Pailin officials have pledged to continue work on rehabilitating their dilapidated airport this week, despite a tripling in the cost estimate.
Pailin officials originally hoped to repair the long-unused airport for $35,000, said Keo Horn, deputy third governor of Pailin. But a recent working group report found a need to build two bridges to the airport. The report also cited that crops had been planted on airport property. Officials might have to buy out those property owners or offer new land in exchange, Keo Horn said. The new cost estimate is $100,000.
The 1.5-square-km airfield was a battlefield during the civil war. It has been unused for so long that small trees have grown on it, said Ieng Vuth, first deputy governor of Pailin.
A working airport would greatly reduce travel times. Even during the dry season, road travel to Pailin is a one- to two-day trip from Phnom Penh. In the wet season it is a full two days.
Pailin officials might have a more difficult time finding funding than they had expected. Over the weekend Keo Horn said the US had agreed to provide funding through the Cambodian Mine Action Center. But CMAC Director General Khem Sophoan said Monday his agency had only agreed to demine the airfield, not to repair it. He said it would cost about $7,000 to remove the land mines, but was unsure how many mines are on the property.
Second Deputy Governor Keut Sothea said a US Embassy official visited Pailin earlier this year and promised a $35,000 donation to repair the airport.
A US Embassy official said Monday the US is considering funding a new one-km airstrip, primarily for emergency evacuations of demining workers injured by land mines. The airstrip’s is expected to cost $25,000 to $30,000. But the official said the runway was still “in the planning stages” and is separate from plans to repair the airport.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)