Thailand rejects Nasa base request

2012-06-26 15:42
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Bangkok - The Thai government on Tuesday delayed a decision to let US space agency Nasa use a military air base for climate study after the main opposition party claimed, among other things, that it was tantamount to a surrender of sovereignty.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had asked to use the U-Tapao air base, in southeast Thailand, built by the United States for its forces to use during the Vietnam War.

"Nasa will have to call off the programme this year, which is a shame for weather monitoring technology in Thailand," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said.

The Nasa project may have fallen foul of internal Thai politics: the opposition democrats are also claiming the government had agreed to the deal in return for the United States' granting a visa to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of current premier Yingluck.

Kristin Kneedler, a US embassy spokesperson, denied any such agreement. "We do not exchange visas for favours," she said.

Thaksin was toppled by the military in 2006 and has chosen to live in exile in Dubai rather than return home to serve a two-year jail term for abuse of power.

The opposition is fighting various moves by the government to amend the constitution and pass amnesty measures that it sees as devices to let Thaksin return home.

The democrats have also said Nasa aircraft could be used for espionage, in line with plans by the Unites States to strengthen its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Other critics are worried that Thailand risks jeopardising relations with China.

"We want cabinet to reveal all the details relating to this agreement and make them known to the public," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, a party spokesperson.

Read more on:    nasa  |  thailand  |  space
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