PM, Hun Sen boost energy ties
Thailand and Cambodia have pledged to boost their joint cooperation in maritime energy resource development.
The controversial issue was among the topics of border and economic ties raised at a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen, on the sidelines of the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) in Milan, according to the Thai government website.
The issues will be discussed further during Gen Prayut's visit to Cambodia from Oct 30-31.
During their first meeting as government leaders, Gen Prayut expressed his appreciation of Hun Sen's goodwill as he has continued to support Thailand amid political changes.
Both leaders vowed not to let border rows become obstacles to joint trade and investment.
Gen Prayut proposed boosting cooperation on energy resources in maritime areas as well as buying some agricultural products from Cambodia.
Energy is an issue the two countries have discussed for years as it involves overlapping areas of a sea boundary in the Gulf of Thailand where both sides claim ownership.
The areas are believed to have abundant resources of oil and natural gas.
In 2009, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on maritime boundaries, which was signed in 2001 under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, was revoked by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government after Thaksin was appointed as a Cambodian government adviser.
The MoU was signed to outline a framework for settling maritime disputes in the Gulf of Thailand.
Gen Prayut and his counterpart also agreed to make progress on the land border demarcation under the existing joint committee.
He also informed the Cambodian premier about the establishment of an economic zone, opposite Cambodia's Poipet border town. The zone is expected to provide job opportunities for Cambodian workers living in border areas.
He assured Hun Sen the Thai government will look after Cambodian workers, referring to the registration of migrant workers under the government's plan to regulate workers.
Meanwhile, National Reform Council member Rosana Tositrakul has called on Gen Prayut to bring to a halt any negotiations with Cambodia on joint cooperation on energy in the disputed maritime areas, saying the prime minister should allow an elected government to decide on the issue instead.
Ms Rosana said Thailand and Cambodia have been in dispute over the maritime border for almost 30 years.
Ms Rosana claimed that the 2001 MoU caused Thailand to lose more than 5 trillion baht in benefits.
She said the issue is sensitive and the administration should not rush it in the same way politicians in the previous government did.
During the Asem, Gen Prayut also met with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong where he reaffirmed close investment ties as Singapore is the No.1 Asean investor in Thailand.
The two leaders agreed to restart the Leaders' Retreat meeting after a nine-year hiatus.
Gen Prayut also held a meeting with his Lao counterpart Thongsing Thammavong where they focused on transport links between the two countries.
In his remarks at the Asem leaders' meeting, Gen Prayut emphasised the importance of regional cooperation, especially on trade and investment which he said will help strengthen ties between Asia and Europe.
Topics such as climate change and food as well as energy shortages were raised by the premier.
Meanwhile, deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday there was no protest against Gen Prayut in Milan on Thursday.
He claimed the demonstration was only attended by a few opportunistic Thais who joined an anti-racism rally held by Italian students and the Thais asked them to hold their anti-Prayut placards.
He was responding to numerous reports and photographs from Milan, where some Italian students were shown holding placards denouncing Gen Prayut.
The Thais had asked the students to hold the placards, which were in Thai. They then took photos and videos of them and claimed it was proof many people in Milan were protesting against Gen Prayut, Maj Gen Sansern said.