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Sunday, December 13, 1998 Published at 15:05 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Thai crash victims compensation offer

A victim's relatives mourn their loss

Thai Airways International has offered to pay $100,000 in compensation to relatives of each of the 101 victims of Friday's air crash in southern Thailand.

Harry Peart reports from Bangkok
"This is the standard international compensation payment," the company's chairman Thamnoon Wanglee told a news conference.

Mr Thamnoon said that for the 45 people injured in the crash, the airline would pay all medical expenses, and give them compensation of 200,000 baht ($5,600) each.

[ image: Surat Thani airport:
Surat Thani airport: "lacked crucial equipment"
The A310-200 Airbus crashed into a swamp near the airport of Surat Thani.

The plane, carrying 146 passengers and crew, was flying a domestic route from Bangkok to Surat Thani - a town which services tourists travelling to the nearby resort island of Koh Samui.

Landing system 'removed'

As an investigation into the causes of the crash began, an air traffic controller at Surat Thani was reported as saying that crucial landing equipment was taken off the runway six months before the accident.

The airport's Instrument Landing System (ILS) had been removed during construction work to extend its runway, said an unidentified air traffic control official quoted by Reuters.

[ image:  ]
A $19.5m runway extension project began in August 1997, but work was delayed by Thailand's economic crisis, airport staff said.

A Thai air force pilot who flew into the airport on Sunday said that the removal of the system meant pilots had to use a radio navigation system.

This is a less accurate system that relies on visual sighting of the runway once the aircraft has descended to 152m.

Three tries at runway

The Airbus A310-200 made two emergency attempts to land in heavy rain at the airport in this southern Thai town before coming in for a third fatal approach.

Survivors of the crash said the pilot had complained of poor visibility before the crash.

Officials at the airport and at Thai Airways have declined to provide details except to say that a radio navigation system was functioning normally.

There have been two other crashes involving Airbus aeroplanes in Asia in the last 15 months.

The BBC Asia business correspondent, David Willis, says this has prompted speculation that shrinking profit margins resulting from the region's economic downturn may have compromised maintenance and safety standards.

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