Prayut govt keen to do a deal on oil-rich disputed zone in the gulf, source says
Thailand and Cambodia look set to take a more compromising stance over their dispute on “overlapping” maritime areas, according to a security source.
“They have adopted such a stance because they have already reckoned that unsuccessful negotiations mean both sides will lose benefits. If they can’t reach a deal, it will be impossible to use the maritime resources from the overlapping areas,” the source said.
Spanning thousands of square kilometres, the “overlapping” areas in the Gulf of Thailand are believed to hold a massive amount of natural gas and oil.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a security official revealed that Thailand and Cambodia had already held informal discussions on the issue.
Since General Prayut Chan-o-cha came to power this year, ties between Thailand and Cambodia have turned remarkably smooth, observers say. The release of Thai activist Veera Somkwamkid from a Cambodian jail was seen as solid proof that under Prayut’s leadership, Thailand had managed to tighten its ties with Cambodia.
There have been exchanges of visits by top-level delegations between the two countries in recent months.
For example, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan last week led chiefs of the armed forces to Cambodia for official meetings with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy PM and Defence Minister Tea Banh. He also attended meetings on the Cambodian-Thai General Border Committee.
Accompanying Prawit were Deputy Defence Minister and Royal Thai Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, permanent secretary for Defence Sirichai Distakul, Royal Thai Navy chief Admiral Kraisorn Chansuvanich, Royal Thai Air Force chief ACM Tritos Sonjaeng, and National Police Commissioner General Somyot Poompanmoung.
After returning from Cambodia, Prawit said the two countries had discussed various issues including the maritime resources.
At a recent meeting on the National Maritime Security Plan 2015 – 2021, Prawit emphasised the need to take care of the country’s maritime resources for the benefit of posterity.
According to the plan, Thailand’s maritime interests are estimated at no less than Bt17.9 trillion a year and they look set to grow over the next 10 years.
A minor row last week over the building of a road in a disputed border area east of Preah Vihear appears not to have affected the warmer ties and push for deals to be done on these key issues.
Cambodian strategists, meanwhile, have addressed the need to manage maritime disputes with neighbouring countries.
The same security source disclosed that the two countries had discussed the possibility of establishing a joint committee to delimit their borderline and negotiate on overlapping areas.
Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry was in the process of arranging a high-level meeting between Thailand and Cambodia.
“The meeting will take place in mid-January,” the source said.