Mondulkiri provincial governor Svay Sam Eang said provincial authorities are marking the boundaries of a 600ha portion of land 22km from Sen Monorom town to build a new airport.
Mondulkiri’s old airport will be transformed into a public garden.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday on the progress and goals of the province held by the Government Spokespersons Unit at the Council of Ministers, Sam Eang said the old airport dates back to 1979 when Cambodia was liberated from the Khmer Rouge.
He said the airport is too small and the surrounding area is occupied by too many residents for it to be an effective airport in the modern age.
The old airport sits on 19ha and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction is studying the province’s budget to ensure it can be transformed into a park.
“Planes cannot park there [the old airport] and people are living around it. We stopped its flights according to the recommendations of Prime Minister Hun Sen. We will turn the airport into a garden Sam Eang said.
He said the new airport will be in O’Raing district’s Sen Monorom commune.
Sam Eang said provincial authorities had demarcated its boundaries to prevent encroachment. The authorities are now waiting for investment partners and funds to develop the airport.
“We are only prepared to protect the 600ha. When the government has an investment budget, we will have the land and be able to avoid difficulties in developing the airport,” he said.
Ministry of Tourism spokesman Chuk Chumno told The Post on Thursday that experts were continuing their study of the airport development project, which is linked to a master plan of the tourism sector in the north-eastern provinces.
He said when the project moves forward, it will improve all sectors in the province, especially tourism.
“We prepared this project, not only thinking of benefitting the tourism sector, but also others as well. When there is an airport in the future, it will attract direct flights in some target areas in ASEAN,” Chumno said.
Mondulkiri forest activist Kroeung Tola hailed the project, but he said after it was announced, powerful and wealthy people had scrambled to occupy the land around the 600ha, thereby causing disputes that affected its development.
“We don’t know whose mistake it is. Every day we just see that when an airport is built, they grab land first and then they solve the dispute.
“This problem stems from either the local authorities or powerful people. A series of compensations are to be offered. This is bad and it hinders the development project.
Tola said he expects provincial authorities will preserve the old airport sustainably with the interests of the people in mind. Some plots at the old airport, he said, had been managed by the private sector.