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Pailin hopes airport will boost economy

Pailin hopes airport will boost economy

PAILIN authorities are hoping a new airport in the town will boost tourism and business

once commercial flights get underway.

The airport is being built on the site of the Touk Thlar airstrip left there by the

French. It is now covered in vegetation and surrounded by mines.

Pailin's second deputy governor, Ieng Vuth, said the independent municipality has

the backing of Pan Chantra, president of Royal Air Cambodge, for the project.

He said Pailin will have to bear the costs of construction but RAC has agreed to

pay for landing rights.

And Vuth is confident that the attraction of the gem mines and scenic highlights

will prove a hit with tourists.

"We are concentrating on tourists because everybody wants to know Pailin municipality

because it is a gem-rich city and we have a waterfall and mountain views," he

said.

Pan Chantra is also enthusiastic about the project, but he said it needs to be taken

step by step.

"The first thing we have to do is to show people that it is safe to go there,"

he said.

"I've been there and it is safe, one of the safest places in Cambodia."

He said that as soon as the civil aviation authorities give the go ahead to use the

new airport, RAC will start commercial flights there, initially with a 17-seater

aircraft.

And he is confident that the service will be well-used.

"We have been doing research and already it shows that there is a demand,"

he said. Chantra notes that some tourists have been going there by road from Batambang.

"Quite a few go there already so maybe we will be getting even more up there,"

he said.

Pailin has had some problems raising the money for the airport but the Post has been

told that Pailin Governor Ee Chhean has agreed to finance it.

Vuth said that they are aiming to create an airport of a similar standard to Mondulkiri's

and Ratanakiri's.

He said they aim to not only clear the area of vegetation and mines but also to extend

the current runway from 700 meters to 1,200 meters - the total cost is estimated

to be about $70,000.

And Vuth is confident that the airport would soon have more passengers flowing through

it than Ratanakiri's, with tourists and Thai gem dealers making up the bulk of the

air travelers.

Vuth said he hopes the project will help Pailin escape a series of economic woes

that have beset the independent area since its former Khmer Rouge leaders defected

to the government in 1996.

He says drought has destroyed up to 90% of the rice crop and there is no development

taking place.

Mainly, he said, the economic standstill is due to a lack of "capital"

needed for the "building of a free market economy".

He said a number of companies have said they wanted to come and invest in Pailin

but not till after the election.

Pailin, with its rich gem and timber resources and close proximity to Thailand, is

expected to grow quickly after years of being stunted by Cambodia's civil war along

the border.

And although the second deputy governor spoke mostly of stagnation in this former

rebel domain, other Pailin officials have reported that Cambodians are flocking to

the area.

One municipal employee recently estimated that 10,000 "new people" have

settled in and around Pailin since 1996, boosting the area's population to more than

30,000.

Vuth had a final message for investors, tourists or other visitors: "People

don't have to worry about the fighting or security.

"It is so secure here we can now sleep without having to have one eye open."

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