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Hun Sen announces new airport

121029_07
The current airstrip in Kampong Chhnang, managed by the Royal Cambodian Air Force. Photograph: Rann Reuy/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen requisitioned 768 hectares of land on Saturday that will be used to build an international airport in Kampong Chhnang after 2025.

During presiding over a land title distribution ceremony in Kampong Chhnang province, the prime minister announced the expansion of the airport.

“I have previously informed about the vision of a new international airport that will be implemented, but I did not identify Kampong Chhnang,” he said.

Ten days ago, Hun Sen said at the launch of the 2012-2020 Tourism Development Strategic Plan at Vimean Santepheap that the current airports cannot serve the increasing numbers of passengers expected to arrive in Cambodia.

But he did not indicate in this speech plans for a new airport.

“We cannot use Pochentong Airport after 2030. By 2025 or 2030, we expect to use the airport here, 90 kilometres from Phnom Penh,” he said.

There are 1,463 hectares at Kompong Chhnang airport, with citizens controlling 768 hectares of that land. In comparison, Phnom Penh International Airport occupies 450 hectares of land.

Ministry of Tourism officials forecast that foreign visitors will increase to four or five million by 2015 and this will climb to seven million in 2020.

“So Kampong Chhnang airport will become the site for the international airport,” Hun Sen said.

In his speech, he requested land owners to not construct solid buildings and expand their control over the land, but did encourage them to use it until it was requisitioned by the government.

Bun Rotha, Director of Phnom Penh International Airport, said by the time Kampong Chhnang Airport is completed, the site will be easily accessible from Phnom Penh because a new highway will be constructed specifically to serve the airport.

He said that enlargement of Phnom Penh International Airport was impossible because it is located too close to the city and when the air traffic is busy, it will not be good for the environment.

Bun Rotha cited the Kuala Lumpur airport as an example. It is about 70 kilometres from the city, and noted that Kampong Chhnang airport will be easy to reach if there is a new highway linking it directly to Phnom Penh.

Now, the airport in Kampong Chhnang is operated by the Royal Cambodian Airforce, which operates small aircraft there, but there are currently not enough facilities for commercial purposes.

“I think if the government has decided on it then it will happen but they should wait until numbers start reflecting the need to move,” Bun Rotha said, noting that the level where a move would be necessary would be around 10 million passenger arrivals, while now arrivals are less than half that.

Ang Kim Eang, President of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said the Kampong Chhnang site is a good location for access to other forms of transportation such as waterways and railways.

He agreed with Bun Rotha’s sentiments that a new highway is a must to cut down passengers transit time through the current National Road 5.

“If they change to Kampong Chhnang and use the current roads, travel time could take hours.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at reuy.rann@phnompenhpost.com

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