2 Months After Thaksin Visit, CATS Returned to Thai Control

The government officially transferred management of Cambodia Air Traffic Services back to its Thai parent company yesterday, nearly two months after seizing control and arresting a Thai engineer on charges of spying for Thailand, a government official said.

Citing national security, the government announced on Nov 20 that it had assumed temporary control of CATS following the Nov 12 arrest of Siwarak Chotipong, accused of leaking former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s flight details to the Thai Embassy.

“Yes, it is verified,” said Phay Sip­han, spokesman for the Council of Min­isters. “It is a positive step. The gov­ernment gave operations back to the Thai” company. Mr Siphan said, however, that the government had decided to make sure that only Cambodian nationals control all air traffic services at the company in order to protect national security.

When asked if the government’s decision to transfer operations was a sign of improving diplomatic relations between the two countries, Mr Siphan said: “This [issue] is not really with the government. This is a business [issue].”

He added that no Thai nationals had lost their jobs during the operational transition, rather that the company has undergone restructuring to coincide with the government’s views on national security.

CATS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samart Corp and, since 2001, has held a 32-year concession to provide air traffic control services. Listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Samart is 19 percent ow­ned by the Malaysian telecoms firm Axiata Group, which operates the Hello mobile phone network in Cambodia.

Say Sokhan, undersecretary of state for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, who was appointed as the new director of CATS in Novem­ber, said he was too busy to comment yesterday as he was in a meeting.

Mr Siwarak received a royal pardon on Dec 11 after pressure from Mr Thaksin and Thai opposition party Puea Thai, who both sought his release.

 

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