Published on November 20, 2007
Shop-owners from several provinces yesterday launched a last-ditch effort to speed up the passage of the country's first Retail Business Act, calling for support from the Commerce Ministry' and pressuring the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to bar two prominent opponents of the act from a screening subcommittee.
More than 30 shop-owners representing retailers nationwide marched to the Commerce Ministry to express fears that huge retailers could intervene to derail the law.
They said the law must be passed before the end of the current government's term or it risked being delayed indefinitely. To ensure that the law, which will put strict controls on the opening of large retail outlets, is approved, they also asked the NLA to drop Tesco Lotus executive Darmp Sukontasap and Thailand Development Research Institute adviser Ammar Siamwalla from the subcommittee to screen the draft act.
Panthep Suleesatira, vice chairman of the Centre of Thai Retail Business Network, said Darmp should not be part of the subcommittee as he had a conflict of interest. Ammar is the only NLA member who objected to the draft act from the start.
"We [the small retailers] fear that the act will collapse because of the soon-to-be expired current parliament term and the unfair judgement of the influential opposition," he said.
The NLA agreed on the principle of the draft act last Wednesday and set a subcommittee to screen it, with Darmp and Ammar surprise choices to be members.
Panthep said the NLA must speed up the passage of the law to ensure that small retailers were saved from destruction by giant retailers. Skol Harnsu-thivarin, secretary to the commerce minister, said the ministry had no authority to push the NLA to approve the law.
However, the ministry believed that the act would finally be approved as a majority of the NLA members already agreed on the need for the law, he said.
The subcommittee on the draft act is scheduled to start its deliberations tomorrow to ensure that it is approved before expiry of the assembly's term in January next year.
Darmp is the strongest opponent of the law, saying that it is anti-expansion. He feels if the law is meant to increase the competitiveness of the mom-and-pop stores, then the measures should be clearly spelled out. Moreover, the law should explain how consumers will benefit from it.
Ammar has also questioned the merits of the law, saying it was drafted primarily to protect small retailers and was against the nature of the retail business.
He pointed out that consumers have never complained about the expansion of large retailers as they benefited from their lower-priced products.