Thailand is planning to construct a new international commercial airport at the U-Tapao naval air base near Bangkok to accommodate the increasing number of tourists to the country.

The airport is less than an hour away from Pattaya, a popular tourist destination,

As part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Royal Thai Navy commander-in-chief Kraisorn Jansuwanit and Transport Minister Prajin Juntong, the airport will serve both as a security operations base and a commercial airport from 1 June 2016, reported the Bangkok Post.

"Airlines will be invited to use U-Tapao airport as well."

Under the first phase of development, the existing passenger terminal of the airport will be renovated.

The government is also planning to construct a new passenger terminal worth THB200m ($5.9m) to increase the airport’s annual passenger capacity from 800,000 to three million. .

The capacity of the terminal will be further increased to five million by 2020.

Currently, the airport is handling 200,000 passengers and about 400 flights, mostly chartered flights from China and Russia.

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Juntong said: "Congestion at Suvarnabhumi airport requires the quick upgrade of U-Tapao airport so that it can serve more flights because Suvarnabhumi airport will be under renovation.

"Airlines will be invited to use U-Tapao airport as well."

While the Navy will handle the air traffic control and ground services, Thai Airways International and the country’s largest airport operator Airports of Thailand will provide support whenever needed.

Meanwhile, the transport ministry will also work on enhancing connectivity between U-Tapao and the two other airports in the city, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang.