Cambodia Awards Total Oil Search Rights in Gulf of Thailand

PHNOM PENH (AFP), Jul. 20, 2009

Cambodia has granted French company Total S.A. oil exploration rights in one of its offshore blocks in the Gulf of Thailand, a senior government official said Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told French leaders of the decision to allow Total to drill "block III" during a visit to Paris earlier this month, said Prak Sokhon, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers.

"The government decided to grant Total the rights after lengthy consideration of requests from four big companies," Prak Sokhon said after he accompanied the Cambodian premier to the French capital.

He said Prime Minister Francois Fillon had thanked his Cambodian counterpart for the award.

Cambodia expects to begin oil production in 2011, a senior energy official has said.

Oil was discovered in 2005 by U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp., the most active of several firms exploring in six blocks off the country's coast.

But Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that it was "highly premature" to estimate how much oil Cambodia might hold in undersea reserves.

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