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Vehicles sit on the tarmac at Phnom Penh International Airport last year.
Vehicles sit on the tarmac at Phnom Penh International Airport last year. Heng Chivoan

Airports deemed ready for ICAO security audit

A spokesman for Cambodia’s aviation authority said yesterday that the Kingdom’s airports are “prepared and ready” for an audit by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization that is set to commence on Thursday.

Sinn Chanserey Vutha, deputy director-general of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), confirmed that ICAO officials will spend four days each inspecting Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, while Sihanoukville’s airport will not be inspected.

The ICAO audit, which entails a comprehensive check of the safety standards of airports, could lead to Cambodia being “blacklisted” by the international safety body if it fails to meet its guidelines.

The Kingdom’s airports performed poorly during the last two inspections in 2007 and 2009. The upcoming audit was originally scheduled for November 2015, but was delayed twice at the behest of the Cambodian government, which claimed that the aviation body needed more time to prepare.

A group of civil aviation experts that inspected Cambodia’s airports in April found minor security lapses, advising the SSCA to hire and train more security personnel and strengthen airport fences to ensure compliance with international security guidelines.

Vutha said that the agency acted on the advice and expects to pass the ICAO audit.

“We are prepared and ready now for the audit after answering all of ICAO’s preliminary questions they handed down to us,” he said. “We will have to show them evidence that we have qualified human resource capacity and proper control over the airports security.”

He added if Cambodia does pass the audit, which he said the results will be published in two months, it would certify that the Kingdom has internationally recognised security standards, which could lead to more tourism and investment.

“If we pass, we expect more flights to land and more investors to come,” he said.

However, the consequences of an ICAO downgrade would be damaging. The UN watchdog “red flagged” Thailand’s aviation body in June of last year, claiming the government did not address the safety concerns raised in its audit.

That led to Japan, South Korea and China imposing restrictions on new charter and new scheduled flights from Thai-based carriers to their countries.

Vutha played down concerns of receiving a failing grade, saying the ICAO would likely provide opportunity for corrective action, and the body would follow up on their findings.

However, Sinan Thoun, chairman of the local branch of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said that it was important that Cambodia get it right the first time.

“A positive outcome from ICAO will help attract more international carriers to Cambodia,” he said.

“However, a negative result would damage the tourism sector because international tourists would not be confident in our country.”

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