Thailand admits 'urgent' need to improve aviation safety

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand admitted on Monday it "urgently" needs to improve airline safety procedures as several carriers face bans on new international flights after a UN aviation agency raised concerns.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations body, reported "significant safety concerns" to Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) after an audit earlier in the year.

In response Japan last week blocked new flights from Thailand in a move affecting charter services by budget carriers Thai AirAsia X and NokScoot as well as Asia Atlantic Airlines, the DCA said, adding existing flights would not be impacted.

Flag carrier Thai Airways, in a statement on its Facebook page Saturday, said two charter flights scheduled to depart for Japan next month had been affected.

Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said Thailand must quickly improve airline safety.

"The ICAO has warned us since 2005 about our aviation management and asked us to improve our systems," he told reporters Monday.

"I understand we have to improve urgently." The DCA did not give details of the UN body's concerns but said it would provide new training for its staff and increase airline inspections as part of its overhaul.

The ICAO headquarters in Montreal could not immediately be reached for comment.