Saturday, September 17, 2011

Maritime MoU with Cambodia back on agenda

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday that her government would continue its negotiations with Cambodia on maritime issues in accordance with a 2001 memorandum of understanding even though the opposition insists that the pact is flawed.

"We will follow the guidelines set by the 2001 MoU, and the foreign minister will ask the Cabinet to set up a committee to handle the matter soon," Yingluck told reporters.

The prime minister discussed the issue of both sides claiming an overlapping area in the Gulf of Thailand with her Cambodian counterpart when she visited Phnom Penh on Thursday and both agreed to continue negotiations to settle the conflict.

A dispute over whom this overlapping area in the Gulf belongs to has been an issue since the countries signed the MoU in June 2001.

It became controversial when the opposition Democrat Party, backed by its yellow-shirt ally the People's Alliance for Democracy, accused former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of having personal interests related to petroleum-resource concessions in the deal.

The previous government, headed by Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, decided to denounce the MoU after Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an adviser to the Cambodian government in November 2009.

Though Abhisit denounced the MoU, he failed to go one step further to scrap the deal, which means the memorandum is still effective. Abhisit said yesterday that he had been unable to go ahead with the MoU issue because there were too many complicated technicalities.

"We disagreed with the delimitation, but had no time to make changes to the MoU," he said. "Unlike this government, we don't have any hidden interests. But there is some information indicating that Thaksin might have a personal business interest."

He was replying to allegations made by Hun Sen earlier that Abhisit had dispatched his then-deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban to make a behind-the-scenes deal on maritime resources.

Yingluck said she would handle the negotiations openly and transparently, before a committee is set up to complete the job.

The prime minister added that she was not aware of her brother Thaksin visiting the neighbouring country, saying that she had performed her duty as a representative of the Thai government for the benefit of the country and had no personal interests.

Yingluck was also in Laos yesterday as part of a mission to introduce herself to leaders in neighbouring countries after taking office. During the day-long visit, she discussed the energy cooperation deal with her Lao counterpart PM Thongsing Thammavong. Under the deal, Thailand will purchase electricity from Laos in accordance with earlier pacts, the Lao News Agency reported.

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