PRIME Minister Hun Sen held talks with the President of the Thai National Assembly Somsak Kiatsuranont in the capital yesterday, paving the way for the extraction of contested oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand.
Since Yingluck Shinawatra led Pheau Thai party to take power in Thailand in August, efforts to resolve the disputed Overlapping Claims Area have been bolstered by a series of high-profile visits from the new Thai Prime Minister and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra.
Yesterday’s talks between Hun Sen and Somsak focused on restoring diplomatic relations between the neighbours so both Kingdom’s could begin exploiting resources in the 27,000-square-kilometre OCA, the premier’s personal spokesman Eang Sophalleth said.
“God has created Cambodia and Thailand as neighbours and we have joint potential mineral resources [oil and gas],” Eang Sophalleth said Somasak told Hun Sen.
“Therefore Cambodia and Thailand together must join hands to exploit the mineral resources for the benefit of the people from two countries,” he quoted the Thai National Assembly President as having said.
But Global Witness Campaigner George Boden warned earlier this week that if Cambodia did not vastly improve its laws to regulate extractive industries the benefits of those resources would be isolated to the ruling elite. “The Cambodian government has a track record for corruption, and its oil laws are not fit for purpose,” he said in statement.
“The country’s international donors must push for reform, so that the millions due to be paid by oil, gas and mining companies are used to build schools and hospitals, instead of lining the pockets of senior politicians”.