Yasothon airport to be revived

An abandoned airport in Loeng Nok Tha district of Yasothon will be reopened for commercial services within two years to respond to economic growth in northeastern Thailand and Indochina.

The eight-square-kilometre site has a 1,600-metre runway and two buildings but has been deserted for years, with some encroachment on the land resulting. It is located 63 kilometres from the centre of Yasothon, 29 kilometres from Amnat Charoen and 52 kilometres from Mukdahan.

Thailand has several under-utilised or derelict airports that first took shape as vanity projects for MPs during the boom years of the late1980s and early 1990s.

Authorities from the three northeastern provinces recently toured the site with Department of Civil Aviation officials to assess what would need to be done to reopen the airport.

Somsak Sibunruang, secretary-general of the Mukdahan Chamber of Commerce, said Loeng Nok Tha airport could support a 3,000-metre-long runway to serve larger airplanes. Its development would stimulate business in the three provinces, especially Mukdahan, he said.

Mr Somsak said Mukdahan had some interesting tourist destinations including Phu Pha Thoep National Park, Kaeng Krabao island in the Mekong River, Phu Manorom hill, an Indochina market by the river and a sand bank in Ban Chanode village. The province is home to eight ethnic groups and every year there are traditional New Year festivals by Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese people, as well as a Thai-Lao boat race competition.

Mukdahan is also a major gateway to Indochina, linked by a bridge over the mekong to Laos. More than 400,000 Laotian businesspeople travel through the province annually.

Voradej Harnprasert, director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation, said the Loeng Nok Tha airport could be opened for private jets within a few months and would take two years to debelop for commercial services. It would have a longer runway and all necessary facilities to handle commercial flights, he said.

Pamorn Chaosirikul, chairman of the Mukdahan Chamber of Commerce, said since the opening of the second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge in Mukdahan in 2007, the value of border trade through the province had been increasing, reaching 100 billion baht last year.

Mr Pamorn also pointed out that Savannakhet province opposite Mukdahan was developing its Savan-Seno economic zone where international companies are investing about 3 billion baht.

He predicted that businesses at Loeng Nok Tha airport would start to boom after the formation of the Asean Economic Community at the end of next year.

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