Cambodia in bid to resolve Thai border row
There is renewed hope that Cambodia and the newly elected Thai government will resume talks to resolve claims to a 27,000 square kilometre resource-rich stretch of seabed in the Gulf of Thailand
THE GOVERNMENT-run Cambodian National Petroleum Authority has called for open and official talks with Thailand to find an equitable and transparent resolution to the overlapping claims area, which has estimated reserves of 11 trillion cubic feet (cf) of gas plus oil and condensate.
The statement marked the second time in little more than a month that Cambodia has sought to restart negotiations.
The authority said that talks held between 2001 and 2007 had been fruitful, adding that the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, which took power in 2008 and had rocky relations with Phnom Penh, had sought to resolve the dispute prior to this year’s election.
A 2001 memorandum of understanding to resolve the overlapping claims area (OCA) dispute was close to being firmed up when former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled brother of recently elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, was toppled from power in a coup five years ago.
However, in 2009, Thailand unilaterally cancelled the agreement to protest over Thaksin’s appointment as an economic advisor to the Cambodian government and Thai-Cambodian relations deteriorated during the premiership of then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Now Thaksin is reportedly about to visit Cambodia to speak with officials about a deal to jointly unlock resources in the OCA between the two nations.
Although this planned visit has been officially denied, perhaps because there are already concerns among supporters of the Thai opposition that it is Thaksin who is directing Thailand government policy from overseas, both nations will only stand to benefit from a swift resolution of the OCA issue.
A number of international oil companies have signed exploration deals with Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand, including US supermajor Chevron and France’s Total. Cambodia hopes to reap a windfall from oil and gas revenues that could transform the impoverished nation.
Meanwhile, Pailin Chuchottaworn, who next month becomes president and chief executive of Thai state oil company PTT, has urged the new government to accelerate talks with Cambodia to get plans back on track for a joint development area in the disputed waters.
Pailin is concerned that Thailand is running out of hydrocarbons and claims the Gulf of Thailand only has enough reserves for another 12 years.
To address the issue, Pailin said the government should open a new round of petroleum concessions.
Thailand is a massive petroleum importer and it is projected to spend $2 trillion this year, up from $1.8 trillion last year, accounting for 20% of the country's gross domestic product.
In 2010, energy consumption in Thailand was 1.6 million barrels a day of oil equivalent.