12 May 2005

When planned obsolescence is your business plan

The big scandal in Thai politics at the moment is about bribes allegedly paid over the 2 billion baht (about $50m) contract for baggage scanners at the new Bangkok airport. Bribery scandals are commonplace enough here, but this one is making news because the company which was to supply the scanners, GE InVision, reported their suspicions of bribery to the US DOJ and SEC. (And kudos to them - yes, they're required by law to make such disclosures, but in this part of the world it's not so common for companies to actually do it.)

The Thai government is now threatening to cancel the contracts unless the company issues a statement that there was no bribery of any sort.

The Law Society of Thailand and the editorial page of the Bangkok Post have come out against any such move, and the former has warned the Thai government that filing a defamation suit against GE InVision (!) would be pointless.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says that he has known about the allegations for several months, and has been conducting a "secret investigation". Uh-huh.

What I wonder is, are these the same kind of scanners that the US spent $4.5 bn on, which now need to be replaced?