23 Jan 2007

Thai sale of mobile firm to Singapore 'a mistake'

Jim Pollard, Bangkok
January 24, 2007

THE sale of Thailand's national satellite and mobile phone company to Singapore was a tragic mistake that had compromised the Thai military because Singapore would abuse their access to the communications infrastructure, a top Australian defence analyst said yesterday.

Des Ball, from the Australian National University, said Thailand's new military Government should shoot down the sale of the national satellite to Singapore and not trust the city-state when it comes to defence communications.

Professor Ball said the sale of the ShinSat satellite to Singaporean state investment firm Temasek Holdings - part of a highly controversial deal negotiated last year by deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra - was a tragedy for the Thai military that could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.

Professor Ball said Bangkok should launch a new satellite to ensure the Thai military's signals could not be intercepted.

"It's not in Thailand's interests to allow Singapore control of such a critically important communications system, through the satellite and mobile phone company," he said.

The sale had "given Singapore direct access to the Royal Thai Army's satellite communications". He added: "They are going to have to have their own independent system, otherwise they hand their military and very sensitive (data) traffic to Singapore on a plate.

"It's a tragedy they've handed that away with the Shin deal and will now have to redesign their own system. If they could get out of this, there are national security reasons why they should ... Launching a new satellite could cost $US250 million ($316million)."

Professor Ball said Australia went through a similar debate five years ago when Singtel purchased the Optus mobile phone company. He was one of a series of analysts who publicly opposed the takeover.

The federal Government eventually allowed the sale to go through, partly to ensure continued close co-operation with the island state, but Australia had to spend a huge sum on fibre-optic cables between its defence bases to ensure its military communications were secure.

Part of the problem, Professor Ball said, was "Singapore has a track record of taking advantage of information for commercial and political purposes".

Singapore had "listened to and photographed Australian military facilities", which had created diplomatic rifts with Canberra, he said.

"They have a history of abusing their access to training in other facilities abroad. That is not what friends are supposed to do - they abused their friendship," Professor Ball said


Anonymous said...

See this report guys:


Anonymous said...

i take this Professor's comments with a pinch of salt. clearly he has an axe to grind.

we're such a small nation - do you think we'd do anything so blatant to rile people up? thats such a silly notion.

and there's this thing called encryption - even military grade encryption.

if the Aussie military spent millions on a separate infrastructure, then i blame their IT consultants. Please dont blame Singapore nor its purchase of Optus.


Anonymous said...

even if he has an axe to grind...

YES, we can and probably WOULD do such a thing...because we are small and this perceived vulnerability makes us want to get as much as possible out of what we have...don't forget famiLEE likes to win one lei.

encryption? then hire hackers for what? haven't you heard of the legendary SAF listening post located somewhere...or issit an urban legend?

YOU have to think.

Anonymous said...

Well, so much for the esteemed international reputation that the PAP leaders like to bragged about. Seems like the truth is slowly coming out as to how others think of the PAP leaders. Their methods and policies in doing things. Slowly international countries are becoming aware that behind all the gleaming towers and facades there is something not right(something evil) within... highest death penalty in the world... merciless persecution of the opposition that is worst slow death - Tang liang Hong, Devan Nair, Chia Thye Poh, Zahari Said, Francis Seow, Chee Soon Juan, Lim Chin Siong,etc

Anonymous said...

As someone recently commented to me, perhaps Thaksin should just be tried (and more than likely found found guilty) for treason against the Kingdom of Thailand.

I'm quite friendly with Singaporeans, but I still believe that Thaksin shouldn't be selling military-related property to other nations!

Anonymous said...

thaksin actions have of course compromised Thailands military. of coure singapore spies whenever it gets the opportunity. anons admit you live in a shitty little third world country. If the Brits or the US caught singapore spying, the heads would be on the chopping block.

to the outside world, singapore is a country who cannot be trusted.

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous, 8.56am,

SAF listening posts - i think those are real. but that's listening in to what's being transmitted over the air. its not listening into the actual infrastructure.

To actually listen in to infrastructure owned and bought - thats blatant. and if a foreign govt is stupid enough to let it happen, then, dont make Singapore look like the "evil" one here.

Think about when Hutchison Whampoa wanted to buy over Global Crossing - the company that owns the fibreoptic pipes. The US govt and some lobby groups stepped in to stop the acquisition because of security fears. Also look at the Dubai Ports wanting to take over operations of all US ports. Similarly, lobby groups stopped it for the fear of terrorism

(which was unfounded, btw. They operate ports - its still up to US Customs to control what goes in and out of the US. Likewise the Global Crossing worries).

The professor's comments on Singapore having a track record and causing rifts, abusing their training facilities, until i read them on public domain, i will take the professor's comments as anecdotal, and without proof. a good journalist will challenge such allegations - this is such a one-sided story.

i would think the Australian govt would be efficient enough to note the sensitivities of telecom infrastructure.

and typically, the military never use public infrastructure for sensitive communications, and if so, as i mentioned before, uses military-grade encryption.

