Thursday, July 14, 2005

Chevron to assess Cambodia oil find

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (Reuters) — US major Chevron Corp. will assess the scope of its offshore Cambodia oil find early next year, raising hopes for the country’s first production by 2008, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

Chevron will drill six appraisal wells and four more exploration ones in early 2006 after discovering oil or gas in five of the six wells it drilled in Cambodia’s Gulf of Thailand over the last two years, said Ho Vechit, vice-chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority.

"If the findings are positive, oil production may commence as early as 2008," he told an industry conference.

The joint-venture exploring Cambodia’s Block A announced earlier this year it had found oil and was studying the economic viability of the find. The block is believed to be the impoverished country’s first significant oil discovery.

The find, called the Khmer Trough, may hold as much as 400 million barrels of crude and 3-5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a Cambodian energy official said last year.

Ho Vechit declined to comment on potential reserves. "We are very hopeful," he said.

An oil and gas find would bring vital revenues for the resource-poor Indochinese nation and should help lower electricity prices by providing a source of indigenous fuel.

Cambodia has also signed a number of new exploration agreements in an effort to join its neighbors, who have been pumping oil and gas from the Gulf of Thailand for years.

Block A, in which Chevron has a 55 percent stake, is the country’s only operating license. Japan’s Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. has a 30 percent share and LG-Caltex Oil Corp. has another 15 percent.

Block B, one of several other offshore areas being offered to foreign firms, is being pursued by US oil firm Unocal Corp. , Singapore Petroleum Co. Ltd. (SPC), Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production PCL (PTTEP), and others, a second Cambodian official said.

Global oil major Chevron and China’s largest offshore oil producer, CNOOC Ltd. is competing to acquire Unocal, whose oil and gas assets are mainly in Asia.

Ho Vechit said the government was committed to finally resolving a long-standing sea-border dispute with Thailand over potentially oil-rich waters in the Gulf of Thailand, although he saw little chance of it happening this year.

"We are now looking at the technical aspects," he told Reuters, but declined to give a target for when talks might be finalised.

Cambodia and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on resolving the overlapping claims area in 2001, but have yet to clear the way in a deal that envisages both a joint-development area and demarcated national boundaries.

Cambodia had earlier awarded exploration rights for the area to ConocoPhillips , Australia’s BHP Billiton and major Royal Dutch/Shell .

The disputed area may contain as much as 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent, a ConocoPhillips official said last year.

Thailand-Cambodia agree on agricultural cooperation

BANGKOK, July 14 (TNA) - The Thai and Cambodian governments have agreed on agricultural cooperation.

The agreed cooperation was confirmed in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Thai Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan and Cambodian Deputy Agriculture, Forest and Fishery Minister Chan Tong Yves in Bangkok this week.

Under the MOU, Thailand would assist Cambodia in four major agricultural projects, including the development of production systems of local crops, the study of environmental impacts of fresh water fisheries, the provision of training programmes on processed fishery products and the contract farming, Sudarat told TNA.

"The Thai government will increase joint investment projects with Phnom Penh on the contract farming in which some Thai economic crops will be grown in Cambodia", she disclosed.

The Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives would also host a meeting of a joint Thai-Cambodian task force on agriculture in Bangkok from 18-21 July to discuss issues on the bilateral cooperation in the agricultural sector, she said.

Thailand has also signed in the Pakan Declaration under the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Strategy (ACMECS) among members of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS).

The Pakan Declaration states that Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand will cooperate in the contract farming, according to the minister.

Cambodian gov't warns drought may affect 3 mil. people

(Kyodo) _ The Cambodian government warned Thursday that if drought conditions continue in the country until early August, as many as 3 million Cambodians, mostly farmers, stand to be affected.

"If the rain does not fall by early August, the drought will impact the livelihoods of up to 2 to 3 million people," said Nhim Vanda, deputy chairman of the government's National Committee for Disaster Management.

Last year, 14 out of 24 provinces and cities nationwide experienced drought, causing food shortages particularly in remote areas, he said.

