Chevron Oil announced that it has discovered huge oil deposits off of the southern shore of Cambodia, 6 fields in the Gulf of Thailand, approximately 100 miles from Sihanoukville. Other mineral finds are being exploded onshore, including deposits of bauxite and gold, that could, with the oil, enrich this country.
U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli said: "This will be a watershed event for this country one way or another. I do believe this is Cambodia's last, best chance to take its place in the world and the region."
While I was in Cambodia a few weeks ago, I noted increased economic activity, and it seemed that Cambodia's business and political leaders are preparing for a new economic prosperity, not seen since the French development of Cambodia.
It is time. This nation has suffered poverty, war, mass genocide, and political corruption. It is time for the nation to again achieve the glory of the ancient Khmer Kingdoms, who with organization, irrigation, and astonishing engineering built a powerful and prosperous region.
A rush of foreign oil companies are staking claims in Cambodia, including Chevron of the United States and China, which owns one of the six potential oil fields in the gulf. China, in recent years has been the world's most aggressive bidder for oil, and some believe that China may well be a threat to the stability of global oil markets. This is because of the huge size of China with 1.5 billion people, and the "black hole" of demand for oil to fuel China's growth.
One of the major questions and challenges of Cambodia, is to assure that the development of it's new found oil and mineral resources, actually creates wealth for Cambodia and not foreign nations. Cambodia must find ways to assure that the new wealth is controlled by Cambodia.
Some nations have found their mineral wealth absorbed by foreign nations and benefits flowing to other nations. An example of this is Mongolia, where most of the oil from it's new fields has been acquired by the Chinese, and instead of building refineries, pipelines and roads to refine and enjoy the value added marketability of the petroleum products, Mongolia has allowed the oil to flow into China, where it is refined and then sold on global markets.
Another example was the oil of Venezuela, which for years was dominated by US interests, and largely controlled by an organization intitially set up to achieve goals of powerful interests in the USA. After years of seeing oil funds flowing out of Venezuela, the nation finally reorganized it's oil properties, so that it's people could benefit.
Cambodia would do well to study these two models and learn from them. There is no doubt that Cambodia will need foreign investment and expertise to develop it's wealth, but the intricate and difficult task will be to do so, while retaining the wealth.
This could be a new day for Cambodia, and we wish them well. But advise them to be careful and to control their new potential wealth, in ways that directly improve the lives of Cambodians. Not rich or powerful entities from foreign nations.