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Thais want to talk energy

Thailand wants to restart talks with Cambodia over the maritime Overlapping Claims Area contested for decades by both countries, according to a report in Thai media.

Negotiations over the 27,000 square kilometres of seabed in the Gulf of Thailand, believed to be rich in oil and gas, have ebbed and flowed in recent years, depending on the Thai government of the day.

A view of a drilling platform off the coast of Thailand
A view of a drilling platform off the coast of Thailand. The Thai and Cambodian governments have begun talks in regards to the maritime Overlapping Claims Area. BLOOMBERG

Newly appointed Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn visited Cambodia on Monday and was joined by Thai Energy Ministry officials who reportedly held talks with Cambodian officials about the OCA, The Nation reported yesterday.

“This visit is regarded as opening a new era for restarting the talks about the overlapping claims area, which have been delayed for a long time,” said Kurujut Nakornthap, director-general of the Mineral Fuels Department at the Thai Energy Ministry.

He added that he was hopeful Thailand – which is running low on petroleum reserves – would soon appoint a committee to resume negotiations.

Meng Sachtheara, secretary of state at Cambodia's Ministry of Mines and Energy, said that while the ministry had yet to receive official contact from Thailand, it would welcome new talks.

“We didn’t meet them when they were in town. But we welcome them as we already have our working group and technical experts ready to talk about the deal,” he said.

“What is important for us to talk about is how to develop the area and what economic benefits we are going to share. We are not sure whether an agreement will be reached quickly.”

Resource extraction from the OCA is widely expected to provide a huge windfall to both governments.

A memorandum of understanding to jointly explore the area was signed in 2001 but was shelved by a conservative Thai government in 2009 when deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was named as an economic adviser to Cambodia. Developments appeared to take a positive turn when Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, won office in 2011.

Since she was ousted in May and the Thai military launched a coup, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai military leaders have sought to embrace each other.

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