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Thailand opened U-Tapao airport to the U.S. to relay humanitarian aid and disaster relief to Nepal

Thailand opened U-Tapao airport to the United States to use as an intermediate staging base (ISB) for flights bringing relief to earthquake-hit Nepal last week as the Thai government said it was also dispatching two more medical teams to the Himalayan Kingdom and would send a team of experts to help assess the damage to historic and religious sites.
 
The cabinet of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha granted permission for the United States to use U-Tapao airport, located in Rayong Province approximately 90 miles southeast of Bangkok, from May 8 to 31. About eight or nine flights bringing humanitarian aid a day are expected to stop and refuel there. The U.S. also used U-Tapao during relief efforts in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
 
As published in the U.S. Air Force News on 11 May 2015, Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Minihan, the JTF-505 Joint Air Component Coordination Element commander, explained the role of the mission in Thailand, and highlighted its importance to the overall Nepal earthquake relief mission.
 
"We've set up an intermediate staging base that can help airpower and airlift, specifically U.S. Marine and Air Force air (capabilities), and rapidly move those unique capabilities in and out of Nepal," Minihan said. "This JTF-505 is significant because it shows that the partnerships in this region are important, and all the exercises and engagements that we do throughout this region have a real-world application so that when an incident happens like the earthquake in Nepal, we can rapidly come together … and instantly have a positive impact and do what we need to do for the government and the people of Nepal."
 
The JTF-505 mission in Thailand has been able to move tons of cargo and hundreds of support personnel into Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and a region significantly impacted by the earthquake.
 
Additionally, Royal Thai Armed Forces work with the JTF-505 at the ISB to coordinate earthquake relief support with the Thai government.
 
Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matthew Youngblood, the JTF-505 JACCE officer in charge, said working jointly with the other services and the Thai government has been important to the earthquake relief mission.
 
"It has been an exceptional experience working with our service counterparts, and we look forward to continuing cooperation with the Thai government, and our continued services' support to the people of Nepal," Youngblood said.
 
Thailand and the U.S. often partner on humanitarian relief efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. Humanitarian relief was indeed a focus of 2015 Cobra Gold, the multilateral military exercises jointly hosted by Thailand and the U.S.
 
In addition to providing U-Tapao as a staging point for the relief mission in Nepal, the Thai government is preparing to dispatch two teams of Thai medical professionals, each with 20 members.
 
At the same time, Thai Minister of Culture Vira Rojpojchanarat said he had assigned Department of Fine Arts chief Bowornwet Rungrujee to assemble a team of archaeologists, architects, engineers, conservation scientists, and art historians to send to Nepal. The minister added that the team would begin its work on the conservation and restoration plan after the immediate needs of victims had been addressed and homes, roads and other infrastructure were being rebuilt.
 
See the original article at Thailand Focus

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