Thailand and Cambodia to discuss joint exploitation of hydrocarbon resources

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Thailand and Cambodia consented to further dialogues concerning the mutual exploitation of the hydrocarbon resources in the Overlapping Claims Area (OCA), located in the Gulf of Thailand, a territory claimed by both nations.

The matter was discussed during the recent meeting between Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Cambodian leader Hun Manet, as they aimed to enhance cooperation for the energy security of both countries.

The OCA, spanning a vast area of 26,000 square kilometres, is speculated to be abundant in fossil-fuel resources. Despite numerous discussions held over the years focusing on the joint development of these energy resources, no significant progress was achieved due to territorial disputes over the maritime area within the OCA.

In a press briefing post the meeting, PM Srettha indicated that both sides have agreed to enhance cooperation in energy security and continue discussions on the joint exploitation of the hydrocarbon resources in the OCA. Simultaneously, the delimitation of maritime boundaries, a matter of importance to both Bangkok and Phnom Penh, will also be discussed.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been instructed to consult with authorities, including the Ministry of Energy and the Royal Thai Navy, on the issue for further discussion with the Cambodian side.”

Earlier this year, the 61 year old Thai PM had mentioned the ongoing negotiations with Cambodia regarding the OCA during a budget bill debate. He was optimistic about reaching a fruitful agreement.

“We’re sitting on treasures worth trillions.”

Mutual interests

The meeting was comprehensive, covering areas of mutual interest beyond the development of fossil fuel resources. Bilateral trade, border development, tourism, and haze pollution were also addressed, with intentions to strengthen cooperation.

In a bid to energise bilateral trade, Thailand will host the 7th Joint Trade Committee, with discussions aiming to boost bilateral trade volumes to US$15 billion (approximately 53 billion baht) by 2025. PM Srettha also hopes that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Goods in Transit, signed recently, will bolster trade volumes, particularly border trade.

Tourism cooperation between the two countries will be enhanced to facilitate cross-border travel and promote popular destinations in both countries. The Bangkok-born PM revealed that 1.8 million Thais visited Cambodia last year, making them the largest number of visitors to the country, while Thailand is a preferred destination for Cambodians.

“We will join hands in the ‘Six-Countries, One-Destination’ campaign to promote regional tourism. If Europe can do it, why can’t we?”

In the face of transboundary haze pollution, both countries will intensify cooperation to ensure clean air for their citizens. Cambodia has been invited to participate in the CLEAR Sky strategy along with Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, reported Bangkok Post.

A joint working group will be established to delineate cooperation, which includes setting up a hotline for sharing information and alerts on burning locations, emergency responses, and capacity-building, as well as sharing best practices.

The meeting also addressed issues such as the development of border areas, landmine clearance, fair treatment of Cambodian workers, enhanced security cooperation, and the fight against transnational crimes. Furthermore, as the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cambodia approaches, a series of activities have been planned to deepen friendship and understanding between the citizens of both nations.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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