English | Thai  

NOV 2007 - FEB 2008

Lalin Kovudhikulrungsri

Alumni of Thammasat University
Faculty of Law
Recipient of King's Scholarship

by Lalin Kovudhikulrungsri
How can someone own or have laws about something that is nothing? Does anyone really own the Moon or Mars? It is clear that in the near future we will need to know the answer to these odd questions. As Thailand races toward modernization, she must plan and prepare for globalization and tough competition in the space and air industries.

Nowadays, mobile phones, remote sensing, radio and television are all broadcast via satellite. Domestic and international air transportation has become necessities in our modern lives. Specifically, aircraft and satellites are the main objects in air and space respectively, and of course play a central role in our lives- for security, public health, communication, education, disaster management and emergency response. Therefore, it is essential that the enactment of air and space law should be consistent with our rapidly changing society.

As Thailand aims to be the aviation hub of Asia, precise and standard laws, rules and regulations relating to aviation must be put in place to boost public confidence both domestically and internationally in regard to safety, and also to facilitate open and fair trade in the aviation industry. At present Thailand must comply with its international obligations under the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for the International Carriage by Air, and also under the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment. The latter instrument provides the context for the securitization of mobile assets such as aircraft and satellites. Hence, the implications and opportunities presented by the international legislative framework merits much deeper analysis so that Thailand may better understand its advantages and disadvantages, so facilitating negotiations aimed at the most beneficial legal positioning for Thailand.

Many laws regarding space are discussed in international fora, embracing the concept that exploration and use of outer space is for the benefit of all, and that every state has the freedom to explore space. Unfortunately, this concept is pragmatically interpreted for the benefit of each country. Nowadays, some of the most contentious issues in space law revolve around the allocation of radio communication frequencies, which is limited, and rights to satellite imagery which may have security implications.

Furthermore, in the future Thailand will no doubt be expanding its engagement in various space activities. These might include the building and the use of satellites, remote sensing, production of spacecraft and even space mining, all of which may prove important for Thailand's long term economic future. It is undoubtedly important that Thailand participates in the ongoing debate surrounding the amendment of current space law, and formulation of new provisions for the statutes. Failing to modernize the space law, though it is unlikely to carry direct short term results, will certainly carry indirect and negative impact in the longer term.

Thailand stands to earn numerous benefits from the enactment of standardized air and space law. First, modern air and space law will protect Thailand from being taken advantage of. Secondly, internationalized Thai air and space law will increase foreign investor confidence in Thailand. Competition in the airline and telecommunication businesses is cutthroat in this globalized era; for Thailand to remain competitive it is imperative that a transparent legal framework and efficient oversight/enforcement mechanism is put in place, that is consistent and compliant with relevant international air and space law. Finally, we must recognize that these benefits are not just for the business sector, but are necessary, even essential to protect Thailand's long term national interests.