Protectionist move by military junta
The world's biggest retailers were locked in talks with Thai authorities today after the ruling military council last night stepped up its campaign to protect small retailers by threatening foreign-owned supermarkets with hefty fines or even three-year jail sentences.

Thailand's Commerce Ministry yesterday issued further guidelines to the large foreign retailers - including Tesco and Carrefour - that will prevent them from carrying out 'unfair practices'.

According to acting commerce minister Karun Kittisataporn, the new regulations - which come into force next week - will outlaw goods being priced at 'unfairly low' prices and prevent stores offering consumers 'too much discount'.

Any operator that is deemed to have broken the new rules will face a fine of up to Bt6 million (£84,000), a jail term for senior executives of up to three years - or both. If a company is found to be re-offending the penalties could be doubled.

Kittisataporn said: 'We have issued various guidelines and expect the retailers to follow.'

Officials from the Thai Commerce Ministry were scheduled to meet representatives of large retailers today.

Speaking in today's Times a Tesco spokesman said: 'We are talking to the government about this and will continue to do so. We are confident Tesco has brought a lot of benefit to Thai consumers.'

Tesco has nearly 300 shops in Thailand through its Tesco-Lotus division. Figures from Thailand's Commerce Ministry show that 400 superstores control 60 per cent of the kingdom's US$12 billion (£6.38 billion) retail sector.