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Thai Air Commander To Visit After Violations

Thailand’s chief air marshal, Itthaporn Subhawong, will come to Cambodia next week to meet high-ranking military commanders, following reports that Thai aircraft had crossed as deep as 30 kilometers into Cambodian territory.

The commander of Thailand’s air force will be accompanied by 30 senior officers when he visits Sept. 14, defense officials said.

Thai fighter jets have reportedly flown into Cambodia three times over Pailin province recently, and a reconnaissance plane more than 10 times in the area near Preah Vihear temple, where a military standoff is underway between the neighbors. Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned he could order such flights shot down.

Nevertheless, Cambodian military officials said Itthaporn’s visit would be one of cooperation.

“This visit is very important for the Cambodian and Thai air forces to exchange their experiences with each other and to strengthen their cooperation,” said Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

Itthaporn is expected to meet with Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, Pol Saroeun, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and Sin Samnang, commander of Cambodia’s air force.

The delegations “may raise the problem of Thai jet fighters violating Cambodian airspace,” Chhum Socheath said.

Thailand has written official apologies for the violations, claiming they were due to the presence of dark clouds over the border.