The South China Sea dispute has long being discussed. The issues in the SCS is complicated as a number of coastal countries have overlapping territorial claims in this region. Controlling the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea is not only claiming the countries’ territory, but mainly gaining economic benefits of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).Since the discovery of abundant natural resources in the SCS islands by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in mid-twentieth century, territorial claims over SCS islands, especially Spratly islands has increased. China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have sent forces and built infrastructures to show their intention or will to acts as sovereign over islands and sea.
The reasons for these disputes are simple—natural resources. The area holds one of the highest oil and gas deposits in the world. No doubt, any country able to lay their hands on the vast amounts of resources of the sea, are achieving a chance to improve their economy and decrease their reliance on foreign oil. In addition, the place is home to large amounts of valuable fish that could greatly boost the wealth of the country. In fact, according to some reports, around 8% of the world’s fishing industry is said to have come from the South China Sea. The South China Sea is also an important course for cargo boats, and Nations want to make their own canals in the sea to increase their profits. The other benefit is the trade passage. Also with China’s ONE Belt One Road Initiative, it will be a main hub for trade in the Asia. Thailand also sits in a pivotal position for these plans.
SCS is not only crucial for sea-borne trade; it is believed to contain unknown volumes of hydrocarbons. Moreover, SCS is also crucial marine life source for all parties and as such is very important for regional food security.
The prosperity of various countries in the region had depended largely upon the SCS and, to some extents were determined by their capability to use the sea between East and Southeast Asia.
AS a part of ASEAN, Thailand has promoted multilateral talks on disputed areas without settling the issue of sovereignty, and in 2002 joined with China in signing a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea that committed all parties to those territorial disputes to “reaffirm their respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation in and over flight above the South China Sea as provided for by the universally recognized principles of international law” and to “resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force.” ASEAN has attempted to promote a code of conduct for the SCS with China to help manage maritime tensions. The 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties calls on all parties to exercise “self-restraint” and avoid complicating the maritime dispute over the vital trade route. Thailand also attaches great importance to the full and effective implementation of the DOC to foster cooperation in various areas. Thailand supports ASEAN decision whatever it may be.
One common solution may be that we could evenly distribute the maritime borders among the countries which would be the most equal and compromisable way. With regard to non-traditional security threats involving fisheries, environmental degradation and so on, all claimants should join forces to achieve more efficient and sustainable results for the benefit of all parties. What can and should be resolved above all is the establishment of a code of conduct that would prevent any possible escalation and ensure for the management of everyday security issues.
While signing treaties of distributing benefits, different country can contribute different resources such as technology and working force to exploit the resources together and meet the mass profit. Thailand is greatly concerned about the disputes and the rights of every country. Thailand also believes that having joint exploitations on natural resources can enhance the harmony within the region. With the establishment of Joint-development, in which the proportion of participating countries’ share will allocate incomes, both political and economic growth are definitely foreseeable. Having intense commercial shipping, the rights of innocent passage and the freedoms of navigation and over flight in the SCS should be ensured as well. The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Thailand has aspiration of turning the South China Sea into a sea of peace, stability and sustainable development.