A resolution is expected “sometime next year” in the long-running dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over who owns potentially petroleum-rich territories in the Gulf of Thailand.
Te Duong Dara, general director of the National Petroleum Authority, said the countries agreed to settle the matter within that time frame last week in Bangkok.
Minister of Cabinet Sok An, who chairs the NPA, led a 10-member Cambodian delegation to the meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Surakiat Sathirathai and his delegation.
Te Duong Dara said the two countries, which have been arguing over the territories for nearly 30 years, made “good progress” due to the recent change in Thai government.
“The Thaksin government is much more favorable and sincere in its talks with us,” Te Duong Dara said. The two nations signed a memorandum of understanding on the gulf issue during Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s visit to Cambodia in June.
Both countries claim an offshore area of about 26,000 square km in the gulf. Three previous efforts to resolve the dispute, once in 1973 and twice in 1995, ended in failure.
This time, Te Duong Dara said the countries formed two joint Cambodian-Thai teams of experts. One will demarcate the maritime line between Cambodia’s coastal province of Koh Kong and the Thai province of Trat, an area the two countries essentially agree upon.
The other team will create joint development plans for still-disputed territories in the gulf that may contain valuable oil and gas deposits. The countries will continue to negotiate over who ultimately owns those sites, but joint development will allow both to earn revenue while the matter is pending. Te Duong Dara said that approach is better for Cambodia, which otherwise faces a lengthy legal fight and no possibility of revenues until it is resolved.
The teams plan to meet again in February and forward their findings to Sok An and Surakiat Sathirathai, who will meet later.