Govt urged to close Suvarnabhumi
NLA investigation chief cites safety fears in calling for a total and immediate shift back to Don Muang
The fate of the Bt150-billion Suvarnabhumi Airport hangs in the balance as an investigation panel is due to reveal the cause of damage to the taxiways and runways at the landmark transport hub.
The government appears to be divided about whether the airport should be closed for repairs, amid fears that such a move could shake international confidence in the Kingdom's infrastructure.
Admiral Bannawit Keng-rien, chairman of the National Legislative Assem-bly's airport committee, yesterday stood by his suggestion that the airport should be closed if both runways were damaged.
"The closure would be for the sake of safety," Bannawit said.
His committee was established to tackle the problems surrounding the flagship airport, which only opened in late September.
Bannawit maintained his suggestion despite Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's insistence that the airport should remain open so as not to damage international confidence.
It could stay open while repairs are completed, the premier said on Saturday.
A panel headed by Tortrakul Yomnark will today reveal the problems faced by the airport, how the repairs should be conducted and whether closure is necessary.
A civil engineer by trade, Tortrakul is a board member of the Airports of Thailand and his panel has conducted a technical assessment of the runways.
Tortrakul's panel will report its investigation results to Transport Minister Admiral Theera Haocharoen before making the findings public.
A source said the Tortrakul panel had found serious cracks on the taxiways, with further damage on the northern part of the east runway and the southern end of the western landing strip.
The insider said the runway repairs could be made without disrupting flight schedules.
"Services can alternate between the two runways," the source said.
Krai Tungsnga, a member of the Bannawit panel, said the airport's problems were not serious enough to force it to close. However, Bannawit said yesterday that if Suvarnabhumi were closed, Don Muang would be able to accommodate flight and airfreight services.
"I propose closure because it will prevent problems from dragging on," he said.
Meanwhile, Thai Airways International's union has condemned plans to allow Bangkok to have two international airports. And Demo-crat Party's spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon urged the government to set up another committee to investigate Suvarnabhumi's problems.
"A committee of experts should look at all problems, not just the taxiways and runaways. What about the water leakage, inadequate lighting and overheating in the terminal?" Ong-art asked. He said the government should act against those responsible for the airport's problems.