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No trifling matter

July 19, 2012

The Transport Ministry’s investigation of its own problems when airport radar went off the air on June 21 concluded it was unimportant — just one of those things.

Permanent secretary for transport Silapachai Jarukasemrat resolved that no one was to blame. A one-hour system outage, the disruption, delay and diversion of 50 flights and the huge cost in time and money for dozens of companies and thousands of passengers are to be swept under the rug.

The investigation by Mr Silapachai was released last week. The report called the problem of Suvarnabhumi airport an “unexpected event”, which seems truthful if understated. Mr Silapachai concluded that no person, at any level, was to blame. The entire incident began, he said, with an electrical short circuit in a power conditioner. Neither the short circuit nor the automated switch to backup power was noticed by supervisors or employees on duty.

Nor did anyone notice that the backup power was being drained. How the report concluded that no one was responsible for such a lack of attention is yet to be explained.

That is a superior response than was given last week after a highly disturbing report by a Cambodian military officer that his troops had fired on a Thai civilian airliner. Col Seng Phearin, commander of a Cambodian army unit stationed near the border, said his unit fired on the plane in case it was a Thai spy aircraft. The Cambodian government denied the incident had happened. Following that denial, Col Seng Phearin repeated his report, saying 18 shots were fired. The cockpit crew of the Bangkok Airways flight involved did not see shots — and for that everyone must be thankful. But this is another civilian aviation incident that has been kicked away quickly by high-ranking officials as they would if they were involved in a cover-up.

This is a common link between the radar outage that was no one’s fault, and the Cambodian army officer’s report that he fired on an aircraft “just in case”. Both were life threatening, serious incidents. In neither case was any attempt made to pin down exactly where they began to spin out of control. — (July 17)