Chevron, Mitsui Seek Oil Exploration Rights from Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (AFP via Dow Jones Newswires), Sept. 16, 2009

U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp. and Japan's Mitsui Oil Exploration Company are seeking exploration rights in a maritime area that is disputed between Cambodia and Thailand, a Cambodian official said Wednesday.

Officials from both companies told Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in meetings on Tuesday that they had submitted their applications for bids to the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, a spokesman for the premier said.

"The prime minister welcomes both companies and the government will make a transparent bid and bring benefits to both sides, especially a lot of benefits to the Cambodian people," said spokesman Eang Sophalleth.

Thailand made a similar agreement on exploration rights with the two firms in 2001.

Talks between Cambodia and Thailand over how to divide up the offshore energy resources along their disputed sea border in the Gulf of Thailand opened in 1995 but have since stalled.

Cambodia has been seeking a 50-50 split of the disputed area while Thailand wants a larger share of the fields.

Following the discovery of oil in 2005 by Chevron, Cambodia was quickly feted as the region's next potential petro-state, sitting on an estimated hundreds of millions of barrels of crude, and three times as much natural gas.

But it remains unclear how much can actually be recovered, or whether any potential revenue would be used to benefit Cambodia, ranked among the world's most corrupt countries.  

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