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Former PTT head tipped for top Thai Airways post

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Former PTT CEO Prasert Bunsumpun is tipped to take over as president of Thai Airways International, says a source close to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Prasert: Rumoured as frontrunner

He said that Mr Prasert has the best chance of snaring the job.

"We need an expert to help THAI manage risks in our energy hedging plan," the source said.

Oil accounts for 38% of THAI's operating costs.

However, he acknowledged that Mr Prasert's age does not meet the eligibility requirements for the post. Anyone nominated as THAI president must not be over 58 years old.

Mr Prasert, 61, retired as CEO and president of PTT Plc late last year.

The source also denied reports that Somprasong Boonyachai, chairman of the executive committee of InTouch Group, founded by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is also a prospective candidate for the seat.

"Personally, I don't think he is qualified for the job. More importantly, he's too close to Thaksin, and that can lead to criticism," he said.

Mr Somprasong yesterday said he had not yet received any contact from anyone regarding the post.

A committee selecting the THAI president to replace the outgoing president Piyasvasti Amranand will finalise a shortlist of names over the next two months, Areepong Poocha-um, permanent secretary for finance, said.

The selection committee comprises himself, the permanent-secretary for transport, the director of the State Enterprises Policy Office, and a representative from THAI, he said.

"Finding a new president for THAI is an urgent matter, so the committee will screen potential candidates for the THAI board to consider over the next two months," Mr Areepong said.

He said THAI's operating loss last year resulted from a combination of factors such as a slowdown in the world economy, the floods, and stiff competition from no-frills airlines.

"Overall, the number of tourists increased by 1 million last year. But the floods, the euro zone crisis and tight competition from low-cost airlines hit THAI's profits," Mr Areepong said. "All this points to the need for THAI to significantly improve its business strategy."

The THAI board decided to sack Mr Piyasvasti on Monday, citing communication problems with the board.

Ampon Kitti-ampon, the THAI board chairman, yesterday said he hoped arguments about the board's decision to dismiss Mr Piyasvasti would end after he discloses details behind its decision today.

Mr Ampon said he would release minutes of the board meeting held on Monday, which should explain what happened. The THAI labour union has given Mr Ampon until today to clarify the reasons for the dismissal, or face a concerted push to have him leave the job.

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