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Govt to stop Bangkok Air's domestic flights

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Workers unload a Bangkok Airways flight Thursday at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Civil aviation body says that Thai airline will not have its agreement extended for Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route

THE government will not renew its agreement with Bangkok Airways, under which the Thai-owned airline flies domestic routes, when it expires on October 25, a senior aviation official told the Post late Wednesday.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Secretary of State Mao Havannal said the decision was made to give a boost to the new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), which made its maiden flight on July 28.

“Now that we have our own domestic airline, Bangkok Airways will not be allowed to continue their flights when the agreement finishes on October 25,” he said.

Bangkok Airways has been flying four flights daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap since taking over the route last November when its subsidiary, Siem Reap Airways, was grounded by the SSCA.

SSCA Cabinet Chief Long Chheng said Thursday that the body sent Bangkok Airways a letter last week informing it of the decision.

Bangkok Airways Acting Country Director Amornrat Kongsawat was not available for comment Thursday.

A representative of the airline in Bangkok who did not want to be named said she was unaware of the issue, but added that affairs in Cambodia did not come under her jurisdiction.

SSCA Director of Operations Kao Sivorn confirmed that the decision was a commercial one to support the new national carrier.

“Before, we allowed this airline to operate domestically because we did not have a local company, but now we have, so we will not let them continue,” he said.

However, he added that the airline would be able to negotiate a code-share agreement with CAA so that its passengers could continue flying between the two destinations.

Mao Havannal also ruled out a return to the skies for Siem Reap Airways, saying it still did not comply with “the proper standards”.

The airline, which was founded in 2000, was grounded last year amid concerns over safety standards and financial irregularities after an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The audit found that the airline did not comply with Cambodian airline regulations, including safety standards, and also raised concerns over the ability of Cambodian civil aviation authorities to enforce international safety standards.

A source within the SSCA told the Post in June the audit found Cambodia in breach of 107 international standards and said it would ban all local airlines if action was not taken, leading to the decision by authorities to take a tough stand against Siem Reap Airways.

The European Commission also banned Siem Reap Airways from operating in the European Union last year due to safety concerns, even though the airline did not offer service to Europe.

Soy Sokhan, an undersecretary of state at the SSCA who is in charge of all matters related to CAA on behalf of the government, said the end of Bangkok Airways agreement would "give us the chance to get more passengers”.

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