A Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker is urging the government to withdraw the nation’s air traffic control contract from Bangkok-based Samart Corporation due to national security concerns over the current border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.
Samart to operate air traffic control services through its local subsidiary, the Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co Ltd (CATS), under a build-cooperate-transfer (BCT) contract with the Cambodian government.
“Our nation is in conflict with Thailand and, for national security reasons, the government should control air navigation alone,” National Assembly member Son Chhay told the Post on Sunday. “We must not rely on another country like Thailand to oversee our airspace.”
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, said the government had the right to review any contract with a private company if it were truly a threat to national security.
“In general, the government has to care more for national security than for minor revenue from investment,” Sok Sam Oeun told the Post.
The Cambodian government never wished to break any contract or agreement, added Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap.
“We will be able to control alone after the contract ends,” Cheam Yeap said. “But if the National Assembly learns that any contract violates the constitution, the National Assembly will be able to vote and cancel it.”
According the CATS website, Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) entered into an agreement with Samart in January 2001 giving Samart a 22-year exclusive license to develop and operate the civil air traffic control and navigation system in Cambodia under a BCT arrangement.
Samart established CATS and assigned its rights and obligations under the BCT contract to the new company in April 2001.
CATS began operating air traffic control at the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports and at domestic airports in Cambodia in 2002.
It later built a new air traffic control centre with surveillance radar and communication network equipment to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, and the SSCA has issued an acceptance certificate affirming the installations met the conditions of the BCT contract.
Cheam Yeap blasted Son Chhay as “young and inexperienced in politics.” He told Son Chhay, “Don’t throw fuel on the fire.”