First Prime Minister Ung Huot said Tuesday that Vietnam has agreed to three-way talks with Thailand and Cambodia concerning a controversial treaty demarcating the Gulf of Thailand.
“Vietnam has affirmed that negotiations between Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia will have to be called,” he told reporters at Pochentong Airport after returning from a two-day visit to Hanoi.
The controversy surrounds the overlapping claim area, a 5,570-square-km zone in the Gulf of Thailand, which is the subject of a 26-year dispute between the three neighboring countries. The zone is believed to be rich in oil and gas resources.
Thailand and Vietnam signed a treaty in August for partitioning the southern portion of the zone, leaving Cambodia out of the talks.
A Thai Embassy spokesman said Tuesday he could not comment on the possibility of talks until he received more information.
Ung Huot, who is also the foreign minister, said other long-running land border disputes with Vietnam could be solved by the year 2000.
“The remaining [border] problems between Vietnam and Cambodia could be solved within two years, and I am very optimistic that they can be solved,” he said.
He said there will be expert-level talks in Phnom Penh concerning demarcation issues with the Vietnamese on June 17.
On Monday, Vietnamese premier Phan Van Khai told Ung Huot in a closed door meeting that Hanoi will continue to support Phnom Penh’s efforts to join Asean at an early date, according to Kyodo News Service.
Vietnam will keep pushing for Cambodian membership in Asean because it would create more channels for cooperation between the two countries, Vietnamese government sources told the agency.
Phan Van Khai also called on the Cambodian government to ensure the safety of Vietnamese immigrants and their property, an issue on which the two sides agreed to hold another round of talks soon, according to Kyodo news service.
“The Vietnamese side requested the Royal Government of Cambodia to treat ethnic Vietnamese the same as others,” Ung Huot said. “In the framework of the immigration law, that is acceptable to us.”
In the run-up to the 1993 elections, ethnic Vietnamese were the targets of politically related violence as politicians seized upon their presence in Cambodia as a political issue.
Ung Huot said Vietnam also promised to help stop the illegal export of timber from Cambodia.
“We asked the cooperation from Vietnam to stop the illegal transportation of logs. Illegal transportation means illegal logging. We told them whatever the government of Vietnam does must have an agreement between governments. There are some bad people…that try to do sub-agreements.”
The London-based environmental group Global Witness has alleged the first prime minister signed agreements permitting the illegal export of logs, a charge his cabinet members deny.