YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar called upon local and foreign investors Monday to fund construction of a second airport to serve the country's largest city, Yangon, as it prepares for an influx of tourists in the wake of political reforms.
Tin Naing Tun, the head of the Civil Aviation Department, said the planned Hanthawaddy International Airport will cover 9,000 acres (3,642 hectares), an area nine times the size of Yangon International Airport.
Under reformist President Thein Sein, Myanmar has released political prisoners and allowed a measure of democracy and press freedom, reducing its international isolation. The government hopes to develop Myanmar's tourist industry into a major money earner.
Hanthawaddy will be the country's fourth airport capable of handling international flights, after Yangon, Mandalay and the capital Naypyitaw. It will be located about 48 miles (77 kilometers) north of Yangon, near the city of Bago.
Tin Naing Tun said Bago was found to be the most suitable location among nine considered. Construction of a new airport there started in 1994 but stopped in 2003. However, 80 percent of the earth work has already been completed, he said. Bago used to host a small airstrip used by the Japanese armed forces during World War II.
Tin Naing Tun said construction will start in June 2013 and is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
"We are inviting investors to build the new airport to serve the larger number of passengers and to encourage private sector participation," Tin Naing Tun said.
Yangon International Airport, which has undergone several overhauls in recent years, can handle 2.7 million passengers annually. Only 17 planes can park at the airport at the same time, according to civil aviation deputy director Nweni Win Kyaw.
Before Hanthawaddy's development was shelved in 2003, it was envisaged the airport would handle 10 million passengers a year.