Cambodian officials yesterday welcomed statements from Thailand’s foreign minister that an all-important 2001 memorandum of understanding on the Overlapping Claims Area would most likely be renewed.
Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said the MoU would be sent to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s cabinet on October 18 for review, according to Pheu Thai spokeswoman Titima Chaisang. The 2001 agreement between the two governments originally outlined a plan for defining the disputed Overlapping Claims Area, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas.
However, the MoU was later discarded in 2009 by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva after Cambodia named fugitive former Thai Primer Minister Thaksin Shinawatra an economic advisor to the Kingdom.
Although unrecognised by Thailand for two years, the MoU could be renewed if re-approved by the cabinet, Titima Chaisang said.
“The past cabinet stopped the MoU, but they didn’t do anything with it later. So it can be reapplied to the new cabinet,” she said.
The move is expected to generate a positive response from the Cambodian government, Titima Chaisang added.
The MoU is not only positive but necessary to resolving the dispute, Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, said yesterday.
“Without it, both sides cannot properly decide which areas belong to which country,” he said. Cambodia holds that the MoU is still valid despite being rejected by Abhisit Vejjajiva, according to Phay Siphan. If approved by the Thai cabinet, the two countries can once again return to formal discussion on specific lines of demarcation, he said.
Yingluck’s July 3 victory over Abhisit Vejjajiva expedited dialogue on the OCA and led to discussions on the disputed area between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Yingluck during her visit to Phnom Penh last month.
Thai Energy Minister Pichai Naripthaphan announced September 22 that he met informally with Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy secretary of state Ith Praing at an ASEAN energy forum in Brunei, with both sides agreeing that “the development of the OCA is highly likely,” he said.
Several oil companies are watching carefully as Cambodia and Thailand move closer toward direct discussion. Chevron, ConocoPhilips, Total and Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan have concessions in the area.