Transport minister has plans for new vote-catching airports in South

Transport minister has plans for new vote-catching airports in South

Songkhla Lake is a major attraction in Phatthalung. The province is pushing for   construction of an airport to promote tourism. (Photo by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)
Songkhla Lake is a major attraction in Phatthalung. The province is pushing for construction of an airport to promote tourism. (Photo by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob has plans to spend about 8 billion baht building two new airports in the South, in Phatthalung and Satun, as public-private investment ventures.

Mr Saksayam says the purpose is to improve logistics and boost tourism in the South, but according to a Transport Ministry source the move is also politically motivated -- his Bhumjaithai Party aims at winning more House seats in the region, which is the Democrat Party's stronghold 

Mr Saksayam has asked the Department of Airports to order a feasibility study of the project in Phatthalung province. The airport would include a two-kilometre runway on an area of 3,000 rai, deputy department chief Jaroon Meesomboon said. 

The year-long study would pave the way for a further look into the investment plan and an environmental impact assessment, which would take another year, Mr Jaroon said.

The ministry was considering the investment under the public-private partnership (PPP) option to reduce the financial burden on the state, Mr Jaroon said.

The other airport project, in Satun province, was proposed late last year and is still being evaluated, he said. The airport would be the same size as the one proposed for Phatthalung.

Their development is being proposed as the Bhumjaithai Party tries to expand its base in the South, after winning some seats in the Democrat-dominated region at the March 24 general election, according to the Transport Ministry source. 

The Northeast-based party is looking to strengthen its position in the South ahead future elections, the source said.

The Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties emerged from the general election with 50 MP seats each, making them very close competitors.

Bhumjaithai is already busy in the region. Last weekend, party leader Anutin Charnvirakul and other party MPs had meetings with residents in Phatthalung and promised to help them deal with any complaints they have.

The MPs also said they would support 98 development projects costing an estimated 22.4 billion baht already planned for the southern region. 

These include promoting tourism in various cities, with the aim to attract tens of thousands more visitors each year.


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