Meeting with relatives of some of the victims of Sunday's Phuket air disaster, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Monday affirmed that Thailand's aviation standards are entirely in accord with international standards.
The One-Two-Go Airlines disaster is the worst air travel incident in the country in nearly 10 years.
The premier told the families that the Thai authorities are awaiting data from the McDonnell-Dounglas MD-82's two flight recorder black boxes for further explanation of the circumstances of the crash. He offered sympathy and support to families of the victims.
Ninety persons were left dead, including 55 foreigners from a number of countries. Only some 40 of 123 passengers survived the incident.
Thailand's aviation standards "meet international standards in every aspect," the prime minister said, promising that the wreckage would be cleared by the end of the day.
Meanwhile, Phuket International Airport has suspended services while rescue workers work to retrieve the remaining bodies, trapped beneath the wreckage of the airplane. The plane will be cleared from the runway and services at the airport are expected to resume at 5 pm Monday,
according to Transport Minister Thira Haocharoen.
Officials from the Australian, British, French, German and Israeli embassies arrived at the Phuket airport to retrieve 20 corpses of foreign nationals who had been identified, while the identification of 41 additional foreigners are under way. Twenty-four foreign passengers remain in hospital.
The transport minister said the black box flight data had been recovered and will be sent to the United States or Australia for inspection, and that it will take more than a week to know the cause of the incident.
Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Dr. Mongkol Na Songkhla said that a police forensic team was sent to Phuket Sunday evening and is conducting autopsies to identify the dead, some of which might require DNA tests as the experts found it difficult to identify the charred remains of many of the victims.
The Public Health Minister also added that the medical team was sufficient for the number of the injured during their hospitalisation.
The passenger jet operated by Thai budget carrier One-Two-Go veered off a runway at Phuket International Airport during a landing attempt amid heavy rain and strong crosswinds. The aircraft – identified as an MD 82 model – broke into two sections before bursting into flame in both wings and the rear section of the broken aircraft.
The plane's passenger list included 123 persons plus seven crew members. (TNA)
In the 7th of July, I have a chance to join SAREX 2007 which is the Search & Rescue Exercise in Chiang Mai International Airport and Wing 41 of Royal Thai Air Force. I flew with MD-82 of One-Two-Go (register HS-OME) and the pilot took me there safely.
According to the crew, they express the pilot's thankfulness on behalf of him. If I am not mistake or misunderstanding, he is Capt. Arif Mulyadi, Captain of One-Two-Go flight OG269 which crash in Phuket several days back
Mr. Captain, I do believe that you conduct your duty with your experience and knowledge you have. I also believe that you, and everyone else in the world, did not expect this kind of even to be occoured. But when it did happen, we has to accept this because the unexpected things can not be forecast.
Mr. Captain, you took me to Chiang Mai safely and impressively. According to Bhuddist belief, I will pray for you and share my merit to you. And if you are Muslim, I may ask you god, Lord Allah, to accept your spirit and let you stay with him. You took million people to their destination, you led them to meet their lover, you flew them to their home, you brought them to meet their friend......I wish you will stay in the heaven, your home, peacefully for eternity.
Rest In Peace, Lieutenant Colonel of Indonesian Air Force, Captain of One-Two-Go Airlines, Arif Mulyadi.
The Cabinet on Tuesday committed to sending 800 troops to join a UN-African Union peacekeeping force due to begin operating in Sudan's strife-torn Western Darfur region later this year.
An under-equipped African Union (AU) force of around 7,000 troops from 26 countries is currently patrolling Darfur, a region roughly the size of Thailand, but will be replaced later this year by the 26,000-strong joint AU-UN force.
Thai troops would join the so-called AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) before the end of the year and stay for 12 months, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"Thailand has the capacity, both personnel and equipment, to join UNAMID in order to support the UN's role to maintain international peace and security," it said.
"The mission will also help strengthen the ability of Thai personnel."
