Who Owns That Satellite?

According to Channel NewsAsia, things are heating up in Thailand, where concerns about spying may force the country to buy back satellites it sold to a Singapore investment firm, Temasek, last year. As you might expect, things get a little complicated when you viewed up closer:

"[The controversy]… centers around four satellites owned by ShinSat, which is a subsidiary of Shin Corp.

Shin Corp was founded by former [Thai] premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whose family sold a 49 percent stake in the company to Singapore investment firm Temasek in January 2006.

General Sonthi [Boonyaratglin, who led last September’s coup d’état] said the government should buy back these satellites, which transmit encrypted military communications, in the interest of national security.

The estimated price tag is US$294 million."

Most Thai’s on the street believe that the Thailand should reclaim ownership of the old satellite’s for reasons of national security, although many don’t think the country should have to pay for the reacquisition. As one Thai citizen said in an interview:

"Thaksin sold it, so he should buy it back for Thailand. Thai people are already paying taxes to the government, so we shouldn’t use the country’s money to buy it from Singapore."

The problem for Thailand is, however, that such an oddball move with a foreign company would probably inhibit the future foreign direct investment so crucial to their development.