The plaintiffs argued that there was an illegal conflict of interest that would benefit only the national energy conglomerate, PTT Plc.
They said the plan to float the price and remove subsidies should be put on hold until a price structure has been developed to ensure fairness.
Saree Aongsomwang, secretary-general of Foundation for Consumers, and Boonyuen Siritham, chairwoman of the Confederation of Consumer Organisations of Thailand, along with Bangkok senator Rosana Tositrakul filed the petition against five named defendants, who include Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the cabinet,
Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn and members of the National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) involved in raising the LPG gas price are also named.
The petitioners want the government to revoke the cabinet’s resolution of Aug 13 to allow the LPG price to increase by 50 satang per kilogramme every month until October next year.
The household LPG price will reach 24.82 baht per kg, up 37% from 18.13 baht at present. The cabinet also approved measures to offset the effects on low-income households, street vendors and food shops.
The group wants the LPG price to be maintained at 18.13 baht a kilo during a process to recalculate the appropriate LPG price for households.
Ms Saree said the government might not need to increase the LPG price if it implements three measures.
First, the government should require the petroleum industry to contribute to the state Oil Fund at the same rate as other sectors, at 12.55 baht a kilo, instead of the current contribution of only one baht a kilo.
The government argues that the price adjustment for LPG is needed due to the negative balance of the State Oil Fund at 4.63 billion baht, so the proposal to raise the contribution from the petroleum sector would put the fund at over 30 billion baht in the black, without an LPG price increase.
Second, the government should charge a fair rate of pipe usage, as the fee now is unrealistic.
Third, the price of LPG gas sold to all sectors should be the same.
An examination showed that gas from the Gulf of Thailand is sold to PTT’s gas separation plant at 220 baht per BTU, but the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand, industries, transportation and household sectors have to buy gas from Myanmar at 274 baht per BTU, or about 25% more expensive than PTT.
She said if the government leverages the gas price to all sectors and decides it is necessary to increase the LPG price, then the people's sector is likely to accept that conclusion.
Ms Rosana said the cabinet’s resolution was illegal because the NEPC had no right to allocate gas from a local separation plant to petroleum and household sectors.
She questioned the cost at the gas separation plant of 24.82 baht as cited in the cabinet’s resolution. It seemed too high when considering that natural gas from the Sirikit concession bloc was 8-9 baht per kilo during January to May 2013.
Another people's network group led by ML Kornkasiwat Kasemsri held a press conference at a bus station in front of PTT’s headquarter in Vibhavadee Road on Thursday afternoon. They plan to get at least 50,000 signatures for a petition during a week-long activity from Sept 1-8, seeking the dismissal of the energy minister.
The group said that between 2006 and 2011, LPG consumption by PTT’s petroleum business increased to a record 1.77 million tonnes, but it pays the lowest price at 16.20 baht per kilo. Household sector gas rose by 935,039 tonnes, while buying at 18.13 baht a kilo. Transportation rose 461,148 tonnes (21.38 baht a kilo) and general industries at 196,946 tonnes (30.13 baht).
It demanded the government disclose information on energy concessions as well as change the system from concessions to benefit sharing as in other Asean countries to bring benefits to the government and the people as a whole.
The group will gather on Sept 9 to press its demands.