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Northeast airport revival on the cards

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
Lanmei Airlines aircraft ready for take-off in Sihanoukville International Airport. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The government is considering reviving the old airport in Steung Treng province, in the country’s northeast, according to Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation.

The airport is included in the government’s development plans, together with other airports in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri. There are also recent reports that Steung Streng authorities are strongly pushing for the project to materialise.

The airport, which sits at 200 feet above mean sea level, currently has one runway 1,300 metres long and 20 metres wide.

It was closed in 2003 but its helipad is used occasionally by officials visiting Cambodia’s remote areas near the Laos border.

The government wants to revive the airports in Steung Treng, Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri to contribute to the development of the country’s northeast and areas bordering Laos. These areas are resource-rich and have good eco-tourism potential, but tourism growth has been slow for several reasons, including limited access by air.

According to Mr Vutha, the main obstacles to rehabilitating the Steung Treng airport are a lack of investors willing to finance the project. “Investors come and go,” Mr Vutha said when reached through his mobile phone yesterday.

According to him, $40 to $50 million will have to be invested to build the necessary infrastructure. This refers to the runway, taxiway, terminal building, and control tower.

It was earlier reported that $5 to $6 million are needed for the airport to be able to accommodate light aircraft like Cessnas and ATR 72, which can land and take off on shorter runways.

More money would be needed if the runway is lengthened substantially to accommodate larger aircraft like Boeing 737 or Airbus A320.

Since the early 2000s, there have been repeated attempts to revive the Steung Treng airport. The first plan was considered in 2008. In 2017, it was considered for inclusion in the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) plan to increase air connectivity in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

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