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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Thai Airways board resigns
Exploded Thai Airways airliner
The prime minister had a near escape from Thai Airways
The entire board of directors of Thai Airways has resigned amid bomb threats and rows over management, just as the airline prepares for part-privatisation.

The resignations follow demands for change in the company's management by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has become highly critical of the majority state-owned airline.

I have already given them time to correct themselves but now time has run out

Prime Minister Thaksin
Two bomb hoaxes this week, believed to stem from a bitter dispute between pilots and their trade union, disrupted flights and raised questions about the airline's ability to manage labour relations.

The board members are leaving their posts just four months after they replaced another set of administrators, who were themselves forced to resign over a near-disaster involving a Thai Airways jet.

Close shave

The prime minister himself had a narrow escape when one of the airline's Boeing 737s exploded just minutes before he and his son were about to board.

The incident, which killed one crew member and injured several others, was blamed on an overheated air-conditioning unit. Sabotage was ruled out.

Mr Thaksin made clear his feelings in May when he said the airline "sucks" and that if he had any choice he would not fly with it.

Management changes following that incident have failed to satisfy the prime minister.

"I have already given them time to correct themselves but now time has run out," he said after the emergency meeting.

He ordered an investigation into the recent bomb hoaxes, which are thought to stem from a row over a letter by union leaders, who represent cabin crew, questioning the efficiency of pilots.

On Wednesday, a flight to Rome was delayed after one of the airline's European offices received a fax warning of a bomb on the aircraft. A search revealed there was no such device.

A similar incident occurred with the same flight on the Sunday.

"It must be an inside job. We believe that the one who made the threat must have good knowledge of airline operations," said Pracha Maleenond, deputy minister of transport.

State sell-off

Correspondents say the airline has also been plagued by disappointing financial results.

It is preparing to reduce the state share in the airline from just over 90% to 70%. About 4 million shares are set to be sold before the end of the year.

Airlines which have expressed an interest in the sale include Lufthansa, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines.

The prime minister said the restructuring operation would have to be completed within four weeks to ensure that the sell-off went ahead as scheduled.

A shareholders meeting is reportedly to be held at the beginning of October, when the new board will be presented for approval.

The finance secretary Somjainuek Engtrakul, has meanwhile been appointed as the acting president.

The BBC's Larry Jagan, Bangkok
"There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Thai Intl"
See also:

24 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM: National airline 'sucks'
12 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM accepts accident theory
12 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai plane blast 'an accident'
03 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Fire destroys Thai airliner
09 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai parliament votes Thaksin as PM
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