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Govt denies patrols in disputed waters

DEFENCE officials have denied Thai media reports that Cambodian patrols have entered disputed maritime areas near Thailand's Koh Kut island.

The reports came less than one week after marines and warships from the Thai navy's 1st Fleet were deployed close to disputed areas.

Neang Phat, a secretary of state at the Defence Ministry, said he had not received any reports from his subordinates about a Cambodian move into the areas.

"We had a meeting today and nobody reported anything about the issue, [so] I will wait and see," he said Thursday.

In Sokhemara, chief of the Preah Sihanouk provincial coast guard station, said his men conducted regular patrols in Cambodian waters but had never entered the 27,000-square-kilometre so-called overlapping claims area.

"We have never conducted a patrol entering a disputed maritime area," he said. "We patrol within our zone, and the Thais patrol in their zone, and both sides respect one another," Sokhemara said.

"I am a monitor of naval patrols, and if something was going on I would know about it.

We have never conducted a patrol entering a disputed maritime area.

The Bangkok Post reported Thursday that the Thai Ministry of Defence was planning to register a complaint through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs about a Cambodian patrol that had entered disputed waters near Koh Kut in Trat province.
According to the report, the patrol would have constituted a breach of an agreement on the disputed area that requires the two countries to inform each other about upcoming patrols and for patrols to be jointly conducted.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he had not received a diplomatic note from Thailand about the matter.

"If they do make an allegation, we will examine and investigate their claims," he said.

Following Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to France in July, officials announced an agreement offering the French petrochemical giant Total the exploration rights to a 2,430-square-kilometre block in the disputed waters.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong told reporters that the agreement with Total would not affect Thailand.

But the deal prompted complaints from the People's Assembly of Thailand, a nationalist advocacy group that argued that the Total agreement was in violation of Thai sovereignty.

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