay the compensation, and he hoped the government would step in to help.

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith was due to attend an urgent meeting with SRT executives about the Hopewell case and the legal issues involved in the payout.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-

cha has maintained that the current administration has a duty to resolve any lingering disputes, despite the deal having been sealed a long time ago.

The Supreme Administrative Court this week ordered the SRT and the Transport Ministry to take responsibility for the nine billion baht of construction costs incurred by Hopewell, a 2.85-billion-baht repayment for land use fees that Hopewell had paid to the SRT, and a 38-million-baht fee that Hopewell had shelled out as a project guarantee.

The court also ordered that payments, at a 7.5% interest rate, be made within 180 days.

The Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling mirrored that by the Arbitration Tribunal over a decade ago.

On Monday, a source in the rail agency said the SRT may need to devise a new debt-restructuring plan in response to the compensation.

The “Hopewell Project” was signed on Nov 9, 1990, when the late Montri Pongpanit was the transport minister in Chatichai Choonhavan’s government. When the 30-year concession was granted in 1990, investments in the project totalled about 80 billion baht.

The contract was officially terminated on Jan 27, 1998, by the Chuan Leekpai-led Democrat government, when Suthep Thaugsuban was the transport minister.

By Thodsapol Hongtong
The Bangkok Post