A GOVERNMENT official has claimed work on a new US$1 billion Siem Reap airport is set to begin next year, after the project was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Youn Heng, director of the Evaluation and Incentive Department at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, confirmed yesterday that a new international airport in Siem Reap had won approval from Hun Sen in October.
The development – said to be backed by NSIA Company, a joint venture owned by two South Korean firms Camco Airport Company and Lees A&A Company - was given the green light from CDC a month previous.
Youn Heng declined to specify a schedule for construction, but Secretary of State at Cambodia’s Council of Ministers Tekreth Samrach claimed yesterday that work was due to start early next year.
“They will start as soon as possible. They will be starting construction in February 2011. Now, they’re preparing,” he said, adding that the "new airport would have capacity for 14 million to 16 million passengers a year”.
Plans for a new airport at the tourist hub have previously sparked debate within the sector. Both provincial and central government officials have said that a new airport, set 60 kilometres from the provincial capital, was needed to land large, long-haul planes and to protect historic Angkor Wat.
But Société Concessionaire Des Aéroports, which manages Siem Reap’s existing aerodrome, has questioned the claims. It has said the existing facility can handle flights with a range of 10,000 kilometres.
SCA’s Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Deviller yesterday stated: “At this stage we do not have reliable information allowing us to elaborate on the issue.”
He emphasised that SCA and the government has “a solid partnership” and the management firm “will be willing to continue in contributing to the development of the international airports in Cambodia”.
Eng Sour Sdey, undersecretary at the government’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said yesterday that he welcomed the plan, as it would provide more opportunity for long-haul, direct flights.
That view was echoed by Say Sokhan, civil aviation adviser to the Council of Ministers, who said yesterday that a new airport could accept larger planes and provide a boost for tourism. The Korean investors could not be reached for comment.