Leaders push for cooperation in Gulf
Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to hold further discussions on the joint exploitation of the hydrocarbon resources in the Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand claimed by both countries.
Strengthening cooperation to ensure energy security for both nations was among the topics brought up during the meeting between Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Manet who made an official visit to Thailand on Wednesday.
The OCA, which covers a 26,000-square-kilometre area claimed by both countries, is believed to be an area rich in fossil-fuel sources.
Several rounds of talks on the joint development of energy resources have been held previously, but no progress was made due to the dispute over the maritime territory in the OCA.
At a media briefing after the talks with the Cambodian leader, Mr Srettha said both sides have agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of energy security and hold talks on the joint exploitation of the hydrocarbon resources in the OCA.
Bangkok and Phnom Penh also attach importance to the delimitation of maritime boundaries and have agreed to discuss the issue simultaneously with the exploitation of energy resources, he said.
“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,” he added.
Mr Srettha told the House of Representatives during the budget bill debate in early January that Thailand was negotiating with Cambodia about the OCA and the issue would be included on the agenda when he met with Hun Manet.
“We’re sitting on treasures worth trillions, so I expect we can hold talks and reach an agreement,” he told the House on Jan 3.
Mr Srettha said the meeting was comprehensive, and both nations share a commitment to foster closer cooperation based on mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual assistance.
Apart from the joint development of fossil fuel resources, bilateral trade, border development, tourism and haze pollution were also discussed, with intentions to bolster cooperation.
To inject new energy into bilateral trade, Thailand will host the 7th Joint Trade Committee at the commerce minister level as early as May, to come up with a plan to boost the volume of bilateral trade, which is set at US$15 billion (534 billion baht) by 2025, he said.
He expressed hopes the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Goods in Transit signed on Wednesday will help increase the volume of trade, especially border trade.
Both countries will also boost cooperation on tourism by making it easier for tourists to travel across borders and visit points of interest in Thailand and Cambodia, as well as in other neighbouring countries in one trip.
“I am pleased that 1.8 million Thais visited Cambodia last year, making Thais the largest number of visitors to Cambodia. In the meantime, Thailand is one of the top destinations for Cambodians,” he said.
“We will join hands in the ‘Six-Countries, One-Destination’ campaign to promote regional tourism. If Europe can do it, why can’t we?”
Apart from that, both will enhance the Agreement on Border Crossing to allow for the use of temporary border passes, longer stays, and access to non-border provinces, and resume negotiations on the Bilateral Agreement on Cross-Border Transport by Road to enable border crossings by private cars.
On the problem of transboundary haze pollution, both sides will increase cooperation to ensure clean air for their people. Cambodia has been invited to join the CLEAR Sky strategy with Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar to work together on this issue, Mr Srettha said.
A Joint Working Group will be set up to map out cooperation, including establishing a hotline for the sharing of information and alerts on burning locations, emergency responses, and capacity-building as well as the sharing of best practices, according to the premier.
He said both sides have agreed to expedite the development of border areas and make the Thai-Cambodian border free from landmines.
The two countries will also move quickly on humanitarian de-mining in pilot areas.
Fair treatment and a proper economic safety net for Cambodian workers, strengthened security cooperation to maintain peace and stability, deepened cooperation to fight transnational crimes and elevating Thai-Cambodia relations to “strategic partnership” were also covered.
As next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cambodia, he said there will be a series of activities to deepen friendship and understanding between the people of both countries, especially among the youth.