After more than 30 years under Thai control, a strip of airspace southwest of Koh Kong province was returned Thursday to Cambodian control—and with it, the revenues from the flights that cross that space, aviation authorities said.
The transfer of air traffic control over a 13,501 square km patch of airspace at midnight Thursday was cemented in a deal penned Wednesday evening between Keo Saphal, undersecretary of state for the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, and Priti Hetrakulm, the president of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (Aerothai).
Provisional control of the airspace, known as the Bangkok AOR, or area of responsibility, was granted to Thailand in 1972 by the International Civil Aviation Organization, as at the time Cambodia lacked sufficient technology to monitor the area’s air traffic.
“When we lacked radar control and navigation systems, the international organization handed [the airspace] to Thailand. So now that we have radar for the air traffic control system, they decided to transfer it back to us,” said Chhun Sivorn, deputy director of the flight operations and air safety for SSCA.
To maintain this latest aerial acquisition, SSCA partner Thai Communications Samart PLC has invested $11.5 million for radar equipment in Phnom Penh and $5 million in a new radar and office building in Siem Reap to be completed in August or September, Keo Saphal said.
The transfer also means that the Cambodian civil aviation authority, which shares profits from overflight fees with the privately-owned Samart, will be able to collect revenue from flights passing through the Bangkok AOR.
Before the transfer, overflight and navigation fees and taxes from the estimated six or seven flights that cross the airspace daily went to Thailand.
“Bangkok controlled, so Bangkok took” the fees, Keo Saphal said, adding that he did not know how much revenue Thailand earned from the airspace.
“We will wait and see how many flights will cross the airspace and how much revenue we will earn,” he said.
According to a deal made in 2001 at the formation of the national air traffic control system, take-off and landing fees for flights originating or ending in Cambodia are split between the SSCA and the Thai company Samart. For overflight fees, 30 percent go to Cambodian government and the remainder to Samart. In May, Cabinet Minister Sok An authorized a plan in which government revenues for air traffic control would be diverted to the privately-owned Thai company Modern Plastics and Packaging Co Ltd to cover $12 million in reparations for the January 2003 anti-Thai riots.