Ratanakkiri Gets $4 Million Loan for Airport

The Asian Development Bank has agreed to provide a $4 million loan to the government to expand Ra­tanakkiri airport so it can re­ceive international flights, an ADB official said Sat­urday. Work on the airport will start in about 18 months, he said.

Located in the center of Ban­lung town, the new airport is ex­pected to be finished by 2007 and will allow tourists to fly directly from China and Vietnam, as well as from Siem Reap province, said Al­fredo Perdiguero, a project economist with the ADB’s Me­kong Department.

“Tourism is growing so much in Cambodia, but is too focused on Siem Reap,” Perdiguero said. “We [will] distribute the tourists in other areas.”

“Hope­fully it will be positive change” and will create jobs and provide an alternative to illegal logging, Per­diguero added.

According to the ADB’s most recent statistics, about 12,000 people visit the province each year. The new airport could triple that figure to 36,000 tourists, or about 100 tourists per day, he said.

At the moment, “many tourist operators feel they can’t take tour­ists to [Ratanakkiri],” because the air­port is so basic, he said.

The runway will be paved and lengthened so planes carrying 70 pas­sengers can land, and a fence will be built to keep wild animals out, he said.

A program to educate the prov­ince’s ethnic minorities about the possible dangers of increased tourism, such as forced and child prostitution, will be implemented, and brochures in Khmer will ex­plain to minority villa­gers how lar­ger numbers of tour­ists will be­have, he said, adding that the project will be managed by the Min­istry of Tourism.

NGOs working with the prov­ince’s ethnic minority hill tribes have voiced concerns about the ef­fects of a tourist influx on the local minorities.

If land grabbing and deforestation continue in the province, poverty will make people even more vulnerable to human trafficking, said Graeme Brown, Ratan­akkiri coordinator for the Forestry Alliance of Cambodia.

Tourist development will likely further increase land values in the province which could lead to an increase in land grabbing if indigenous people remain unable to secure land titles to their communal land, said Russell Peterson, director of NGO Forum said.

There is already reports of in­creased prostitution in the prov­ince prompted by the tourism in­dus­try, he added.


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