Price Triples for Repairing Pailin’s Crumbling Airport

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)



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