RANGOON — The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism announced that it is eager to expand Kawthaung Airport, in the far south of Burma, to be the nation’s next international airport.
Minister U Ohn Maung said his office and the Tenasserim Division government have discussed the proposed expansion of Kawthaung domestic airport, according to local media source 7 Day Daily.
The minister pointed out that the Mergui Archipelago—the cluster of islands surrounding Myeik—has huge potential to attract tourists if the transportation infrastructure can be built up.
“If we want to develop this region, we need to expand Kawthaung Airport so that it can receive direct international flights. We have discussed this idea with the divisional government and the Ministry of Planning too,” Minister U Ohn Maung said in the report.
However, U Ye Htut Aung, the deputy director general for Burma’s civil aviation department, told the Irrawaddy on Wednesday that his department has not been involved in discussions about expanding Kawthaung Airport. The civil aviation department would need to give its approval before the government could proceed.
“We still have no plan to turn Kawthaung into an international airport,” said U Ye Htut Aung.
Currently, there are only three airports in Burma that are permitted to receive international flights: Rangoon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw. A fourth, Hanthawaddy Airport in Bago Division, is under construction and expected to start operations in 2022.
Under the previous government of U Thein Sein, the civil aviation department planned to expand more than 30 domestic airports, but that plan was never realized.
The Mergui Archipelago consists of more than 800 islands spread over 10,000 square miles in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Burma’s southern Tenasserim Division.
Kawthaung district is situated next to Thailand’s Ranong Province. Although it acts as a commercial hub for southern Burma, Kawthaung’s domestic airport is in poor condition to welcome the rising number of international tourists who come to see the area’s untouched sea life.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism plans to promote this region as a major tourist destination in the future. Currently, the Kawthaung district has a total hotel capacity of only 482 rooms.
According to the ministry’s figures, Burma’s tourism industry earned US$1.8 billion in 2014, up from $254 million in 2010.