Asian skyjack tests regional unity
The seizure of an Indonesian DC-9 airliner and its forced landing in Bangkok, Thailand, has put to the test the capacity of ASEAN countries to cooperate in a crisis.
Monitor correspondent Frederic A. Moritz reports that Thai authorities handling immediate negotiations at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport were on the "hot spot," deciding what to do while Indonesian President Suharto's Cabinet decided how to handle the hijackers' demand for the release of what were originally described as 20 Indonesian political prisoners. Both Thailand and Indonesia are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
As of this writing, Trairong Suwanphiri, the Thai government's chief spokesman, said Indonesian authorities would release 84 political prisoners but were still waiting for word from the five hijackers on where the freed prisoners should go.
Mr. Trairong refused to disclose two other demands that he said had been made by the hijackers, who seized the Garuda Indonesian Airways DC-9 jet on an internal Indonesian flight Saturday and forced it to fly first to Malaysia and then to Thailand.
Meanwhile, it was reported that an American passenger, shot twice in the chest by hijackers, had been removed still alive to a Thai hospital, where his condition was uncertain. Another passenger, a British businessman, sprinted to freedom.
At the same time signs of a rift between Thailand and Indonesia appeared, with accounts that Thailand had barred landing of two Indonesian planes supposedly bearing the released prisoners. The reason was said to be reports that the planes also carried Indonesian troops, which presumably could be used in an unwelcome e ffort to storm the plane.