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Navy sets up new base on Koh Kut
Writer: WASSANA NANUAM
Published: 15/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
The navy has set up a new base on Koh Kut in Trat to reinforce its patrol missions following a report that Cambodia has allowed a French oil firm to survey in a disputed maritime area.
The establishment of the Koh Kut operations unit was revealed yesterday by a naval officer who asked not to be named. He said navy chief Adm Kam thorn Pumhirun had ordered the navy's 1st Fleet late last month to keep a close watch on the disputed area, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas.
Warships and marines from the Marines Operation Unit have been deployed at the Koh Kut base.
[of the new unit] is to patrol and prevent the Cambodian side from doing anything in the disputed area,'' said the source.
In addition, a naval information centre was recently set up on Koh Kut.
''We have to send our royal warships on patrol to proclaim our territory and warn Cambodia against initiating any action in the overlapping area,'' the source said.
However, deputy navy chief Adm Somdech Boonpiem admitted it was virtually impossible to thoroughly monitor the vast expanse of the sea. The navy must also wait to hear what the government's policy would be regarding the disputed area, he said.
The source said Cambodia's latest move _ allowing a French company to explore for oil in the disputed overlapping area _ was politically motivated.
He believed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would turn for help from this European country in future negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand over the disputed maritime area.
In the past, the source said, the French government had played a major role in helping Phnom Penh win a legal battle in the International Court of Justice over ownership of the Preah Vihear temple back in 1962. Hun Sen had revitalised Cambodia's connections with France when he was invited to join the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14.
He took the opportunity to sign an agreement with the French Total SA company which has been granted oil exploration rights in Block 3, part of the overlapping maritime area covering 2,340 square kilometres, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, said the source.
''If we let Total explore in the overlapping areas, it would mean we admit the area belongs to Cambodia.''
The Cambodia's move adds a new worry to the currently unresolved disputes over overlapping lands of 4.6 sq km near the Preah Vihear.
Both Thai and Cambodian soldiers have been ordered to tighten security along borders, following Thai objection to the unilateral application of Cambodia to list the Preah Vihear as a World Heritage under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
According to an army source, Thai soldiers are suffering malaria due to no enough shades to protect them from daily rainfalls. At least, ''5 to 10 sick soldiers a day are to sent to a hospital,'' the source said.
The officers are in bad need for materials to build shelters and have to ask nearby villagers for donation, the source said.
Meanwhile, Thai Supreme commander Songkitti Jaggabatara is preparing to have a talk with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh on a joint solution to the Preah Vihear problem.
Kingdom is defiant over Thai warships
Monday, 17 August 2009 15:04 Cheang Sokha .
Govt says Gulf deployment over gas deal OK if kept in Thai waters.
MARINES and warships from the Thai navy's 1st Fleet have been deployed close to disputed areas in the Gulf of Thailand to monitor Cambodian oil explorations in the area, according to Thai media reports, prompting warnings from Cambodian officials that the country reserves the right to defend its sovereignty against any naval incursions.
On Saturday, the Bangkok Post reported that the forces have been deployed at Koh Kut, close to the 27,000-kilometre overlapping claims area (OCA), to monitor a recent exploration deal between the government and French petrochemical giant Total.
"We have to send our royal warships on patrol to proclaim our territory and warn Cambodia against initiating any action in the overlapping area," the newspaper quoted an anonymous Thai naval source as saying.
"If we let Total explore in the overlapping areas, it would mean we admit the area belongs to Cambodia."
Cambodian officials said that the Thai deployment was legitimate so long as it took place inside Thai territory, but warned that Cambodia would move to protect its sovereignty in the Gulf if Thai forces made incursions into the overlapping area.
"If their deployment moves into the [overlapping claims area] or into Cambodian waters, then we will defend our nation," said Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the deployment was Thailand's decision, but that it would do little to resolve the maritime boundary dispute.
"[The deployment] will not scare Cambodia," he said.
"Thailand cannot use its forces to threaten Cambodia's security. Cambodia will defend its rights as an independent, sovereign state."
He added: "[We] will still keep [our] stance of resolving the dispute peacefully."
If we let Total explore in the overlapping areas, it would mean we admit the area belongs to Cambodia.
During Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to France in July, officials announced an agreement offering Total the exploration rights to a 2,430-square kilometre block - known as Area III - that sits inside the OCA.
The deal prompted complaints from the People's Assembly of Thailand (PAT), a nationalist advocacy group, that the Total agreement was a violation of Thai sovereignty.
The group wrote to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on July 30, criticising the government and armed forces for not taking action to head off the deal.
A copy of the letter was also reportedly sent to the French Embassy in Bangkok.
Matters are complicated by the fact that Bangkok also allocated the zone - which it refers to as B10 and B11 - to US oil company Chevron and Japan's Mitsui in 1971.
Var Kimhong said that Thailand's claims about the Total deal were "unreasonable", adding that Cambodia had not complained to Bangkok when it granted oil exploration rights in the OCA to Chevron and Mitsui.
Var Kimhong added that Cambodia was always open for negotiation on the two countries' maritime border, which has never been fully demarcated.
In Sokhemra, chief of the Cambodian coast guard stationed in Preah Sihanouk province, said that he had not heard of the naval deployment at Koh Kut, but that the Cambodian navy conducts regular patrols near the OCA and would be immediately aware of any Thai incursions.
Chum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, could not be reached for comment on Sunday, and Jean-Pierre Labbe, general manager of Total EP Cambodge, said he was out of the country and did not wish to comment over the phone.
Govt denies patrols in disputed waters
Friday, 21 August 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng .
DEFENCE officials have denied Thai media reports that Cambodian patrols have entered disputed maritime areas near Thailand's Koh Kut island.
The reports came less than one week after marines and warships from the Thai navy's 1st Fleet were deployed close to disputed areas.
Neang Phat, a secretary of state at the Defence Ministry, said he had not received any reports from his subordinates about a Cambodian move into the areas.
"We had a meeting today and nobody reported anything about the issue, [so] I will wait and see," he said Thursday.
In Sokhemara, chief of the Preah Sihanouk provincial coast guard station, said his men conducted regular patrols in Cambodian waters but had never entered the 27,000-square-kilometre so-called overlapping claims area.
"We have never conducted a patrol entering a disputed maritime area," he said. "We patrol within our zone, and the Thais patrol in their zone, and both sides respect one another," Sokhemara said.
"I am a monitor of naval patrols, and if something was going on I would know about it.
We have never conducted a patrol entering a disputed maritime area.
The Bangkok Post reported Thursday that the Thai Ministry of Defence was planning to register a complaint through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs about a Cambodian patrol that had entered disputed waters near Koh Kut in Trat province.
According to the report, the patrol would have constituted a breach of an agreement on the disputed area that requires the two countries to inform each other about upcoming patrols and for patrols to be jointly conducted.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he had not received a diplomatic note from Thailand about the matter.
"If they do make an allegation, we will examine and investigate their claims," he said.
Following Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to France in July, officials announced an agreement offering the French petrochemical giant Total the exploration rights to a 2,430-square-kilometre block in the disputed waters.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong told reporters that the agreement with Total would not affect Thailand.
But the deal prompted complaints from the People's Assembly of Thailand, a nationalist advocacy group that argued that the Total agreement was in violation of Thai sovereignty.