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Airport rehab up in the air

Posted by arnon_k On November - 26 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

A full-scale rehabilitation of inundated Don Mueang airport, which could run into billions of baht, hinges on state policy and assurances that it will never again experience a similar deluge to what it has faced for more than a month now.

The Yingluck Shinawatra administration will have to decide whether it is worthwhile to spend billions of baht to restore buildings at Bangkok’s old airport such as the domestic and cargo terminals as well as repair the western runway.

Senior executives of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) say for this big an investment, a decision will have to be made about whether Don Mueang needs a full-blown, permanent flood prevention system such as the one installed at Suvarnabhumi, Thailand’s gateway airport.

AoT president Anirut Thanomkulbutra yesterday said undertaking the second phase of Don Mueang’s rehabilitation is a policy issue that the government must clearly address.

That phase of restoration will be necessary if AoT is to proceed with five schemes aimed at adding commercial activities to enhance the utilisation of the airport beyond its mainstay operation – serving two Thai budget airlines for domestic point-to-point flights.

On AoT’s drawing board before the flooding hit were plans for an airframe heavy maintenance and landing gear repair centre; aircraft parts and component storage; imported car showrooms; a logistics centre; a convention and exhibition centre; and a private jet terminal.

Only one of these projects has been realised – a private terminal for MJets Ltd, which began operations in March 2010 under a five-year concession from AoT.

However, that facility has been devastated by the flooding.

Another AoT executive pointed out the phase-two rehabilitation depends on a 15-member panel on national reconstruction and future development chaired by former finance minister Virabongsa Ramangkura.

But what is definite now is an urgent rehabilitation plan costing nearly one billion baht to reactivate the airport, hopefully within 120 days after it dries out.

The work involved will be twofold. Mr Anirut said the first step will be to restore the runway, taxiways, airfield lighting system, high-power distribution system and air navigation aids on the eastern side in order to serve aircraft belonging to government agencies, the military and VIPs.

The second step will be to restore the former international passenger terminal or Terminal 1 and repair AoT’s headquarters on the opposite side of the airport.

The cabinet has already approved 489 million baht for AoT to carry out the first step, while AoT will finance the second step itself for 445 million baht.

Mr Anirut said Don Mueang’s eastern runway, to be repaired in the first step, could probably be open for service by the end of January.

AoT, 70% state-owned, will come up with a time frame for the rehabilitation once the extent of the damage has been determined.

However, work can only start once the water recedes, which remains a big question mark.

The water at the airport has been subsiding but was still 50 centimetres deep yesterday. The authorities and AoT management will not drain the water from around the airport, as that would add to the woes of the surrounding communities that have themselves been devastated by the deluge.

They would rather see the water recede naturally instead of manipulating the water flow, said a senior AoT official.

MPs clash over crisis response

Posted by arnon_k On November - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Mudslinging broke out in the House of Representatives yesterday after an opposition MP called on the government to give details of its recent activity to tackle the flood crisis.

Democrat list MP Apirak Kosayodhin yesterday filed an interpellation demanding Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra explain the government’s actions to the House.

He said that while the government set up the Flood Relief Operations Command (Froc) last month, it has done nothing else since the flooding began in August. Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk and Justice Minister Pol Gen Pracha Promnok all responded for the premier.

Mr Preecha said the capital was flooded because the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration was not prepared to handle run-off from the North as its drainage system was for rainwater only.

Pol Gen Pracha, meanwhile, said he had talked to Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra on the phone several times a day.

He said the main problem in Bangkok now was the vastly differing quality of life for those people living above and below the big-bag barrier.

However, he seized a chance to attack the opposition, adding: “It might be more convenient for Democrat MPs to ask the BMA how they are doing, as they are from the same political party.”

Gen Pracha also pointed out that the prime minister has set up more rehabilitation committees to consider providing more assistance to flood victims.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was disappointed at Gen Pracha, as the Froc director did not clearly answer the question about water management.

Mr Abhisit also attacked the Froc for failing to solve conflicts among flood-hit residents in several areas.

BoT: Flooding has slowed growth

Posted by arnon_k On November - 23 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Economic growth is likely to be significantly lower this year than even the earlier projection of 2.6 per cent, because of the catastrophic flooding, Bank of Thailand governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul said on Wednesday.

But, on the good side, rehabilitation expenditure by both the public and private sector after the water recedes could stimulate the economy in 2012 to expand by more than the forecast 4.1%, the central bank governor said.

The flood should have only a short-term impact on the economy, but its effects would be severe in the October to December quarter this year.

Gloomy external factors could be the biggest threat to the economy next year, he said.

”The economic forecast for this year has been revised down significantly from the one we announced on Oct 19, but growth in the next year should be more than 4.1 per cent,” Mr Prasarn said.

The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee would meet at the end of this month to decide whether to adjust the policy interest rate, which is currently 3.5 per cent, and announce a new economic growth forecast for this year and 2012.

”The inflation expectation has stabilised, and the price pressure on oil and other commodities should decline in line with weakening global demand,” Mr Prasarn said. ”The key issue now is how vigorous the rehabilitation after the flood will be.”

Pracha challenges Democrats to lay charges

Posted by arnon_k On November - 22 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok yesterday challenged the Democrat party to take him to court after it sought to impeach him for alleged irregularities in flood relief supply management.

Pol Gen Pracha, also director of the government’s Flood Relief Operations Command, said he was not worried by the impeachment motion filed by the main opposition party.

He denied any involvement in alleged corruption in the procurement of relief supplies for flood victims.

He also said he has already instructed the Department of Special Investigation to look into the allegations.

Asked if the Democrat party should have targeted Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit instead, Pol Gen Pracha said Mr Yongyuth was also innocent.

He said even though Mr Yongyuth headed the flood relief fund, the work was screened by committees.

Meanwhile, the House speaker has scheduled the censure debate for Sunday. A vote of no confidence, also initiated by the Democrats, will be held the next day.

Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa yesterday said he was confident the justice minister would be able to successfully defend himself against all the allegations.