Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kingdom is defiant over Thai warships

Kingdom is defiant over Thai warships

Kingdom is defiant over Thai warships

Govt says Gulf deployment over gas deal OK if kept in Thai waters.

MARINES and warships from the Thai navy's 1st Fleet have been deployed close to disputed areas in the Gulf of Thailand to monitor Cambodian oil explorations in the area, according to Thai media reports, prompting warnings from Cambodian officials that the country reserves the right to defend its sovereignty against any naval incursions.

On Saturday, the Bangkok Post reported that the forces have been deployed at Koh Kut, close to the 27,000-kilometre overlapping claims area (OCA), to monitor a recent exploration deal between the government and French petrochemical giant Total.

"We have to send our royal warships on patrol to proclaim our territory and warn Cambodia against initiating any action in the overlapping area," the newspaper quoted an anonymous Thai naval source as saying.

"If we let Total explore in the overlapping areas, it would mean we admit the area belongs to Cambodia."

Cambodian officials said that the Thai deployment was legitimate so long as it took place inside Thai territory, but warned that Cambodia would move to protect its sovereignty in the Gulf if Thai forces made incursions into the overlapping area.

"If their deployment moves into the [overlapping claims area] or into Cambodian waters, then we will defend our nation," said Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the deployment was Thailand's decision, but that it would do little to resolve the maritime boundary dispute.

"[The deployment] will not scare Cambodia," he said.

"Thailand cannot use its forces to threaten Cambodia's security. Cambodia will defend its rights as an independent, sovereign state."

He added: "[We] will still keep [our] stance of resolving the dispute peacefully."

If we let Total explore in the overlapping areas, it would mean we admit the area belongs to Cambodia.

During Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to France in July, officials announced an agreement offering Total the exploration rights to a 2,430-square kilometre block - known as Area III - that sits inside the OCA.
The deal prompted complaints from the People's Assembly of Thailand (PAT), a nationalist advocacy group, that the Total agreement was a violation of Thai sovereignty.

The group wrote to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on July 30, criticising the government and armed forces for not taking action to head off the deal.

A copy of the letter was also reportedly sent to the French Embassy in Bangkok.

Matters are complicated by the fact that Bangkok also allocated the zone - which it refers to as B10 and B11 - to US oil company Chevron and Japan's Mitsui in 1971.

Var Kimhong said that Thailand's claims about the Total deal were "unreasonable", adding that Cambodia had not complained to Bangkok when it granted oil exploration rights in the OCA to Chevron and Mitsui.

Var Kimhong added that Cambodia was always open for negotiation on the two countries' maritime border, which has never been fully demarcated.

In Sokhemra, chief of the Cambodian coast guard stationed in Preah Sihanouk province, said that he had not heard of the naval deployment at Koh Kut, but that the Cambodian navy conducts regular patrols near the OCA and would be immediately aware of any Thai incursions.

Chum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, could not be reached for comment on Sunday, and Jean-Pierre Labbe, general manager of Total EP Cambodge, said he was out of the country and did not wish to comment over the phone.


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen once again attacked ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy for pledging “autonomy” to Montagnards, claiming – seemingly incorrectly – the ethnic minority does not exist in Cambodia. “We respect all minorities such as Jarai, Steang, Phnong, but we have never had Montagnards,” the premier said