Prime Minister Inaugurates Airport Renovation

Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the new $32 million Phnom Penh International Airport passenger terminal on Tuesday, saying that transportation infrastructure will remain a major priority for the government.

The new 16,000-square-meter international terminal, which was officially completed by the Societe Concessionnaire de l’Aeroport in December, now has 22 check-in counters, 30 booths for visa and immigration processing and 2,500 square meters of commercial space for stores and restaurants.

“This airport has gone through a remarkable change,” Hun Sen said. “All infrastructure, services and security have been improved.”

Hun Sen conceded, however, that the tourism industry in Cam­bodia has been severely affected by terrorism, the recent US-led war in Iraq and the fears of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Visitors to Cambodia have de­clined by about 30 percent or 40 percent compared to the same time last year, he said, which could hurt the SCA’s business. He added that “the SCA will understand the situation of SARS.”

Official numbers from the Ministry of Tourism show that in March, tourism was down 22 percent from the same time last year.

The new passenger terminal is part of a renovation project by SCA, which is set to be completed in 2006, according to the SCA. The renovation plans include the completed terminal as well as an expanded runway and renovations for the adjacent domestic terminal.

The airport projects under SCA have so far provided at least 1,000 jobs and will provide thousands more, said Joel Velasque, chairman of the SCA, on Tuesday.

He said that the Phnom Penh airport is now capable of handling up to 5 million passengers a year, while the Siem Reap airport, which has also undergone renovations, can handle 2.6 million.

The SCA is a joint venture be­tween the French group Vinci, which controls 70 percent, and the Malaysian Muhibbah group, which controls 30 percent.

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