Koh Phangan Airport, Thailand

Provincial and forestry authorities intervened to halt construction of an airport on Koh Phangan, a mountainous, beach-fringed island in the Gulf of Thailand, when it was discovered that land clearance encroached on forest land in Than Sadet National Park


Description

Opposition to an airport in Koh Phangan, a mountainous, beach-fringed island in the Gulf of Thailand, can be traced back to May 2004. At this time, three years after rumours surfaced that an airport was planned on the island, reporters for Koh Phangan Island News spotted three protest signs on trees along the west coast between the villages of and Srithanu and Wok Yum. One of the signs read“Rau Mai Au Sa-Naam Bin Thi Nii” which means “We don’t want an airport here!” Another sign read “Thi Choo Ruea – Mai Chai Thi Choo Ruea Bin”, meaning “This is a port for boats and not for airplanes!”[1]

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Basic Data
NameKoh Phangan Airport, Thailand
CountryThailand
ProvinceSurat Thani Province
SiteKoh Phangan
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Deforestation
Ports and airport projects
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn September 2013 Somphong Sooksanguan, president of Kannithi Aviation Company Limited, also known as Kan Air, a small airline with a hub at Chiang Mai, said he was considering offering a 34-40% stake in a new airport on Koh Phangan island to local or foreign investors to help meet the USD28 million construction costs. A facility with a 1,100 meter runway and capacity to handle 600,000 passengers annually was proposed.[7] In September 2015 Surat Thani provincial authorities ordered Kan Air to suspend construction because land clearance for the airport had encroached on about 3.2 hectares of forest land in Than Sadet-Koh Phangan National Park.[3] The total land area being prepared for the airport was 24 hectares.[4]

Kan Air spent USD14 million to secure additional land for the airport but this left a shortfall of USD43 million in the total funds required to complete the project, which Kan Air president Somphong Sooksanguan aimed to attract foreign investors. In September 2016 Kan Air estimated that construction costs had almost doubled since the 2013 estimate, to USD57 million.[7] Cessation of Kan Air operations casts further doubt on resumption of airport construction work. All flights were suspended on 21st April 2017 and it was not known whether the airline would resume operations.[8]
Project Area (in hectares)24
Level of Investment (in USD)57,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date10/05/2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesKannithi Aviation Company Limited (Kan Air) from Thailand - Developer and manager of Koh Phangan airport project
Relevant government actorsSurat Thani Province

Royal Forest Department

Department of Special Investigations
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Surat Thani Forest Protection Unit 6
Forms of MobilizationOfficial complaint letters and petitions
Surat Thani provincial authorities ordered a halt to construction work in September 2015
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
OtherIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseApplication of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Provincial and forestry officials intervened to enforce regulations, halting construction of Koh Phangan Airport when it was discovered that land clearance in preparation for construction work had encroached upon forested land in San Thadet National Park.
Sources and Materials
Links

[6] Will Construction on Koh Phangan Airport Continue?, Koh Phangan Airport, 2 October 2017
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[3] Phangan airport encroaches on forest: officials, Bangkok Post, 30 September 2015
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[4] Officials ground Koh Phangan private airport project, Bangkok Post, 29 May 2017
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[2] Koh Phangan airport could be open by 2016, Koh Phangan News, 4 July 2015
[click to view]

[8] Thailand's Kan Air suspends ops due to grounded fleet, ch-aviation, 24 April 2017
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[1] Local Thai Protest against International Airport on Koh Phangan Island, Koh Phangan News, 10 May 2004
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[5] Koh Phangan airport project hits snag, Bangkok Post, 9 June 2017
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[7] Koh Phangan Airport, Centre for Aviation (CAPA)
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Media Links

Drone flight over Koh Phanga Airport construction site, Airport Koh Phangan / overflown with my drone / 10.1.2015, Florenz Kittel, 11 January 2015
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Other Documents

Land cleared for Koh Phangan Airport Land cleared for construction of Koh Phangan Airport encroached on Thansadet National Park land. Source: thairath.co.th
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Forest cleared for airport Forestry officials inspect forest reserve cleared to build an airport on Koh Phangan island. P{hoto by Supapong Chaolan, source: Bangkok Post
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Forested land cleared Construction of Koh Phangan Airport encroached on forest land. Source: Samui Times
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Construction site Trucks and bulldozers at Koh Phangan Airport construction site. Source: KohPhanganNews
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Source: Koh Phangan Island News “Rau Mai Au Sa-Naam Bin Thi Nii” and it just means “We don’t want an airport here!”
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Source: Koh Phangan Island News Protest sign: “Thi Choo Ruea – Mai Chai Thi Choo Ruea Bin” , means “This is a port for boats and not for airplanes!”
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorRose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected], Sara Mingorría,ICTA, UAB
Last update12/03/2019
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