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
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,"
"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
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,"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."