Air force loath to surrender golf courses

Air force loath to surrender golf courses

Kantarat Golf Course (photo: Google Earth)
Kantarat Golf Course (photo: Google Earth)

The air force has opposed a movement pressuring it to hand back two land plots, currently used as golf courses, to the government for conversion into public parks.

Hundreds of golf course workers who live in the communities nearby would lose their jobs if the handover went ahead, ACM Punpakdee Pattanakul, commander-in-chief of the air force, said on Wednesday.

He was responding to a call by Chetawan Thuaprakhon, a Move Forward Party (MFP) MP for Pathum Thani, for the air force to give up its Kantarat Golf Course straddling the area between the runways of Don Mueang Airport and the nearby Dhupatemiya Golf Course in Lam Luk Ka district of Pathum Thani, and hand over them to the government.

The location of the Kantarat Golf Course has passed a safety standard assessment by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) while the air force continues to follow ICAO safety regulations in running the course, he said.

"I don't understand why this is still a problem since the ICAO has certified the golf course's safety standard and we strictly comply with all safety regulations.

"In no way has the golf course caused a problem to the runway [of Don Mueang Airport]. And there has not been a single incident in which a stray golf ball has hit an aircraft," ACM Punpakdee said.

What's more, the golf course is open not only to incumbent and former staff but to anyone attracted to its inexpensive green fees, he said. The only inconvenience is they are required to formally book in advance for airport security reasons, he added.

The campaign drumming up support for the proposed transfer of the two air force golf courses to the government began last Thursday when Mr Chetawan asked the House of Representatives to set up a special House committee to study the possibility of turning the golf courses into public parks.

According to the MP, the air force now owns 155 plots of state land nationwide with a combined space of 235,804 rai, while the Ministry of Defence owns 4.59 million out of a total 12 million rai of state land around the country.

"It would be understandable if all these plots of state land are used for military training. However, in reality it's unacceptable that some land was commercially developed, where hotels, petrol stations, horse racetracks, boxing stadiums or golf courses are located," said Mr Chetawan.

In 1985 when the Dhupatemiya Golf Course was built, the surrounding area was far from any other developments. Thirty-nine years later, however, the area is now surrounded by communities which require public spaces where residents can exercise and enjoy other forms of recreation, he said.

Meanwhile, ACM Punpakdee responded to a request by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin for the air force to allow a new ring road project to cut through Wing 41 in Chiang Mai.

Wing 41 is an air force security zone, so security technology would be needed if public access to the wing is to be permitted, he said. A security camera system equipped with face detection technology, for instance, could be installed to catch motorists from entering the wing's security zones without permission.

The ring road is aimed at easing traffic in Chiang Mai.

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