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RCAF joins plane search

Soldiers from the Royal Cambodian Air Force watch their new Z-9 helicopters
Soldiers from the Royal Cambodian Air Force watch their new Z-9 helicopters in the sky during a ceremony marking the handover of the aircraft from China in November in Phnom Penh. AFP

RCAF joins plane search

Cambodia has deployed four helicopters and two warships to join the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, the Ministry of Defence announced yesterday.

In a statement, the ministry said it dispatched four Chinese-made Z-9 helicopters and two P46 navy ships to join the hunt for the missing plane, by searching islands and maritime areas at the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

“The Ministry of Defence has agreed to continue a mission with other countries to search for the missing plane,” the statement said.

Vice Admiral Tea Sokha, commander of the Cambodian Maritime Space, said the mission commenced at about 5:30pm yesterday.

“Our mission is to cooperate with other countries in searching for the missing plane within our territorial sovereignty,” Sokha said.

The plane had 227 passengers and 12 crew on board when it vanished during a flight from Malaysia to Beijing on March 8.

Up until this point, Cambodia’s aviation authority has been increasing staff levels and communicating with its Vietnamese counterparts to try to locate the missing plane.

Chinese embassy spokesman Cheng Hong Bo said yesterday he is happy to hear that Cambodia is using Chinese aircraft to carry out its search.

“For this search, we need as many countries as possible to help. We have been urging Cambodia to join and are pleased that Cambodia is using [Chinese] helicopters to [do this],” he said.

The four Z-9 helicopters in question were among a group of 12 formally handed over during a ceremony in November.

If the plane is discovered in Cambodia, Cheng Hong said China “might help by sending over money or people [to recover the wreckage]”.

The Defence Ministry statement also welcomed support from Chinese and Malaysian “working groups” if the plane is found in Cambodia.

“The Ministry of Defence would like to share its condolences … with the family of the victims,” the statement said.

Minister of Defence Tea Banh could not be reached for comment yesterday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY

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