Bangkok Airways Says Plane Was On Course

A Bangkok Airways passenger plane that was shot at by a Cam­bodian soldier Wednesday night had been flying on its normal flight path from Siem Reap City to Bangkok, a representative of the airline said yesterday, contradicting earlier reports by Cambodian mil­itary officials that the aircraft had flown over territory where air­craft are rarely seen.

“It used the usual route when flying back to Bangkok,” said Passapong Jirawattanasak, chief of regional corporate communications for Bangkok Airways, ex­plaining that the plane, originally destined for Siem Reap, had been forced to return to Bangkok due to “heavy rain and strong wind.”

“We hope this sort of unfortunate event does not [happen again], to keep a good relationship between Thailand and Cam­bodia,” said. Mr. Passapong, ad­ding that he didn’t think the incident would disrupt the regular flow of Thai tourists to Siem Reap.

Military officials in Banteay Meanchey province, where the shooting took place, said last week that a member of the Royal Cam­bodian Armed Forces Bri­gade 51 had fired 18 warning shots near the aircraft with a heavy machine gun, suspecting it to be a Thai spy plane because he thought that it was flying in circles near the Thai-Cambodian bor­der, where aircraft are not of­ten sighted.

The pilot and 70 passengers aboard the ATR twin-engine tur­bo-prop were unaware of the gunfire at the time of the shooting, Bang­kok Airways has said.

Defense Minister General Tea Banh said yesterday that the ministry was still investigating the shooting.

“We are investigating this case and we have not finished it yet,” Gen. Banh said. “We are not sure if the plane was a passenger plane or a [military] aircraft. We need to find out.”

Mr. Passapong said the Thai Foreign Ministry was also investigating the incident.

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