Storms Close 2 Airports in Northeast

Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provincial airports are closed for repairs after they were damaged by recent rainstorms, provincial officials said late this week.

“We closed to maintain the runways because heavy rains have spoiled the dirt runways,” Ratana­kkiri Airport Director Kim Srun said Thursday.

The airport in Ratanakkiri is scheduled to reopen Oct 22, provided that heavy rains do not continue, Kim Srun said. Stung Treng Governor Chhin Chhorn on Fri­day said his province’s airport is scheduled to reopen Oct 20.

The government, along with the Asian Development Bank, plans to begin renovating both airports in 2004.

“It could be a problem if there is no maintenance now,” Kim Srun said. “The airlines could meet trouble, like collapsing and not running smoothly when runways have become muddy” or flooded.

Not many passengers like to travel to remote provinces in the rainy season, Chhin Chhorn said. He added that it is more economical to travel by boat.

“I have seen more passengers come to my province by speed boat,” Chhin Chhorn said. “It is much cheaper than by air.”

Kim Srun said the short closure of Ratanakkiri airport would not affect airline companies because fewer passengers fly during the rainy season. “I have seen that those airlines sometimes cancel scheduled flights by themselves when they have no passengers,” Kim Srun said.

Not many tourists buy tickets to Ratanakkiri or Stung Treng, Meng Buntha, manager of Sky Tour Travel, said Friday.

“Tourists do not want to visit northern provinces because it has no attractive area like Angkor Wat in Siem Reap,” he said.

But some disagree. Prince Nor­odom Chakrapong, president of Royal Phnom Penh Airways,  said his airline flies to Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces three times per week. Since the closure of the airports, he said, hundreds of passengers have canceled.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “This is our country.”


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