And to anonymous, its not as simple as having a bunch of hackers around to decrypt. you need a few supercomputers to actually decrpyt military-grade encryption.


Matilah_Singapura said...

Oh no! It is Prof Ball again.... cloistered in tenure (at taxpayers expense) in that oh-so-safe haven of left-wing right-wing statist methodology, the shitty ANU in Canberra.

As usual, his arguments make NO FUCKING SENSE AT ALL, and he hasn't a skerrick of evidence to back up his claims of eavesdropping. And BTW way, Des, old boy, ASIO spies on Australia's neighbours too. Oh what? Because, they are fighting terrorism — oh excuse me, how silly of me to forget.

So why are Prof Ball's argeuments nonsense. Simple.

It isn't because of the fact that a foreign (govt) company is running parts of "sensitive" infrastructures — like national defense.

The fact remains that some commercial enterprise — domestic OR foreign is managing a part of national defense. Thus there is NEXUS of private corporations and The State.

And there are BIG BUCKS changing hands. Supplying weapons, logistics and technology to a state is the POT OF GOLD for private enterprise. This leads to the behemoth fondly known as The Military Industrial Complex, and because of the involvement of the absolute territorial power — The State — give a huge FREE KICK to private businesses, at the expense of everyone else, especially Mr and Mrs/Ms Joe and Jane Taxpayer.

Prof Ball — congratulations. You've made yourself look like an ass, and dragged the already crap reputaion of ANU deeper into the sewer of ignominy.

Well done, son.

Anonymous said...

to aygee:

perhaps you prefer to sleep well knowing that there is a measure of safety.

what's safe? nothing is anymore.

still thaksin was stupid enough to sell his telecommunications company away.

what compromises security is this: the world is becoming boundary-less. Well and good. but it also means that everyone, given the right amount of expertise and all, can and will try to find out what you are up to.

Thais could be kicking up a fuss for nothing, but it wouldn't be ungrounded. Do governments pay defectors large sums of money for information?

maybe. maybe not. on a smaller scale it's like the sentencing of the youth because he mooched - so by selling your telecom network, thaksin invited us to listen in on them too...can't blame us right?

so leaders can fail too.

regarding the one-sidedness of it all, i must admit that it IS pretty one sided...that alone destroys much of the report's credibility. unfortch, such reports are almost always 100% pro or 100% anti. i'd like to read a good balanced report anytime.

Matilah_Singapura said...

When ABSOLUTE POWER is present in any "deal", rest assured the "deal" won't be a deal at all — it will be ONE SIDED, in favour of the party which has the MOST POWER.

Sleep with a dog, get fleas.

Anonymous said...

funny...i just read there's been an exchange of "undiplomatic" language btw thailand and singapore over this spying issue.

so...thai generals discuss highly secret information over mobile phones. and singapore is suspected of listening in. that, to me, is hilarious.

Looks like another Mad Hatter (aka Mahathir) in the making over in Thailand. Singapore's going to be the Boogeyman yet again, in the midst of all the cockups his military govt is making with the international investment community.

soon - singaporeans will be asked ot stay away. sigh - i'll miss chatuchak now.


Matilah_Singapura said...

I'm going to be openly bigoted and deliberately stereotype "intellectuals" and "academics". They have monstrous egos, because they all (an intended generalisation) believe that they are somehow "smarter" than everyone else, and seek opportunity to let the whole darn world KNOW IT. They presume to be the crème de la crème of human intellect.

These Educated Fools are the handmaidens and lapdogs of The State. They use their self-righteous and self-awarded "intellectual superiority" to advise the statists. The have a cosy relationship with the statists, who pay the salaries of these "intellectuals". In that incestous relationship both the statists and the "intellectuals" "scratch each other's back". I was going to use a vulgar metaphor, but I chose otherwise. Blow job enthusiasts, will know what I mean.

The guy is grandstanding to boost his own "value", enhance his career, probably drum up some business from an overseas client.

eks said...

(a) the military of any nation is tasked with keeping that nation safe at any cost, by any means necessary - to hamstring the military in any aspect is like keeping a guard dog caged and muzzled - a waste of money and completely pointless.

(b) the collective civil leadership of a nation is the mind that directs the arm(aments) - a counter-point based on diplomacy and restraint.

(c) the citizens of a nation perform oversight.

international spying is the unspoken rule. secrets make good currency, in favours and on the black market - the other unspoken rule of the spy business is "you do not talk about the spy business".

i might further point out that this pattern of "outsourcing" sensitive infrastructure is really a western concept - starting with the 13th ammendment and the personficiation of the first corporation.

in the drive to fully liberalise the economy (driven by unproven and often unreliable economics), governments need to shed the excess pounds - giving up control of infrastructure, bit by bit, to be fed to the ravenous hounds that are the capitalists.

you created this problem. you chose the playing field and you laid out the rules. you've bribed the referees and changed the rules, over and over again, for your benefit.

don't come crying now that asia has learnt your game, and is playing to win.