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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 07:53 GMT
Bodies of Thai Iraq dead returned
The bodies of the soldiers are returned
The dead soldiers were part of a 400-strong contingent
The bodies of two Thai troops killed in Iraq have been retuned to Bangkok in a solemn ceremony.

Thailand's defence minister joined family and fellow soldiers as the coffins were taken off a Thai Airways flight from Kuwait.

Amporn Chulert and Mitir Klaharn, both sergeant-majors, were among 19 killed in car bomb and mortar attacks in the Iraqi city of Karbala on Saturday.

They were the first Thai troops to die in Iraq, sparking calls for withdrawal.

Thai soldiers carried the coffins of the two men, draped in the national flag, during the ceremony attended by about 200 people at Bangkok International Airport.

"The Thai Government is doing its best to prevent any similar circumstance in the future," Defence Minister General Thammarak Isarangura na Ayudhaya told reporters.

Militants in Iraq, he said, had not specifically targeted Thai soldiers - "they just want to kill anyone".

No withdrawal

The two men had been working as engineers and were among a contingent of over 400 non-combat Thai troops sent to Iraq in September to provide medical services and help rebuild roads and buildings.

The deaths have prompted calls for the return of the contingent, but Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said they will remain in Iraq.

He has also said that Thailand will deploy an additional 30 troops to help protect those already there.

The BBC's Kylie Morris
"This was not the kind of homecoming Thailand was expecting for the soldiers"

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