[Update] Despite pressure, Ministry of Commerce hesitant to issue order to lower oil prices

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The Ministry of Commerce does not plan on issuing an executive order to lower refinery prices as “there are rules to follow,” said the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce on Tuesday. 

“For the question of why the ministry is not enforcing the Price of Good and Service Act, the answer is that based on principles of law, if there is a specific law for something, that is where you have to start from,” said Boonyarit Kalayanamit, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce.

“The law clearly states who should be in charge, and no one should be able to distort this principle,” he said.

Boonyarit said the National Energy Management Committee committee was set up to deal with energy prices and they should be in charge of issuing orders to regulate fuel prices, not the commerce ministry. The committee is chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow. 

His comments came after Korn Chatikavanij, the leader of Kla Party, urged Jurin Laksanawisit, the Commerce Minister, on Monday to use his power under the Price of Good and Service Act to order oil refineries to lower their refinery prices. 

Korn said oil refineries are enjoying a rise in profits while the people are suffering from rising fuel prices and inflation.

He explained that refinery prices have increased tenfold from the average of 0.89 baht in 2021, to 8.56 baht on June 10, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a claim that was disputed by multiple oil refineries. 

Korn also suggested that the government could introduce an emergency decree to ensure that the refineries will contribute more money to the Oil Fuel Fund.

Oil refineries promised Minister Supattanapong that they will donate their excess profits to support the fund by eight billion baht per month in the third quarter.

Boonyarit said the Oil Fuel Fund Act states which entities should put money into the fund, including refineries and energy importers. Therefore, it should be the Oil Fuel Fund Office that should be deciding on this extra contribution.

Kulit Sombatsiri, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy, said on Tuesday that the ministry should be able to negotiate with six oil refineries to contribute an extra 21 billion baht to the Oil Fuel Fund within the third quarter of 2022.

“The negotiation should be done within one or two weeks,” he said.

However, it will be up to the refineries on how much they will contribute, he said.

Kulit also said the fund’s debt will reach 100 billion baht by the end of June.

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