New airport proposed for Phang Nga

PHANG NGA: The DeputyMinister of the Transport Ministry, Vichet Kasemthongsri, has backed a proposal to upgrade a disused World War II airfield into a new airport to serve Phang Nga Province, at a projected cost of 900 million baht.

K. Vichet gave his backing during a visit on Saturday to the disused airstrip on Koh Kho Khao, an island off Takuapa.

The proposal foresees visitors arriving by air then traveling by ferry to nearby Baan Nam Kem on the mainland, a distance of about 500 meters, which would take about 10 minutes.

Phang Nga Chief Administrative Officer Surapan Saipan, speaking to the Gazette today, said that studies have already begun into the possibility of building the airport on the island and complementary facilities at Baan Nam Kem.

He explained that the airfield occupies a piece of land two kilometers long, but that an airport capable of handling Boeing 737 jets would require a runway of at least three kilometers.

“We need to study the possible environmental effects of construction. This will take eight months to a year. But we think that there is a good chance it will be built.”

He explained, “Phuket airport is congested, with an average of 86 flights a day. The new airport would serve tourists who want to fly direct to Phang Nga. If people want to fly to Phuket but cannot get a flight, then the new airport could serve them too. Maybe it will also boost the number of tourists coming to Phang Nga as well.

“The budget will be about 450 million baht for the runway and another 450 million baht for buildings, making a total of about 900 million baht.”

“I don’t see any disadvantages. We won’t need to build a bridge because there are already 10 ferryboats providing service to and from the island. They can carry many tourists. The biggest one can carry 10 cars at a time,” he added.

But not everyone agrees. Sermsak Simsakul, a member of OrBorTor Khuk Khak, which includes Khao Lak, also speaking today, said, “If an airport is to be built, it should not be on Koh Kho Khao; it should be on the mainland.

“I don’t know why anyone would pay to fly to Koh Kho Khao and then pay for a ferry ticket to the mainland. The ferries cost around 300 baht for the round-trip – that’s expensive. It’s cheaper to fly to Phuket and take a bus to Phang Nga.”

He added, “This will take heavy investment. We should use the money instead to develop the infrastructure in Phang Nga, such as electricity, water or even building a bridge to make it easier for people to come from Koh Kho Khao.

“If an airport must be built, it should be on the mainland, but I don’t believe it’s necessary to have one.”

Phuket News
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