Mekong Countries Pin Development Hopes on Airport Progress

Following three years of pandemic restrictions, Thailand’s eastern seaboard gateway—U-Tapao airport—has returned to the spotlight after deputy government spokesperson Tipanan Sirichana recently said expansion plans would commence in early 2023. Earmarked as an “Aviation City” in 2017, the $8.8 billion mega airport project will occur over three phases, cover 1,040 hectares, and serve as the heart of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a key element of the “Thailand 4.0” economic model announced in 2016.

Architecture consultancy firm One Works said via its website that it had developed the airport’s masterplan after its appointment by Indian conglomerate GMR Group, low-cost carrier (LCC) Thai AirAsia, and other stakeholders. The proposal included “the construction of the third passenger terminal, ground transportation center, logistics and cargo complex, cargo village for a free trade zone and a commercial center,” the company said. Over the 2021-2022 period, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) undertook a $431 million environmental impact assessment at U-Tapao, which included a review of a second runway and taxiway.

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Jennifer Meszaros