He said that, as of Thursday, his committee, the Cambodian Red Cross and the World Food Program had already supplied emergency food supplies to some 490,000 people.

The shortage of rainfall is due to global climate change, not only in Cambodia, Nhim Vanda said.

In 2000-2001, Cambodia was hit by floods and droughts that claimed the lives of 400 people, 70 percent of them children, and caused up to $200 million in damage.

Some 80 percent of the country's 13 million people are farmers who rely heavily on rainfall due to a lack of irrigation networks throughout the country.

Cambodia's rainy season lasts from May to October, and its dry season from November to April.

E. Timor to become member of ASEAN Regional Forum

(Kyodo) _ East Timor will become a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a regional security forum, later this month, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Nelson Santos, secretary general of the ministry, said East Timor would take up a seat as the 25th member of the ARF when Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta attends the annual ARF meeting in the Lao capital Vientiane on July 26.

Since East Timor gained independence in 2002, the ASEAN Standing Committee has invited East Timor to the opening and closing ceremonies of the annual ARF meeting, Asia's largest security forum.

Santos expressed gratitude to countries, particularly its neighbor Indonesia, that spearheaded East Timor's campaign to join the ARF and also to other ASEAN countries that supported East Timor's bid to become an ARF member.

"It is very important because geographically East Timor is part of ASEAN, which implies that all other ASEAN countries now accept East Timor as part of the region. Also, it's important for us to gain our goal one day of becoming a member of ASEAN," he said.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The ARF members include the 10 ASEAN members plus Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

Cambodia urges Asia to unite to reduce impact of high oil prices

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged a gathering of Asian energy ministers to take measures to reduce the impact of high oil prices.

Ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and partners China, Japan and South Korea are attending the meeting in Cambodia's second city Siem Reap.

Hun Sen says the meeting coincides with a regional focus on energy security.

He says countries in Asia have to join together to create and explore resources and energy supplies in the region and also to ensure efficient energy use.

He has asked ministers from ASEAN and its three dialogue partners to explore ways of creating oil stockpiles.

Oil prices reached a record high of more than $US62 a barrel last week.

HM the King Father wishes to keep birthplace as museum

PHNOM PENH, July 14 (Xinhuanet) -- Cambodian retired King Norodom Sihanouk expressed his wish to keep his birthplace as a museum, local newspaper The Cambodia Daily reported on Thursday.

Sihanouk said that he loaned the property to former leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Il Sung as a token of his friendship and support.

"I offered His Excellency Marshall Kim Il Sung of DPRK, who supported me in everything and who I regarded as a sibling, the royal house 'Tak Sin Pi Rom' as the Embassy of DPRK," the former King said in his message posted on his website on Tuesday.

He said the property, located near the Independence Monument, originally belonged to former King Sisowath Monivong, who gave it to the retired King's mother, Queen Sisowath Kosamak.

Sihanouk, 82, said he loaned the property to DPRK for 20-year period, and that in about eight to nine years the property would again belong to his family.

"When the 20 years end, I publicly declare that I offer the royal house to the state, the nation and Cambodian citizens as affiliated with the National Museum," the retired King wrote.

Norodom Sihanouk also called on the government never to sell ordismantle his birthplace.

"Please, government, do not dismantle or sell it," he wrote. "Please keep it as state property and repair, preserve it...both the building and the walls in their original form forever."

The will was approved by King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Norodom Monineath. Several officials from the Royal Palace signed as witnesses. -Enditem-

Jetstar Asia to Fly to Cambodia

Jetstar Asia is looking to secure rights to operate from Singapore to Calcutta in India and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

Despite the collapse earlier this week of merger talks with Valuair, the Qantas-backed Jetstar Asia is expanding its fleet, with plans to add a fifth Airbus A320 by the end of 2005.

Meanwhile, another Singapore-based low-cost carrier, Tiger Airways, backed by Singapore Airlines, is awaiting the go-ahead from the Cambodian government to launch services to the destination.