Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - RAC head rolls after avgas spill

RAC head rolls after avgas spill

RAC head rolls after avgas spill

rac.jpg
rac.jpg

THE chairman of Royal Air Cambodge, Pan Chanta, yesterday confirmed he had been fired

as head of the national airline following the delay of the King and Queen's flight

to Beijing on Tuesday, August 1.

Hun Sen strides angrily around the tarmac at Pochentong beside a large pool of fuel that gushed from the wing of the plane that was about to take the King and Queen to Beijing

The flight to Beijing was abruptly canceled when about 40 liters of fuel flowed out

of one wing just before Their Majesties were due to depart. The King and Queen are

still in Phnom Penh, waiting for the flight to be rescheduled probably next week.

The King was traveling to Beijing for his regular medical checkup and treatment.

The 77-year-old King last visited China in February for a routine medical examination,

which his Chinese doctors advise him to have every three months. He returned to Cambodia

on March 30. The King has suffered a variety of ailments, including bowel cancer,

diabetes, cataracts and hypertension.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Chairman of the Senate, Chea Sim, the National Assembly

President, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and a hundred government officials were at the

airport to bid farewell to the King and Queen when the leak was noticed.

Hun Sen reacted angrily to the incident, immediately telling Pan Chanta to resign

or be fired.

He also apologized to the King and asked him to remain in Phnom Penh.

"I'm sorry, Your Majesty the King, please don't leave and could Your Majesty

stay for several days more," he said in front of waiting journalists and officials.

Hun Sen then ordered the national police chief, Hok Lundy, to make a serious investigation

into the event.

"We will set up a committee which will be led by the national police chief to

conduct the investigation, because we suspect that it is not a normal thing that

could be claimed to be a technical problem, but it is another problem," said

Hun Sen.

He pointed out that the event had just happened after the media had been criticizing

the King, the Royal Family and the Government.

"I am afraid the matter is political terrorism against the King and the Cambodian

Government in order to destroy Cambodia," said Hun Sen.

The investigation committee consists of Hok Lundy, Mol Roeup, who is the RCAF Deputy

Joint Chief of Staff and a Hun Sen advisor, the Chief of Military Police, Sao Sokha,

and the Chief of Judicial Police, Neat Savoeun.

Prince Ranariddh also blamed RAC for the incident and said there had been serious

danger to everyone at the airport, but particularly the King and Queen.

"The event this morning was dangerous: if the fuel had come in contact with

fire the plane would have exploded like a missile and all Cambodia's top leaders

would have lost their lives; then there would have been chaos in Cambodia,"

he said.

The prince said Cambodia needed the King as the head of national reconciliation and

to maintain political stability.

However, airline sources played down the seriousness of the incident, saying that

venting fuel was common and normal on airliners, often caused by fuel expanding in

the heat.

A Malaysian engineer from RAC said it was caused by the fuel tanks being filled to

the maximum for the long flight.

"All aircraft must fuel before a long flight; it is a normal thing like filling

a car or motorbike," said the engineer. "It is a normal thing which happens

in every airport, even in Malaysia."

Airline sources also said jet fuel had a high flash point and would not have been

ignited by a stray cigarette or such.

At least one Malaysian engineer and several Cambodian engineers are under investigation

by the police committee because of the incident.

Sok An, Minister at the Council of Ministers, has been appointed to take charge of

RAC in the interim.

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