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Cambodia, Thailand eye Overlapping Claims Area

Cambodia and Thailand yesterday reiterated their commitment to restart negotiations over an expansive and resource-rich section of the Gulf of Thailand known as the Overlapping Claims Area – but the two countries have yet to set a date for the talks.

An official at the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, told the Post yesterday that the chairman of the authority welcomes a new phase of negotiations based on a stalled agreement.

In 2001, officials from both nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the joint development of the 26,000-kilometre area, believed to be rich in oil and gas.

The potential for a windfall is tantalising for both countries, not to mention the companies holding concessions for the extraction, which won’t start until 2016.

“Our senior official has confirmed that we are always prepared for the restart of negotiations with Thailand, based on the benefit of the two peoples and countries, but agreed that the process will need more time,” said the CNPA official.

The comment came after Vasin Teeravechyan, head of the Thai-Cambodian joint boundary sub-committee, was quoted in the Bangkok Post as saying that legal experts were examining the MoU with the idea of bringing it back for parliamentary endorsement.

Over the past 10 years, political developments have scuttled the agreement on joint exploration in the Gulf. It wound to a standstill in 2006 when former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is close to Prime Minister Hun Sen, was toppled in a military coup.

Three years later, the MoU was shelved by then-Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, after Shinawatra was named an economic adviser to the Kingdom.

The dialogue has been revived with last year’s election of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com

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