Thailand keen on joint petroleum production with Cambodia

The Thailand cabinet held an informal discussion on Tuesday on the realisation of the joint production of petroleum resources in the Gulf of Thailand with Cambodia, according to media reports.

Quoting government sources, Bangkok Post reported that the Thailand government is proceeding with its years-long plan for joint production of petroleum resources in the Gulf of Thailand.

Sources said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon had pushed for cooperation with Cambodia for years. Wongsuwon had a discussion with Suy Sem, Cambodia’s minister of mines and energy, regarding the project in Bangkok on December 16, 2022, the report said.

Both governments consider joint cooperation as a solution to energy shortages.

The movement followed a positive signal from Cambodia to revive negotiations on the joint petroleum production on an overlapping claim area (OCA) of both countries and it would be based on the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area (JDA), the paper reported, quoting sources.

Thailand’s foreign ministry had set up a working group to handle negotiations.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier said the issue was essential and concerned many parties, and the foreign ministry and the energy ministry were supervising it.

Last year Thailand’s energy minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said that the joint venture development was expected to form part of the government’s long-term policy.

“In seeking new energy sources, particularly in neighbouring countries with potential energy sources such as Cambodia, if the talks start soon and finish early, we hope we will soon be able to make use of these resources and for the next 10 years, as all infrastructure is now available to the benefit of both Thailand and Cambodia,” Supattanapong said.

Both countries have been in talks regarding a 26,000 sq kilometres overlapping claims area (OCA), which is estimated to hold up to 500 million barrels of oil and gas deposits under the sea floor. The OCA overlaps the Cambodian and Thai borders in the gulf and has been a point of contention since the early 1970s. A Memorandum of Understanding to jointly explore the OCA was signed in 2001 but was later shelved by the Thai government in 2009. In late 2019, Thailand and Cambodia were set to resume talks, but the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic delayed the process.

The Thai-Cambodian joint technical committee (JTC), which met for the first time in October 2021, is expected to complete by March this year.

The JTC is scheduled to finalise the details of the joint development oil project.

The first JTC meeting set a framework for negotiations over the OCA and appointed two special committees for maritime zoning and joint oil extraction.

Cambodia is also keen to develop oil and gas resources, especially considering the surging global oil and gas prices following the Ukraine war.

Cambodia imported $1,910 million worth of oil products in the January-June period of last year, an increase of 25.8 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, according to a report from the National Bank of Cambodia.

The Kingdom imports its petroleum products from Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand.

The demand for petroleum products in Cambodia is projected to rise to 4.8 million tons in 2030, up from 2.8 million tons in 2020, according to reports.