Pilot Unaware of Shots Fired at Thai Aircraft

The captain in charge of a Bang­kok Airways aircraft that was shot at by a Cambodian soldier Wednes­­day night had no knowledge of the danger his flight was in when it was targeted by anti-aircraft fire, a spokesman at the airline said Friday.

“Our pilot was not aware shots were fired until the news broke out,” Passapong Jirawattanasak, chief of regional corporate communications for Bangkok Airways, said from Thailand.

He said the plane in question was an ATR twin-engine turboprop that was carrying 70 passengers at the time of the shooting. No one in the aircraft was aware of the gunfire, Mr. Jirawattanasak said.

“[T]he PG913 flight, which was due to arrive at Siem Reap Airport at 1450hrs had to return to Suvarnab­humi Airport as it was unable to land due to bad weather at Siem Reap Airport,” he said.

The Ministry of Defense on Fri­day released a statement saying it was investigating the incident but had not yet arrived at any conclusions. It also ordered media outlets to stop reporting on the incident until the government produces its own findings.

“Cambodia has no reason to cause damage or disturb the safety of a civilian flight. However, the Ministry of Defense is on duty and within its rights to assure the sovereignty of Cambodian airspace so that it is not invaded,” the ministry continued in the statement.

Military officials in Banteay Mean­chey, where the shooting occurred, said a soldier had spotted the plane flying in circles over the border area and had fired 18 warning shots from a heavy machine gun because he suspected the aircraft was a Thai military spy plane.

The shooting took place just ahead of an announcement by Cambodia on Friday that it would pull troops out of disputed territory around Preah Vihear temple next week.

Thailand and Cam­bodia have traded gun, rocket and artillery fire in the past several years—leading to deaths and injuries on both sides—over competing claims to border territory.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shin­awatra also held talks in Siem Reap City on Friday. Relations between the two countries have warmed significantly since Ms. Yingluck came to power midway through 2011.

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