A political head of steam is building up in Thailand to break the air force's dominance of civil aviation. The first clear sign of success would see the state-sponsored launch of an airline independent of current Thai state aviation interests.

The plan would see the startup compete with Thai International on both domestic and international routes. The aim is to create a competitor which will expose Thai's inefficiencies after years of military interference.

The ministry was set to approve the startup plan at the end of April. A key point in the plan limits any single shareholding to 25 per cent. Already, the highly influential Crown Property Bureau, several banks and hotel groups are keen on investing the $400 million in startup capital.

With Thai's former president Chatrachai Bunya-ananta heading the working group behind the proposed carrier, speculation is rife that he could be in line for a top job at the airline. Chatrachai, whose period in charge at Thai was dogged by controversy and political harassment, is keen to return to aviation.

The proposal leaves the fate of Bangkok Airways and Orient Express, which has applied for domestic rights, in the balance, though both will be eligible to apply for a shareholding in the carrier.

The project is sponsored by the communications minister, a former top-level Thai banker, with the support of the finance minister, also an ex-banker. Both are also looking to enforce direct change at Thai and have set up an internal committee at the carrier to study the further reduction of the government's share below 92 per cent.

Source: Airline Business