Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to rekindle negotiations on oil and gas development over the long-contested Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand, said Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Cheap Sour.
Sour told The Post on Monday that the decision comes after the conclusion of the 37th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Energy in Bangkok on Friday.
“Both sides have agreed to continue to discuss and find a resolution in the OCA between Cambodia and Thailand with the Thai Energy Minister [Sontirat Sontijirawong] expressing his willingness to work with Cambodia,” he said, adding that no specific time has been set for the discussions.
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 claimed the area since the early 1970s.
A memorandum of understanding 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.
Sour expressed hope that renewed talks would bring positive results following the years-long delay.
“The resources would benefit the development of our nation and ensure our energy security,” he said.
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 as 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.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan welcomed the move on Monday, saying: “This is a positive sign, and then they [Cambodia and Thailand] will share mutual benefits as a result of the discussions.”
Cambodia is currently exploring its offshore oil in Block A, which is developed by Singapore-based firm KrisEnergy Ltd. The company claims it will be able to meet its schedule to extract its first drop of oil late this year.
In August 2017, Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth said Block A is believed to hold about 30 million barrels of oil, which could be extracted over the course of nine years.