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Renewed Focus on Joint Oil and Gas Development in Gulf of Thailand

by Surya Narayan
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The anticipation surrounding the collaborative development of oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand’s Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) has intensified ahead of the scheduled meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet and his Thai counterpart Srettha Thavisin in Bangkok. This engagement is poised to inject new momentum into resolving the longstanding dispute over the resource-rich OCA, which spans 26,000 square kilometers and is believed to harbor substantial oil and gas deposits.

Thavisin, expressing a proactive stance in the Thai Parliament, underscored the significance of harnessing these resources for the mutual advantage of both nations, emphasizing the potential to enhance the well-being of their peoples. This dialogue is critical, given the protracted stalemate in negotiations, which have been intermittently paused for over two decades despite the vast energy potential of the OCA, estimated to contain up to 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 500 million barrels of oil.

Historically, a 2001 Memorandum of Understanding laid the groundwork for a resolution, but it was unilaterally annulled by Thailand in 2009 amidst escalating tensions, leaving the dispute unresolved. In response, Cambodia established a special committee in 2014 to advance negotiations, highlighting the strategic importance of these resources for both countries’ burgeoning economies and energy independence.

Experts advocate for a Joint Development Area (JDA) as a pragmatic approach to jointly harness the OCA’s energy reserves, potentially based on a 50-50 revenue-sharing model. Such a collaborative framework could serve the interests of both nations, with Thailand standing to benefit significantly due to its more developed oil and gas sector.

The upcoming talks between the Prime Ministers, alongside discussions on broader bilateral cooperation, signal a promising avenue for not only resolving the OCA issue but also strengthening the multifaceted ties between Cambodia and Thailand. The visit, which will also feature discussions on tourism, cultural exchanges, and the signing of various cooperation agreements, is emblematic of the enduring partnership and shared aspirations for peace and prosperity between the two neighboring countries.

Source: Khmer Times

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