Friday, 31 July 2009

Govt urged to oppose French oil deal

Published: 30/07/2009

The People's Assembly of Thailand on Thursday submitted a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, calling for the government to act against the oil drilling agreement being made between the Cambodian government and the French oil company Total covering a disputed area of the Gulf of Thailand.

The letter was forwarded to the prime minister through the Government House complaints centre by Chaiwat Sinsuwong, the assembly secretary-general, and Admiral Bannawit Kengrian, chairman of the assembly's committee for monitoring the use of state power.

It said Cambodia and France had reached an agreement over an oil and gas drilling concession in the overlapping Thai and Cambodian territorial waters in the Gulf of Thailand, but the government and armed forces had not done anything to protect Thai territorial sovereignty.

Adm Bannawit, a former defence permanent secretary, said the assembly also submit a protest letter to the French embassy in Bangkok. He said the French ambassador admitted the area was under dispute.

Therefore, the government should take action to prevent border problems similar to the one concerning the Preah Vihear temple.

He said the prime minister would be charged with neglect of duty if he failed to act on this matter in seven days.

Phnom Penh is reported to be drawing up an agreement to give France's Total rights to look for oil in its offshore block 3 in the Gulf of Thailand.

A provisional agreement was reached two weeks ago when Prime Minister Hun Sen was in Paris.

"Hun Sen told the French prime minister that Cambodia had decided to award block 3 to the French company, Total, for oil drilling after lengthy consideration," Prak Sokhon, a senior government official who was in the delegation, later told reporters.

Te Duong Tara, director general of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), said details were still being worked out.

Cambodia does not yet produce oil. Chevron Corp is the operator of Block A in the Gulf of Thailand but is unlikely to produce oil before 2010 at the earliest.

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