Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thailand, Cambodia to discuss overlapping maritime claims in April

BANGKOK, March 24 (TNA) - The Thailand and Cambodia Joint Border Commission (JBC) will hold a fresh round of negotiations on overlapping maritime areas of the two countries when the body meets in Cambodia early next month, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Tuesday.

Mr. Kasit told journalists that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the Thai government to accelerate the process of settling the overlapping maritime areas, after various rounds of talks in the past have failed to resolve the issue.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the issue was raised on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, held in Thailand's southern seaside resort of Hua Hin late last month.

The problem of the overlapping areas is rather ‘technical’, Mr. Abhisit said, but appropriate officials are dealing with it.

Although the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in the year 2000 agreeing to resolve contested claims covering 20,600 square kilometres which are potentially rich in natural gas and oil, no tangible headway has been seen.

Panithan Watanayakorn, deputy secretary-general to the Thai prime minister, said the joint meeting will take place April 2-3 in Cambodia’s Siem Reap. It will also consider land area demarcation, methods of restoring peace along the land border, demining, border trade and promoting tourism to improve bilateral relations.

The Thai-Cambodian border has never been fully demarcated, in part because the border is littered with landmines left from decades of war in Cambodia.

The government of Thailand’s former prime minister Samak Sundaravej approved a Bt1.4 billion mine clearing operation on the border, but no progress has been seen so far. (TNA)

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