The troop deployment will cost Thailand 350 million baht ($10.2 million) for the first six months, but the Foreign Ministry said the costs would be refunded by the UN.
Air force to get Gripen jet fighters
Cabinet okays B34bn purchase from Sweden
The cabinet yesterday agreed the air force could buy 12 Gripen multi-role fighters from Sweden at a cost of 34.4 billion baht.
The procurement plan has been kept low-profile, with air force chief ACM Chalit Phukphasuk refusing to comment.
Government spokesman Chiya Yimwilai said details would be announced by ACM Chalit today.
The new Gripen-JAS 39C/D aircraft will replace the air force's ageing American-made F-5E fighters.
It is the second major arms procurement approved by the cabinet recently. On Sept 25 it endorsed the Defence Ministry's 7.7-billion-baht plan to buy 96 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from Ukraine and 15,000 TAR-21 assault rifles from Israel for the army, C-802 surface-to-surface missiles and launch systems for the navy from China, and new avionics for the six C-130H aircraft operated by the air force.
An air force source said the Swedish purchase will be made in two batches.
The first six jets, including spare parts and training programmes, will be bought with a five-year budget of 19 billion baht starting this fiscal year. The 15.4 billion baht cost of the other six planes will be met from the 2013-2017 budget.
The decision to go for the Swedish fighters was made by a committee led by air force chief-of-staff ACM Itta**** Subhawong, the source said. Air force officials briefed the cabinet on the capabilities of the Gripen yesterday and compared it with other planes on offer.
ACM Chavalit had met Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Sept 29 and convinced him to back the purchase. He cited the need for new combat aircraft to match the Russian-made SU-30 MKM fighters now deployed by Malaysia.
The Gripen jets were in the public spotlight when Thaksin Shinawatra was in power. He talked of bartering, paying some of the cost with chickens instead of cash. The idea went nowhere.
Later he ordered then air force chief ACM Kongsak Wantana to switch to the SU-30s. ACM Chalit rejected the plane as unsuited to Thailand's needs when he became the new air force chief.
The source said the Swedish offer was sweetened with the offer of two radar surveillance planes for free.
Meanwhile, army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda said the army would accept any decision made by Defence Minister Gen Boonrawd Somtas on the controversial plan to buy the APCs from Ukraine.
Gen Boonrawd is the person who will make the final decision on whether to ahead with the 3.89-billion-baht APC purchase.
''I can accept any decision by Gen Boonrawd. If he wants to put a stop to it, the purchase will be stopped,'' Gen Anupong said.
The purchase has been frozen by the Defence Ministry despite getting approval from the cabinet. The ministry set up a committee to re-examine the deal and clear up all doubts.
The Office of the Auditor-General also demanded answers from the ministry about the deal. Key questions were why NGV Enterprise, which represented Ukraine, won the contract even though it failed to tender a bid within the specified deadline.
State auditors also questioned the quality of the products.
Gen Anupong said the army had already answered the state auditor's questions and explained to the minister why the Ukrainian vehicles were needed.
He said arms dealers and critics did not know everything. The vehicles from the Ukraine came with German-made engines and were most suited to the army's needs and budget.
Thailand to buy Swedish jet fighters to replace aging US warplanes
BANGKOK, Thailand: Thailand will purchase 12 Swedish-made jet fighters to replace Vietnam-era US warplanes, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
The Gripen-JAS 39C/D multi-role fighters, costing 34.4 billion baht (US$1.1 billion; €775 million), will take the place of US F-5 warplanes that have been in the Thai arsenal for three decades, said Royal Thai Air Force spokesman Monthon Suchakorn.
An initial shipment of six planes will be based in the southern province of Surat Thani, while the rest are to be deployed in Ubon Ratchathani province in the northeast.
The Thai air force had considered the purchase of other warplanes, including the US F-16 and Russia's SU-30, before settling on the Gripen.
Thailand has made a number of military purchases recently including armored personnel carriers from the Ukraine, assault rifles from Israel and surface-to-surface missiles from China.