Jet blues in Udon Thani

Jet blues in Udon Thani

Interview: Noise from RTAF base has residents rattled

Aircraft like this F-16 generate tremendous sound, leading to noise pollution in residential areas. (Photo: Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Aircraft like this F-16 generate tremendous sound, leading to noise pollution in residential areas. (Photo: Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

In September, locals living in the vicinity of the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)'s airbase in Udon Thani lodged a petition with the House committee on foreign affairs about the noise pollution which aircraft in the area produce.

The airbase, under RTAF's 23rd air wing, is used as a training ground by Thai and Singaporean fighter jet pilots and as transport station for civilian airlines.

According to Wichavarut Somchan, a specialist with the Pollution Control Department, sound levels detected during exercises measured 64.8–65.2 decibels, too loud for residential areas.

Sarawut Petchpanomporn, Pheu Thai MP for Udon Thani and chairman of the House panel, visited the site late last year to get first-hand information. He said yesterday that changes are to be made at the airbase, including relocation.

The airbase is used by civilian and military aircraft. However, locals say the huge levels of noise pollution come from Singapore's F-16 fighter jets, which take off and land frequently.

Teachers in schools near the airbase have to suspend classes every time a fighter jet takes off, lands or flies over them. Children are told to shield their ears from the noise, which is loud enough to trigger car alarms and rattle windows and doors.

We asked Mr Sarawut the following questions:

What happened after the inspection?

The House committee has followed up on the matter with state agencies and residents.

At last month's meeting, locals said the noise pollution has fallen after the rescheduling of F-16 training flights and reduction of civilian flights from eight to four per day.

The RTAF also confirmed the training ground will be relocated within the next three years, and part of its budget has been allocated to develop an airfield in Khon Kaen's Nam Phong.

What are the short-term and long-term measures?

The short-term measure is that people affected by the excessive noise will receive assistance and compensation. The Singaporean air force will be responsible for this.

The long-term solution is the relocation of the training programme to Nam Phong airfield, which is likely to occur in late 2025.

Won't the same problems occur in Khon Kaen?

The Nam Phong airfield is far from residential areas, so it is believed noise pollution from training aircraft will not be a problem and authorities will not have much community relations work to do.

The proposed relocation process will, however, take some time to complete.

The House committee plans to visit Nam Phong to see if the 23rd air wing honours its promise.

However, the relocation will not affect the training agreement signed with Singapore because Nam Phong airfield is part of the 23rd air wing.

Did the RTAF ask locals about the programme before the agreement was signed?

No.

What do you think is the reason behind the training agreement between Thailand and Singapore?

Singapore has constraints and relies on foreign partners for flight training exercises and Thailand has the training facilities.

In the first agreement, which lasts 15 years, Singapore agreed to give F-16 fighter jets to Thailand as part of the collaboration. The latest agreement is signed for nine years, but I have no information about other exchanges.

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