With significant energy potential and in an effort to address the energy crisis, Cambodia and Thailand are looking to work together to renegotiate a Joint Development Area (JDA) to explore oil and gas resources in the 26,000 square kilometer overlapping claims area.
The area is believed to contain up to 500 million barrels of oil and gas under the seabed. Looking ahead, both countries want to ensure energy sustainability in the future.
On October 30, Thailand's Energy Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga announced his government's intention to shift the focus of negotiations with Cambodia to the Organization of Asian Energy Cooperation (OAEC). This new approach emphasizes joint development beyond the territorial sea boundary, according to Thai media.
Pirapan said they are prioritizing energy supply from the OCA instead of focusing on the territorial sea boundary. According to him, resolving territorial disputes is a complicated and time-consuming process because it is difficult for countries to easily accept changes to their boundaries.
Thailand and Cambodia have formally declared their respective continental shelf and territorial sea claims at different times, and the legal bases for these claims are different. Pirapan stressed that both have valid legal grounds, making it difficult to determine the absolute truth in this dispute. He also emphasized that if this dispute cannot be resolved easily, then there is no benefit in combining these two issues, which will only further complicate the situation.
According to Cambodia's Minister of Mines and Energy, Keo Rottanak, his country is willing to cooperate with Thailand under the Joint Development Area (JDA), focusing on the mutual benefits of the two ASEAN neighbors. However, he said his government has yet to receive an official invitation from the Thai authorities.
Meanwhile, after a visit to Phnom Penh in late September, Thailand's Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha Nukara announced that the Thai government should establish a new joint technical committee before resuming negotiations on the JDA with Cambodia.
But so far, it is unclear who the members of the committee will be and under which ministry the committee will be responsible.