Sea riches prompt new talks

Sea riches prompt new talks

Thailand, Cambodia eager to end dispute

Supattanapong: Ready to share
Supattanapong: Ready to share

Thailand will hold talks with Cambodia over a 26,000 sq km overlapping claims area (OCA) estimated to hold up to 500 million barrels of oil and gas deposits under the seafloor.

The move comes following efforts by the two countries to work together to develop new energy sources and this involves first ironing out the territorial dispute.

Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said on Tuesday the joint development was expected to form part of the government's long-term policy.

The government wants to both encourage people to be self-reliant in clean energy as well as seek new sources of energy by calling bids for petroleum concessions and holding energy talks with neighbouring countries such as Cambodia.

"In seeking new energy sources, particularly in neighbouring countries with potential energy sources such as Cambodia, if the talks start and finish early, we hope we will soon be able to make use of these resources, and for the next 10 years, as all infrastructure is now available to the benefit of both Thailand and Cambodia," Mr Supattanapong said.

He also said the government has set up a committee to look into ways to jointly develop the overlapping claims area and the Foreign Affairs Ministry will lead negotiations with Cambodia on the matter.

"But currently, there are some details that need to be studied. For example, the Foreign Ministry is still concerned about some border demarcations and will have to find solutions and explain the matter to the public. But the sooner the economic cooperation begins, the better," Mr Supattanapong said.

According to a report on Aug 23 in the Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia is ready to meet Thailand for talks as both nations strive to avert potential energy crises further down the line.

Khomgrich Tantravanich, secretary-general of Thailand's Energy Regulatory Commission, suggested policymakers of both countries be vocal and establish a clear but positive dialogue over the long-disputed OCA in the Gulf of Thailand.

The OCA overlaps the Cambodian and Thai borders in the gulf and has been a point of contention since the early 1970s.

A memorandum of understanding to jointly explore the OCA was signed in 2001 but was later shelved by the Thai government in 2009. Calls to rekindle negotiations on oil and gas development in the region have re-emerged time and again with varying degrees of success.

However, with spiralling global demand and prices for oil and gas, buoyed by economic reopening and the Ukraine crises, negotiations may take a different turn this time.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this month, Cambodia's mines and energy minister, Meng Saktheara, said that although the leaders of both countries have called for a speedy resolution, talks have made little progress.

Mr Saktheara proposed the countries follow the model set by the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area, while Cambodian ministry director-general for petroleum Cheap Sour told The Post they are "ready" to negotiate.

Meanwhile, deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said the cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft agenda for a meeting which will be held via videoconference on Friday.

The two sides will discuss various areas of cooperation such as management of cross-border travel, trade and investment, labour and industrial cooperation, and public health and community development.

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