Maritime boundary delimitation in the Gulf of Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand, bordered by Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, encapsulates many of the challenges facing coastal states seeking to resolve questions of jurisdiction worldwide. Among the key considerations for maritime boundary delimitation in the Gulf of Thailand are the fact that the Gulf is a relatively confined semi-enclosed sea. This necessitates maritime boundary delimitation betweenneighbouring states. A major constraint is also posed by the Gulf's complex coastalgeography, including the presence of numerous islands, large and small. The existenceof competing sovereignty claims to islands, has also complicated the development ofclaims and retarded attempts to resolve maritime boundary delimitation disputes.The problems posed by the existing national jurisdictional claims are also significant. There are multiple unresolved maritime boundary delimitations, lengthy straight baseline claims, maximalist unilateral maritime claims resulting in extensive areas of overlapping claims, and a number of undefined jurisdictional claims as well as claims based on alleged historic rights. Additionally, there exist a number of maritime boundary agreements, aspects of all of which are subject to interpretation, and several joint development or interim joint arrangements, which serve to defer delimitation and are themselves potentially open to question. These factors have to be set against the complexities of the coastal states' political and economic characteristics together withthe opportunities and challenges associated with the Gulf of Thailand itself. This study examines critically the development of the Gulf of Thailand coastal states' maritime claims and existing maritime boundary agreements with a view to exploring the challenges associated with resolving the remaining undelimited boundary situations. Its key aims can be summarised as follows: • to examine the interplay between between the disciplines of law and geography in the application of the law of the sea to the geographical realities of the Gulf of Thailand; • to analyse the baseline claims of the littoral states; • to review and evaluate unilateral national claims to maritime jurisdiction;• to provide an overview and analysis of existing maritime boundary agreements within the Gulf of Thailand; • to analyse unsettled boundary delimitations and disputes;• to offer prospects for the future including the options for maritime boundarydispute resolution in the Gulf of Thailand. Despite the obstacles to maritime boundary delimitation in the Gulf of Thailand outlined in this study, there are signs of progress and prospects for the future, particularly in the wake of the geopolitical transformation of the region in the 1990s, must be considered to be good.