AIRPORT management company Société Concessionaire Des Aéroports believes Siem Reap’s existing aerodrome can cope with future traffic demand, despite recently approved plans to build an alternative US$1-billion facility.
The Council for the Development of Cambodia last week announced it had approved investment from South Korean firms Camco Airport Co and Lees A&A Co to build a new airport at the tourist hub.
Provincial and central government officials said that a new facility, set 60 kilometres from the provincial capital, was needed to land large, long-haul planes and to protect historic Angkor Wat.
However, Société Concessionaire Des Aéroports (SCA) – which has a concession to run Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville airports until 2040 – has questioned such claims.
SCA chief executive officer Nicolas Deviller has told the Post that the existing airport – set to handle 1.5 million passengers during 2010 – has an “ultimate capacity” of 6 million to 7 million passengers a year.
“Expert studies show that this level of traffic will be reached at earliest between 2025 and 2030,” he said in an email. “Siem Reap can handle flights with a range of 10,000 kilometres. All destinations within Asia, Australia or the Middle East, and some European destinations, can be served directly.”
The statement contradicted remarks made by State Secretariat of Civil Aviation that any expansion of the airport would negatively affect Angkor Wat, highlighting the importance SCA places on preserving the historic temples.
“To make it simple: no temples, no tourists, no air traffic,” Deviller said.
“Special air-traffic procedures set to protect the temples [including a ban on airplanes flying over the complex] have an impact on airport capacity, but they still allow the development of Siem Reap airport for at least 20 years up to its ultimate capacity.”
He said the firm was working with UNESCO and the Apsara Authority on scientific studies to ensure that future growth did not damage historic sites.
The government official in charge of airport engineering, SSCA Undersecretary Eng Sour Sdey, stood firm on the new airport. A 3-kilometre runway and weight restrictions limited the size of aircraft landing at Siem Reap, he said.
Eng Sour Sdey claimed the SSCA was in the dark about project details as it was being handled by the Council of Ministers. Final approval will eventually be decided by Prime Minister Hun Sen.