Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday warned the Royal Air Service flying school that its pilots would be arrested and its aircraft turned into tin pots if they continued to fly.
Hun Sen’s warning came after a four-seat chartered plane owned by the school, which is run by Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s youngest son, Prince Norodom Sihariddh, dropped one meter to the ground during takeoff on Sept 3 and skidded off the runway at Phnom Penh International Airport. No injuries were reported.
“They crashed into a pond,” Hun Sen said of the flying school. “What would have happened if [the plane] had exploded? They have no discipline,” he said in a speech to graduating university students at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Theater.
“Next time I will handcuff the people and chop the aircraft up for cooking pots,” he added.
Hun Sen said Funcinpec’s Defense Ministry Undersecretary of State Meas Rotha, the personal pilot of Prince Ranariddh, had already been removed from his government position over the accident.
Meas Rotha, who is also a Royal Air Service instructor, defended his professionalism Monday.
“The government should award me a medal because I survived the crash,” he said of the Sept 3 accident.
Before takeoff, Meas Rotha said, permission was requested from air traffic control and that engine failure, not negligence, had caused the accident.
“I am a professional flier. I have been flying more than 20 years,” Meas Rotha said.
The government had already revoked his flying license and grounded the school’s three to four planes but it has not closed the actual flying school, he said.
Chea Aun, secretary-general of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, confirmed the license revocation and grounding.
Hun Sen also said that the National Assembly would convene Tuesday so that Keo Puth Rasmey, Funcinpec’s newly appointed president, could be made deputy prime minister and so that Prince Ranariddh’s wife Princess Marie could be made senior minister.
Funcinpec’s change in leadership from Prince Ranariddh to Keo Puth Rasmey means the government will be able to run more smoothly, Hun Sen said.
“Now the government is much easier because the internal crisis of Funcinpec, which is a coalition partner, is already solved,” Hun Sen said, adding that he would soon meet with Keo Puth Rasmey for talks.
Ok Socheat, public affairs adviser to Prince Ranariddh, said Funcinpec members loyal to the prince would soon hold a congress to annul the congress that appointed Keo Puth Rasmey.
The prince will also file a lawsuit in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday if the Interior Ministry recognizes the changed party, he warned.
Lay Voharith, director of the Interior Ministry’s political affairs department, said Keo Puth Rasmey’s appointment conformed to Funcinpec party statutes and was therefore legitimate.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said the ministry had so far received only a written statement from the prince, not a formal complaint against recognizing the new Funcinpec leadership.
The ministry is reviewing the letter, he added.