The long-defunct Battambang Provincial Airport is slated to come back bigger and stronger, as the authorities work not just to reopen the historic facility but to expand it to the “4C” category, making it capable of accepting international fights.

The airport has not been in service for more than three decades.

An inter-ministerial meeting was held on March 18 to discuss the proposal. In attendance were Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou and a technical working group led by Mao Havannall, chief of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA).

The attendees examined a government sub-decree on the classification of several state properties in Battambang town and Sangke district, which were reserved for the expansion of the airport. They also discussed the precise demarcation of the airport borders, including the land surface that would need to be extended, as well as an impact study and possible compensation for the people who currently reside within the airport compound.

Deputy provincial governor Soeum Bunrith said on March 19 that plans for the restoration of the airport began during the sixth government mandate under then-Prime Minister Hun Sen, and are continuing under the administration of his successor Hun Manet.

He explained that the current size of the airport compound is approximately 128ha, but a total area of 200ha is required to qualify for the 4C class.

“The restoration of the airport – and its transformation into a 4C category – will serve the socio-economic development of the province, especially through the tourism sector. Battambang also has huge potential for agriculture development, and the airport will help us to attract investment,” he said.

Battambang Airport first opened in 1967, but ceased operations when the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. After the regime collapsed in 1979, the airport was reopened to military aviation, but was closed in 1991. Then the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) utilised it as a hub for helicopter operations in support of its mission to Cambodia in 1992 and 1993, when the UN-administered general election was held. 

Parts of the facility are currently used by local people as a food market.

SSCA spokesperson Sinn Chanserey Vutha did not confirm specific details about the timeline for the proposed reopening when reached for comment.