Cambodia is ready to meet with Thailand on the issue of the 26,000sq km Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) – estimated to hold up to 500 million barrels of oil and gas deposits under the seafloor – in a bid to jointly develop the area and capitalise on its resources to the benefit of both countries and potentially avert an energy crisis down the line.

Khomgrich Tantravanich, secretary-general of Thailand’s Energy Regulatory Commission, suggested policymakers of both countries be vocal and establish clear direction for joint development in the long-disputed OCA in the Gulf of Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported on August 22.

The OCA overlaps the Cambodian and Thai borders in the gulf, and 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 OCA was signed in 2001 but was later shelved by the Thai government in 2009. Calls to rekindle negotiations on oil and gas development in the region have re-emerged time and again with varying degrees of success.

However with spiralling global demand and prices for oil and gas, buoyed by economic reopening and the Ukraine crises, negotiations may take a different turn this time.

Khomgrich recommended Thailand secure more gas supplies for electricity generation, after a drop in volumes from the gulf resulted in additional “costly” liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports. “We are confident that the OCA will help Thailand secure gas supplies and keep energy prices low in the long run,” he was quoted as saying.

Ministry of Mines and Energy secretary of state Meng Saktheara.Heng Chivoan

Speaking at a press conference early this month, Ministry of Mines and Energy secretary of state Meng Saktheara explained that the political and economic considerations due to the involvement of oil and other natural resources make OCA negotiations “very complicated”.

He acknowledged that although the leaders of both countries have called for a speedy resolution, talks have made little progress.

Saktheara proposed the two countries follow the model set by the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area in the gulf claimed by those two nations. “We’ll work together to extract natural resources and develop the two economies, based on the premise of equity and in accordance with international principles,” he said.

Similarly, ministry director-general for petroleum Cheap Sour told The Post that Cambodia is “ready” to negotiate with the Thai side and take full advantage of the OCA negotiations.