The Ministry of Mines and Energy has indicated that it’s ready to resume discussions with Thailand over the shared benefits of the Overlapping Claimed Area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand.
The director-general of the ministry’s General Department of Petroleum Cheap Sour told The Post on Monday that the ministry is waiting for a response from Thailand to continue the talks as it attempts to expedite the process.
He said the ministry has already informed the US firms which participated in the US-ASEAN Business Council Meeting on Energy that Cambodia welcomes the talks.
“My minister informed all the US companies which participated in the US-ASEAN Business Council Meeting that we previously worked with Thailand’s Minister of Energy through ASEAN Energy Ministers in 2019 and later on, we kept working with them to speed up the work,” Sour said.
However, he said that Thailand’s energy minister had recently changed.
“Now, we don’t know whether the new minister of energy in Thailand will resume the talks or if he will need time to further study the paperwork.
“At the moment, there are internal issues over the social and political situations so no timeframe has been set for the next meeting,” Sour said.
In September last year, Cambodia’s Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem met Thai energy minister Sontirat Sontijirawong at the 37th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Energy in Bangkok.
At the time, Sour said both sides agreed to continue to discuss and find a resolution in the OCA dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.
Development rights to the 26,000sq km OCA, which overlaps the Cambodian and Thai borders in the Gulf of Thailand, has been a point of contention between the two neighbouring nations, which have both claimed the area since the early 1970s.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly explore the area was signed in 2001 but was later shelved by the Thai government in 2009. Talks over the joint effort to explore the region re-emerged when former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra took office in 2011.
Following the overthrow of the Yingluck government in May 2014, leaders of both countries sought to resume the talks.
The OCA is estimated to hold up to 500 million barrels of oil and gas deposits under the seafloor.
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) September 2013 Southeast Asia Energy Outlook said Thailand’s gas production is expected to decline by 75 per cent by 2035 while domestic demand for natural gas is expected to rise during the period.
The IEA cited the resolution of Cambodia and Thailand’s long-standing dispute over the OCA as a promising and long-term asset to Thailand’s energy outlook to 2035.