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Last Updated: Friday, 2 February 2007, 06:23 GMT
Thailand's airport chief resigns
A flight takes off from Suvarnabhumi airport
Suvarnabhumi airport has been dogged by controversy
The head of Thailand's airport authority has resigned from his job, amid mounting pressure over the failings of Bangkok's new airport.

Chotisak Asapaviriya tendered his resignation late on Thursday, and has since admitted that the stress of the job was making him ill.

The new airport has been plagued with problems since it opened in September.

Cracks have been found in the runways, leading the government to ask for the old airport to be reopened.

Under huge pressure to act, Mr Chotisak told the Airports of Thailand (AOT) that he wanted to quit his post. They accepted his decision, and he has been replaced by former vice president Kullaya Phakakong.

In a separate move, the AOT board also sacked Somchai Sawasdeepon as general manager.

Mr Chotisak cited stress and poor health as his reason for quitting the job, saying, "I have been having nosebleeds during board meetings".

"It has been very stressful since the new airport opened," he told reporters. "I know how to improve earnings growth, but not to fix these kinds of technical glitches."

But Mr Chotisak also told a local TV channel that he had urged the previous government, which was ousted in a coup last September, not to rush the airport opening.

"At that time, I thought Suvarnabhumi was not ready to open," he is quoted as telling Channel 11 television. "I asked them to partially move operations to the new airport as I suspected the total opening at one time could cause many problems."

Series of problems

Suvarnabhumi Airport, designed to showcase Thailand as a regional hub, opened in September to huge publicity.

The Thai authorities hoped that Suvaranabhumi, which means Golden Land, would rival the airports in Hong Kong and Singapore and cement Thailand's reputation as a regional hub.

Passengers in the new airport
Suvarnabhumi boasts the largest passenger terminal in the world
But since development started more than 40 years ago, the project has been mired by a series of problems.

Politicians from Mr Thaksin's administration were accused of buying up land in advance of construction, to sell on again at huge profits, and the purchase of the airport's high-tech X-Ray scanners was also tainted by allegations of corruption.

The project also suffered many delays and accidents, including a fire that swept through a catering hall, killing a member of staff.

Even supernatural forces seem to have been against Suvarnabhumi, and dozens of people reported seeing ghosts during the construction process.

Earlier this month, officials admitted that there were cracks in the runways and taxiways, and said that while they were not a safety threat, they needed repairing.

After a meeting with airport officials on Tuesday, Transport Minister Thira Haocharoen said he would seek Cabinet approval to reopen the old international airport at Don Muang on a temporary basis.

The reopening is expected to take place within two months' time, and airlines will move on a voluntary basis.

Correspondents say the move will complicate travel for many international visitors, who travel to Bangkok and then transfer to different airlines for flights to Thailand's famed beach resorts.




SEE ALSO
Thai airport hit by runway cracks
29 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Thailand partly lifts martial law
26 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Thailand opens huge new airport
28 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Bangkok's airport faces nervous start
14 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Thailand
10 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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