March 02, 2017
THE ISSUANCE of e-passports for Thai citizens will continue as usual, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday after reports that passports would be unavailable within three days after the contract with a consortium of outsourcing companies expires.
Two years ago, the ministry signed a contract with the outsourcing companies to issue passports, stipulating that the company would produce 7 million passports, after which the contract would end.
The companies in the consortium are Chan Wanich Co Ltd, Chan Wanich Security Printing Co Ltd and NEC Asia Pacific Ltd.
At present, 6.97 million have been issued, leaving only 30,000 more to be issued. On a typical day, 10,000 requests are received for the issuance or re-issuance of passports, which would have left only three more days. The ministry had said the process to find new companies through an e-bidding process could take a year to complete.
However, to solve the immediate problem, the ministry on Tuesday proposed that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) invoke Article 44 of the interim charter to allow the ministry to extend the contract with the current companies for one year.
The ministry could not renew or extend the contract through normal processes as the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) had deemed it illegal, Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.
However, the NCPO rejected the proposal, saying Article 44 could be criticised for being used too often, Sansern said. The NCPO then ordered Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to meet with the OAG and the Foreign Ministry to seek a solution, Sansern said.
“The OAG should understand that a solution can’t be found if one bluntly sticks to rules,” Sansern said.
The contract would be extended if the OAG compromises. If not, Article 44 powers might be |reconsidered to resolve the issue, he added.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Linna Tangthasiri said passports would be issued without interruption but did not elaborate how the ministry would do so or why the issue had only been addressed so close to the deadline.
The ministry saw more than 1.58 million requests for normal e-passports in 2015. From January to May last year, the latest information available, it received 769,085 requests. No one at the ministry would explain why there were not plans in place to maintain the supply of passports.
Source: The Nation