BANGKOK (AFP) Apr 04, 2005
Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill offered condolences Monday to families of the nine men and women killed when a Sea King helicopter crashed over the weekend during an aid mission in Indonesia.
"It's a very sad occasion and again I offer my condolences to the families of those who have lost sons, daughters, relatives," Hill told reporters at the Australian embassy while on a visit to Thailand.
Hill said Indonesian authorities had secured the site of the Saturday crash on Indonesia's Nias island, the area worst hit by an 8.7-magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds of islanders.
But he said his ministry had no plans to speed up the retirement of the Royal Australian Navy's 30-year-old Sea King helicopter fleet, which has been grounded until the navy knows what caused the crash and are due to remain in service until 2015.
There was "no issue" of their airworthiness, as an operating certificate was issued last month and the squadron received a very positive report, Hill added.
Hill met Interior Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya and National Security Council chief Winai Phattiyakul earlier Monday and discussed the triple bombings which rocked the southern Thailand city of Hat Yai at the weekend.
He was due to meet his Thai counterpart General Thammarak Isarangura Na Ayutthaya later Monday.
In the meetings, Hill said he had discussed Sunday's bombings which targetted an airport, a Carrefour supermarket and a hotel, killing two and wounding 75.
Nations should share more information to combat the threat posed by militant groups like those responsible for the separatist insurgency that has killed more than 630 people in southern Thailand since January 2004, he said.
"I am encouraging my agencies to work more closely with their Thai equivalents," he said.
Hill travels to Cambodia on Tuesday, then on to Vietnam later this week.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.