A group of about 20 local residents gathered at the airport yesterday (Dec 2) to voice their dissatisfaction with the lack of progress by AoT Phuket in delivering compensation owed due to noise pollution from aircraft flying overhead.
Leading the gathering were local resident Songwit Winyupradit and Boonpaisan Boonsop, Village Headman (Phu Yai Baan) of Moo 1 Mai Khao.
The local residents at the airport yesterday represented Moo 1, Moo 4 and Moo 6 in Tambon Mai Khao, and Moo 6 Baan Laem Sai in Tambon Thepkrasattri.
The group delivered a formal request addressed to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited, calling for the company to expedite payment owed to the villagers.
The letter pointed out that the compensation was to be paid out by 2022.
Manat Sotharat, Deputy Director of Operations and Maintenance at Phuket Airport, received the formal letter.
Local resident Mr Songwit said that AoT must comply with the environmental impact report submitted by AoT to the Office of Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning among the supporting documents for approval for the construction and development of Phuket Airport.
“In the report, it was clearly stated that various operations must be completed before the airport can be opened in the development area, but it is now the end of 2021, and compensation still has yet to be paid to those affected by noise. Less than 50% of people affected have received compensation,” he said.
“In the past, the villagers took the view that the relevant agencies were trying to prolong the time taken. The implementation of the project [to resolve the issue] began without a specific timeline. As a result, the affected people have not yet been compensated for the many impacts that have occurred,” Mr Songwit said.
“Therefore, I would like the relevant agencies to expedite the issue of compensation to be completed as soon as possible, because while the villagers suffered a lot from the noise. The affected villagers are those who live around the airport and lived there before the [larger] airport was built. Therefore, I would like to call on them to expedite the problem as soon as possible,” he said.
Mr Songwit pointed out that AoT is going through the process of making offers to buy land from local residents affected. AoT has signed purchase agreements for 17 households, while three households are waiting for confirmation that AoT will agree to buy their land.
“Yet there are 30 more households still waiting to hear from the consulting company hired to conduct the land value appraisals,” he said.
“In addition, there are at least 100 households affected [by the noise] but the owners do not have any land documents. They are still waiting for an answer and clarity about compensation,” he said.
“If the committee considers the impact of noise of the people who live around Phuket Airport is not serious, and is in no rush to solve this problem, we ask for a change of thining, because the villagers in the area have been severely affected and want the project to be completed by 2022,” Mr Songwit said.
“We request an answer within seven days. If we still do not receive an answer, we will come back to request an answer again and again until the problem is solved,” he said.
Mr Manat of Aot Phuket said, “In such a problem, Airports of Thailand is not reluctant to help the affected villagers, but the action in this matter must comply with the rules of the law and must follow due process.
“Villagers don’t have to worry, AoT definitely has not abandoned them and has the budget to carry out this matter. After receiving this request from the villagers today, we will report this up the chain and inform management that villagers affected by the noise have submitted this letter.”
LONG TIME COMING
The issue of compensating local residents over noise pollution surrounding Phuket airport has dragged on for years, with payouts for local residents coming slowly.
AoT in October last year confirmed that it had paid out in total more than B1.1 billion as compensation for noise pollution to people living near Phuket International Airport.
However, AoT has been struggling to raise revenues under the COVID crisis. For the first nine months of the current fiscal year (FY 2021) the company marked B6.363bn in revenues, compared with B31.174bn for the first nine months of FY 2020.
Revenues for all of FY 2020 totalled B33.2bn, a huge fall from B64.566bn in revenues in pre-COVID FY 2019. In the heyday of tourism to Thailand only a handful of years ago, AoT reported revenues of B24bn in non-airline commercial activities alone for FY 2017.
At that time the company was looking into the possible takeover of 15 additional airports owned by the Department of Airports.
That monumental expansion plan was waylaid, but in September this year Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the ministry had resolved to shift the management of Udon Thani, Krabi and Buri Ram airports to AoT, which he said could help expand their capacities and turn them into regional air transport hubs that are well-positioned to handle more tourists.
The three airports currently run by the Department of Airports (DoA) will soon come under the control of Airports of Thailand (AoT) to help drive tourism growth, he said.
In addition to Phuket International Airport, AoT also currently operates Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok, Chiang Mai International Airport and Chiang Rai airport, as well as Hat Yai International Airport.