Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin supports the Airports of Thailand (AOT)'s plan to build a second airport for Chiang Mai in seven years to serve the growing demand of visitors to the northern tourist province.
The AOT presented details of the second Chiang Mai airport project when the prime minister visited Chiang Mai airport yesterday together with Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, Digital Economy and Society Minister Prasert Jantararuangtong and Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat.
Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said the new airport will be built on a land plot covering about 11 square kilometres in the Ban Thi district of the adjacent province of Lamphun.
The project will raise Chiang Mai's passenger-handling capacity from eight million to 20 million passengers, with profit estimated to rise from 2 billion to 3 billion baht a year.
The investment could reach 70 billion baht and its completion was expected in seven years. The second airport will alleviate the congestion within the existing Chiang Mai airport, he said.
Mr Srettha said the seven-year timeframe was appropriate and officials should ensure the new airport will be completed as scheduled.
"The government will do its best to support the project, because having an airport is key to the growth of tourism and logistics, leading to the development of the province," said Mr Srettha.
In addition, the AOT also reported its plan to extend the operation hours of Chiang Mai Airport to serve flights around the clock.
The premier said having the airport open around the clock will support economic growth but the government is also concerned about the environment and health impact.
Residents living in the vicinity of Chiang Mai Airport voiced their concerns over noise pollution with Mr Srettha. The villagers from tambon Mae Hia living in Moo 1, 5, 7 and 10 say they have occasionally been inconvenienced by planes flying especially low and are afraid of danger.
The AOT, meanwhile, said noise pollution from airport operations did not exceed the safety threshold. However, if there are complaints, the AoT will provide compensation to those who are affected.
The AOT will hold a public hearing in areas that are affected by the airport if it extends services around the clock.
The premier has also ordered the AOT, Immigration Bureau and state agencies to step up safety measures when the free-visa policy for Chinese and Kazakhstan tourists runs from Sept 25 to Feb 29 next year.