Thai Air Force Chief Offers To Train Cambodian Pilots

Royal Thai Air Force Com­mander Itthaporn Subhawong yesterday made his first official visit to Cambodia and offered to train Cambodian pilots. Cambodian officials also said that Air Chief Marshal Itthaporn reiterated his country’s apology for last month’s mistaken violation of Cambodian air space by the Thai air force.

Mr Itthaporn’s visit follows that made last month by Thai Armed Forces Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara.

“I welcome all Cambodian trainee pilots,” Mr Itthaporn, speaking through a Thai interpreter, told reporters gathered at the Phnom Penh office of RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun yesterday. “But the Cambodian trainee pilots need to study the Thai language in depth.”

Defense Ministry Spokesman Undersecretary of State Chhum Sucheat said that Mr Itthaporn, who also met yesterday with Defense Minister Tea Banh and Royal Cambodian Air Force Commander Soeung Samnang, had also promised to prevent a recurrence of the Thai military’s Aug 13 over-flight in Pailin province.

Mr Itthaporn “said he accepted that the Thai air force flew over Cambodian territory in violation and that the Thai air force pro­mised to stop flying past Cam­bodian air boundaries,” Mr Su­cheat said.

Cambodian military officials said in August that the Royal Thai Marine Corps had apologized for the unauthorized entry into Cam­bodian airspace, which was blamed on a pilot’s misreading of a map.

The Cambodian military has a total of nine combat-orientated planes and eight helicopters, a flying stock that General Saroeun said yesterday is aging, as are Cam­bodia’s pilots.

General Saroeun also commended both nations for the recent drawdown in troop levels at the Preah Vihear border and said that Cambodia would offer Thai-language instruction to Cambodian trainee pilots planning to study with the Thai air force.

“I plan to set up Thai language classes to teach our RCAF [pilots] because they will go to study at Thai air bases,” he said. “My jet pilots are getting old and these jets are also too old.”



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