Proposed Petroleum Authority Could Be Chaired by Sok An

Minister of the Council of Min­isters Sok An has been pegged as chairman of a proposed petroleum authority.

The plan to appoint Sok An is pending approval by Prime Min­ister Hun Sen, said Council of Min­isters economic adviser Te Doung Tara, adding a decision should be announced soon.

Aides to Hun Sen could not be reached for comment Monday.

A national oil and gas authority to manage and regulate the country’s nascent petroleum industry has been under consideration for some time, but little progress has been made.

Outgoing Industry, Mines and Energy Minister Pou Sothirak said Monday he did not know the status of the authority or any plan to make Sok An its chief.

Sok An, a CPP standing committee member, approved several important contracts during the past year, including Con­ditional Petroleum Agreements with five foreign oil companies to explore in the Overlapping Claims Area, a disputed zone in the Gulf of Thailand.

Pou Sothirak suggested that such a body should not be headed by a politician but a technocrat who is “capable, honest and ac­quainted with the sector” because the authority would deal with the industry’s commercial side.

Pou Sothirak also said the government should first pass a law creating the body and spelling out its functions, in order to keep it neutral and independent.

The deputy director for the ministry’s petroleum department, Men Den, said Monday he was also unaware of Sok An’s im­pend­ing appointment.

But Men Den said it is not critical to put such a body in place immediately because there is no gas or oil production ongoing in Cam­bodia, only exploration.

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