After being delayed twice, construction of the New Siem Reap International Airport (NSRIA) is expected to start in early 2014, a senior government official said yesterday.
Tek Reth Samrach, chairman of the NSRIA steering committee, said a detailed plan must be completed by the airport’s two prospective South Korean owners and approved by the committee before work can begin.
NSRIA is wholly owned by Korean companies Camco Airport Co Ltd and Lees A&A, with each holding a 50 per cent stake.
The $1 billion project was approved by the Cambodian government in late 2010 and is being designed to handle between 10 million and 15 million passengers per year.
A groundbreaking ceremony was planned for May this year but had to be delayed amid financial difficulties, Samrach said.
In 2012, financial hold-ups from the South Korean banks backing the project meant the two owners had to review their new budget for the airport. Both companies are now working hard to speed up work on the project, Samrach added.
In March last year, NSRIA chief executive Lee Tae-hwan was sentenced to seven years in prison over involvement with fraudulent loans at Busan Savings Bank.
Despite the repeated postponement of the groundbreaking ceremony, Samrech said yesterday that he does not consider the project as moving too slowly.
“You should know it is a big project. We approved the NSRIA project in 2010 and now [it is] 2013, only three years – it is not late.”
The development area of the airport is located in two districts about 60 kilometres from Siem Reap.
Of the roughly 2.8 million international tourists who arrived in Cambodia between January and August this year, just over 766,000 touched down on the existing Siem Reap International Airport, a 17.3 per cent year-on-year increase.
In the same period, over 541,500 arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport, a 17.7 per cent year-on-year increase, Ministry of Tourism statistics show. Tourist arrivals between January and August in 2012 totalled 2.3 million.
Domestic and international airlines have in recent months launched flights or announced plans to fly to Siem Reap this tourist season.