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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ratanakkiri Airport renovation draws slowly closer: officials

Ratanakkiri Airport renovation draws slowly closer: officials

AIRPORT UPGRADE

The renovated Ratanakkiri Airport is to include a runway that has been extended 200 metres to 1,500 metres, improved safety equipment and a new terminal, transforming the facility from a dilapidated provincial airstrip to something more appealing.

Officials claim the airport is key to the province's future as a

tourism hotspot, but soon-to-be evicted households need to be

compensated

RATANAKKIRI provincial officials expect more tourists to take domestic flights to the isolated province once renovations to the provincial airport are completed, but determining compensation for those evicted as a result of the airport's expansion poses one last hurdle before construction can begin.

With Cambodia's recent promotion of Ratanakkiri as an ecotourism hotspot, the airport's reopening can't come soon enough.

"Ratanakkiri is different from other provinces because it is the ecotourism province. But right now, it takes a long time to travel to Ratanakkiri province by roads," said Sinn Chan Sereyvutha, who is managing the Ratanakkiri Airport upgrade on behalf of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation.

We have met with two issues: A LACK OF MONEY AND THE ... AFFECTED FAMILIES.

Ratanakkiri provincial Deputy Governor Sim You Song emphasised the importance of a working airport to increase the number of tourists visiting the province.
"[Ratanakkiri] has a lot of potential to attract tourists," he said. "But even when in the future we have good, paved roads, the tourists will still take flights because it will always take a long time to reach Ratanakkiri by road."

Ratanakkiri province is about 588 kilometres from Phnom Penh.

The airport first opened in 1965 but has been closed for renovations for two years after a plane operated by local carrier PMT Air skidded off the runway.

Sinn Chan Sereyvutha said, "We are a bit behind schedule because we have met with two issues: a lack of money and the problem of affected families."

The money problems are the result of an increase in the cost of construction materials, Sinn Chan Sereyvutha said. Originally, the project was supposed to cost about US$5 million, with the Asian Development Bank providing a loan to cover 70 percent of costs. Now that the project will cost an additional $2 million, the government only reluctantly decided to pony up the extra funds.

"Now, we just have the small issue of solving the problem of the 42 affected families," he said.

Sokha Ouk, a social safeguard officer at the ADB, said that the construction will start only after the government has paid compensation to the families who will be evicted by the airport expansion.

Previously, the families facing eviction threatened to protest the airport upgrade and to keep the airport closed for even longer.

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