Thailand wants to be regional information hub

Launch of Thai satellite ‘the first step’

BANGKOK – Thailand aims to become the region’s information hub by the year 2000, a senior government official has said.

In an interview with The Sunday Times on Friday, Mr Arun Ngamdee, director-general of the Government Public Relations Department, said the launch of the first Thai communications-satellite system would be “the first step” in making Thailand an information centre in South-east Asia and Indochina.

The satellite, Thaicom One, would be launched on Dec 5 to honour King Bhumibol Adulyadej on his birthday, and would cover an area from Japan to Singapore. Another satellite would be launched in a year’s time, he said.

In 1991, the Thai government granted a concession to the Shinawatra Computer and Communications Group to operate communication satellites for the country.

The group later signed a contract with Hughes Communications Inc to develop the satellite system.

Earlier on Friday, Dr Iam Chaya-Ngam, president of the Sukhotai Thammathirat Open University, told 30 media representatives attending the fifth Asean Exchange of Journalists Programme that STOU planned to use the satellite for educational purposes.

He said the university would begin by offering printing technology training to personnel within and outside Thailand via the satellite.

Thailand is the second country in South-east Asia to have a satellite. Indonesia has the Palapa satellite and reports have said Malaysia would launch its own Malaysian East Asia Satellite next year.

Mr Arun said the Thai government would cater to the country’s information needs before going regional.

He acknowledged that Thailand still had a long way to go before becoming the region’s information hub. Having a communications-satellite system and a good geographical location was not enough, he added.

He said Thailand intended to develop its information infrastructure and base, which meant housing more news agencies and television and radio stations in the country. Singapore had reached this “advanced” stage.

Referring to Thaicom One, he added: “We don’t mind. Thailand can offer another choice – something that Singapore does not have.”

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