Thai government plans to open airport by September

The Thai government said Thursday it will push ahead to open Bangkok's new international airport by September and rush to mend troubles from a leaking roof down to runway cracks.

After inspecting Suvarnabhumi Airport with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Transport Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal said the government would open the airport in time for the high tourist season.

"If we can open before October, the beginning of tourist season, it will be good for the country's economy," Pongsak told reporters after meeting with Thaksin, airport officials and representatives from airline and construction companies.

Suvarnabhumi Airport has been tarnished by numerous corruption scandals and other woes, including a fire that swept through a catering hall in January, killing a construction worker.

Pongsak said he was optimistic that the leaking roof, runway surface cracks and baggage scanners that are not yet fully functional would be fixed on time. Test runs at the airport would begin in August.

"There are 13 sheets of canvas roofing that need to be replaced, while 30 others can be repaired," he said.

First conceived in 1960, the airport is situated at Nong Ngu Hao, or "Cobra Swamp," where villagers once caught cobras for a living.

The new airport is supposed to accommodate up to 45 million passengers a year and take over much of the traffic from Bangkok's aging and overcrowded Don Muang airport, reports the AP.

I.L.