Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Teijiro Furukawa indicated late July 9 that the need for the government to send Air Self-Defense Force planes to Cambodia to rescue Japanese people there has decreased.

Three C-130H transport aircraft were dispatched to Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, earlier in the day to stand by in case the more than 400 Japanese in Cambodia have to be evacuated. Furukawa said the government has not told the ASDF that the transport aircraft can stand down.

The aircraft were moved to Okinawa because it is the closest point in Japan to Cambodia, Furukawa said. Thai commercial planes have resumed traveling between Phnom Penh and Bangkok, and Cambodian private planes have started to fly between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Furukawa told a regularly scheduled news conference.

Some of the people on those flights were Japanese, he said. Using the three C-130s in an evacuation would be unprecedented. A 1994 revision of the SDF law permits such a deployment.

The C-130H Hercules has a maximum speed of 620 kph and can carry 80 to 90 people. It would take the planes 6 1/2 hours to fly from Okinawa to Cambodia, plus time for a refueling stop in the Philippines, the officials said.

The Foreign Ministry estimates there are currently 290 Japanese residents and 120 Japanese travelers in Cambodia. Of the long-term residents, the ministry said, the whereabouts of 80 people are unknown.

Hashimoto said late July 8 the government is also considering using a military plane from an outside country to evacuate Japanese nationals in Cambodia. Japanese caught in the Cambodian crisis have complained about their government’s slow reaction to their plight and that Japanese officials in charge of emergency management have done almost nothing for them.

Thailand and Malaysia have sent aircraft to evacuate their nationals and other foreigners. A rescue via the Mekong River is under consideration in Japan, but Japanese residents in Cambodia have rejected the idea, saying bands of armed thugs prey upon travelers along the river. “It would be a lot safer to stay in Phnom Penh than it would be to travel down the Mekong,” said one Japanese in Cambodia.

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