PM shrugs off U-tapao deadline
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Friday shrugged off the Tuesday deadline imposed by the US space agency Nasa for an answer involving its request to use U-tapao naval air base.
“We have our own procedures to follow,” Ms Yingluck said. “The Foreign Ministry, the armed forces and the Council of State are looking at the issue.”
Her comments follow Nasa’s letter to the Foreign Ministry that it would withdraw the request if the Thai government could not give an answer by June 26.
The space agency claimed that it could not bring its equipment in if it did not receive the approval in time for its climate study project in August and September.
Ms Yingluck promised to make public the details of the Nasa study project when the time was right.
It was a straightforward project with no hidden agenda, she insisted.
Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat Friday urged critics not to see Nasa’s move as an attempt to pressure the government.
“They have a plan to follow. Don’t see it that [in a negative] way,” he said.
The defence minister insisted the Nasa project posed no threat to national security, noting the Defence Ministry had reviewed it.
“Trust me. I am not the kind of person who sells the country. It isn’t anything about military activity,” he said.
He also said he informed Gen Jing Zhi-yuan, a member of China’s Central Military Commission and commander of the Second Artillery Force, who visited Bangkok, about the US plan to set up a centre for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief at U-tapao airport.
He said China was welcome to join the project which would benefit countries in the region.
A source said the defence minister gave assurances to China that Thailand would not allow the US to stockpile weapons on Thai soil.
The source said if the cabinet granted Nasa permission, terms of reference would be drafted to regulate use of U-tapao airport.
Meanwhile, army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha said similar requests for international cooperation would increase, especially when the Asean community came into existence.
He said closer collaboration would be inevitable, but mechanisms must be in place to ensure mutual benefits.
“The point is how to protect our sovereignty and national interest. We must ensure mutual benefits,” he said.
Gen Prayuth also asked for public trust in security agencies.
“Right now we are confident sovereignty remains unaffected. We are extremely careful,” he said.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva urged the government to clarify to Nasa why consideration of its request was being delayed.
“It is odd that the government can’t explain simple facts. Instead it tries to sidestep saying the project was initiated by the previous administration,” he said.
This graphic released last month details Nasa’s research project.
Did you know?
You can introduce your kids to edutainment reading with our Student Weekly magazine: Thailand’s only all-English entertainment and education magazine for teens and all ages.