Thailand to lead SEA force in East Timor

BANGKOK (AFP): Thailand today agreed to a request from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that it lead the Southeast Asian contingent in the international force for East Timor, officials said. Thailand will take the post of deputy commander of the operation under Australia’s overall command, government spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart said. “Kofi Annan wanted to see Thai cooperation and involvement as the leader of the ASEAN countries,” he told reporters. “The Australians have proposed that the Thai contingent take sole deputy command with a duty to provide liaison between ASEAN and Australian forces,” he added. The Thai force will peak at 1,500 soldiers, including combat troops as well as certain specialists. There will also be sniffer dogs. The navy will provide three ships to transport troops and the airforce will deploy two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, Akapol said. Australia has also asked Thailand to send an advance team to Darwin before 3 pm local time tomorrow. The first contingent of 25 troops, plus the deputy commander of the international force, will leave Thailand in the early hours of the morning, officials said.

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