Thai Airport Chief Says He Quit Due to Stress Amid Turmoil over New Bangkok Airport

The ex-president of Thailand's airport authority said Friday that growing turmoil over Bangkok's new airport made his job so stressful that he had to quit for the sake of his health.

Airports of Thailand said its board has accepted the resignation of Chotisak Asapavirya, who quit citing health reasons late Thursday, shortly before an evaluation of his job performance expected on Feb. 8.

"I have been having nosebleeds during board meetings," Chotisak said in a Friday morning interview on Thailand's Business Radio.

Suvarnabhumi Airport, which opened amid great fanfare in September, was supposed to transform the Thai capital into Southeast Asia's leading air hub. Instead, the facility has become a national embarrassment.

Cracks in the tarmac are the most urgent problem. Airport authorities recently said they had found more than 100 cracks in the taxiways leading to Suvarnabhumi's two runways.

As a result, planes are unable to use 11 out of 51 air bridges for boarding aircraft, causing inconvenience to passengers who are shuttled to and from planes by bus.

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

Airport officials insist the cracks do not pose a threat to safety.

A panel set up to probe the problem expects to find the causes of the cracks by Feb. 16, its chairman, Tortrakun Yommanak, said Friday after an inspection of the taxiways, some of which are undergoing temporary repairs.

The Transport Ministry is seeking to reopen Bangkok's old international airport, Don Muang, to ease congestion at the new facility so repairs can be made.

The Engineering Institute of Thailand, after an initial investigation, suggested two possible causes for the cracks: poor construction, or excessive underground water seepage, causing swelling and cracking. The airport was built on a swamp.

Noppadol Phien-wej, another member of the investigating panel, said the issue might have been blown out of proportion by the media but the problems will still have to be addressed with care.

Asked by reporters if the problem is common, Noppadol said: "It occurs in most airports that use this kind of pavement. But the extent and the timing is unusual. It occurred too fast and reached the limit too fast."

He dismissed speculation that the problems stemmed from corruption during construction that involved the use of shoddy material.

"It was a megaproject that involves many parties. The chance that they uses substandard material is very slim," he said.

Suvarnabhumi has faced numerous problems since opening, including breakdowns in the computerized baggage handling system, a shortage of bathrooms, and complaints by female airport staffers about being molested by construction workers there.

Another top airport official was removed from his job Thursday. Suvarnabhumi's general manager, Somchai Sawasdeepon, was transferred to the job of "company specialist," said an Airports of Thailand board member, Chermsak Pinthong.

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