BANGKOK, 6 June 2012 – Defense Minister Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat has denied rumors that the Thai government allows the US military to use U-Tapao Airport in exchange for ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s US visa.
Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol revealed that the government has allowed the US to use U-Tapao Airport in the eastern region as part of their military cooperation and the matter has nothing to do with Mr Thaksin’s visa. He claimed that the former Prime Minister can enter the US any time he wants.
The Minister said the US will use the airport as a center for disaster relief and humanitarian operations, rather than using it as a military base. He added that Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimapragorn has talked to Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey about holding a joint military exercise, Cobra Gold, at the airport to test its efficiency.
Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol explained that U-Tapao Airport is a national airport and is accessible to any visitors; therefore, it is not a suitable place to establish a military base. He also assured that the issue will not irritate China as there will be no weapons at the site.