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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 11:36 GMT
Thai plane blast 'an accident'
Thai Airways jet
The plane blew up on the tarmac
Thai politicians and police have issued conflicting statements on the likely cause of an explosion which blew up an aircraft set to carry the prime minister earlier this month.

I still believe that it was done by human beings. It was definitely a bomb

Senior police chief

Thai Transport Minister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha said on Monday that the explosion could have resulted from a malfunction of the plane's air-conditioning system.

The Thai Airways plane burst into flames on the tarmac at Bangkok airport just moments before the prime minister and his son were due to board on 3 March.

Wreckage of plane
It took an hour to bring the flames under control
But the deputy national police chief leading the probe said he was still convinced that it was not an accident.

"I still believe that it was done by human beings. It was definitely a bomb," General Sant Sarutanont said.

He said he had informed Boeing officials that police had found traces of C-4 plastic explosives in the wreckage of the Boeing 737.

If the explosion was really caused by a malfunction... all [planes] of the same model will have to be recalled

Thai prime minister
"They talked with us about what we have found, and we told them that it was RDX [a chemical in C-4 explosives]. They said if that was the case, we could wrap it up," General Sant said.

The blast killed one steward and injured seven others.

Two theories

What the possible target of the blast, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, believes remains unclear.

Some reports on Monday quote him as saying he is sure the blast was deliberate. Last week he even said he knew who was behind it.

But in other reports he appears less certain.

Thaksin examines plane wreckage
Mr Thaksin inspected the wreckage
"At present we cannot be specific about the cause," he is quoted as saying in the Bangkok Post.

"If the explosion was really caused by a malfunction of the aircraft, all [planes] of the same model will have to be recalled."

Mr Thaksin, a telecoms tycoon turned politician who only took power a few weeks ago, is not known to be facing any threats to his life.

But he has vowed to crack down hard on the drugs trade.

A US investigation team, led by the National Transportation Safety Board and including officials from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, is assisting Thai investigators.

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See also:

08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM 'knows who bombers are'
05 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai bomb 'was work of experts'
04 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM 'target' of plane fire
03 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Fire destroys Thai airliner
09 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai parliament votes Thaksin as PM
09 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thaksin's rocky road to power
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