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Cablegate: Ambassador Prods Dpm On Tip, Montagnards, Missing

VZCZCXRO3829
PP RUEHHM
DE RUEHPF #0710/01 1431124
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231124Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8462
INFO RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 2277
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 4008
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 0096
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1597

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000710

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PRM, EAP/MLS, G/TIP AND EAP/RSP
BANGKOK FOR REFUGEE COORDINATOR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL CB KWMN
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR PRODS DPM ON TIP, MONTAGNARDS, MISSING
VN DISSIDENT


Classified By: A/DCM Margaret McKean; Reason 1.4 (b) (d)

1. (C) Summary: On May 17, the Ambassador met with Deputy
Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng to discuss
Trafficking in Persons (TIP), Montagnards in Cambodia, and a
missing Vietnamese dissident. The Ambassador stressed the
necessity for Cambodia to upgrade from the Tier 2 Watch List
to Tier 2 through real improvements in the TIP situation,
including increased focus on TIP problem regions outside of
Phnom Penh and a just punishment for the appellate court
judges who released the Chhay Hour II perpetrators. On the
issue of RGC delays in approving UNHCR requests to access
Montagnard groups crossing to Cambodia, the Ambassador urged
the DPM to consider streamlining the process to one of simple
notification by UNHCR to the government. Finally, he
requested the DPM investigate the recent disappearance of
Vietnamese political dissident, Le Tri Tue, from his lodging
in Cambodia. The DPM expressed his support in principle for
each of these initiatives but offered no commitments. End
Summary.

TIP - BEYOND TIER 2 WATCHLIST?
-------------------------------

2. (C) On May 17, the Ambassador met with DPM Sar Kheng on
TIP issues in Cambodia, urging that Cambodia not remain
satisfied with Tier 2 Watchlist status. While lauding past
RGC activity to move off Tier 3, he explained that Cambodia
needs to work harder to attain the Tier 2 level. In
particular, he recommended stronger RGC and police commitment
in areas outside of Phnom Penh, such as Sihanoukville, that
still host troublesome TIP problems. He also pushed for the
appellate court judges who released the Chhay Hour II
perpetrators to be suitably punished beyond a slap on the
wrist for a crime considered such an egregious undermining of
Cambodia's struggling judicial system. The DPM stated his
concurring desire for Cambodia to move from the Tier 2
Watchlist to Tier 2, noting the TIP situation in Cambodia has
improved since its Tier 3 days through the MOI's willingness
to work together on this issue with the USG and the NGO
community. On the Chhay Hour II perpetrators' release by
appellate court judges, the DPM said he discussed the
incident with the Minister of Justice. The DPM was not
forthcoming with details or outcomes of the RGC's internal
discussions but assured the Ambassador he will "continue to
do what needs to be done to reach the desired result."

UNHCR ACCESS TO MONTAGNARDS
---------------------------

3. (C) The Ambassador raised concerns over the sporadic
Montagnard crossings into Cambodia and the RGC delays in
granting UNHCR requests to conduct joint missions to collect
the refugees in northeastern Cambodia and bring them to Phnom
Penh for interview. Under the current procedure, UNHCR is
required to submit to the MFA an official request to
interview groups fleeing Vietnam and that request is then
forwarded to MOI for approval. Lately, the MOI has been
tardier than usual in responding to UNHCR and organizing the
joint missions. (Note: UNHCR tells us that the working
level staff at the MOI are not the problem -- the delays come
from more senior officials. UNHCR surmises that the delay
serves to discourage Montagnard groups from entering Cambodia
as they are forced to hide in the jungles of the Northeast
where they have little food and are exposed to disease and
possible repatriation to Vietnam. End Note.) The Ambassador
explained the delays make Cambodia look bad internationally
-- as if the RGC is not cooperating with UNHCR nor living up
to Cambodia's responsibilities under international refugee
conventions. He proposed a simplified procedure by which
UNHCR notifies the MOI and MFA that it will be traveling to
the border area to retrieve Montagnard groups, while giving
the MOI enough time to inform local authorities of UNHCR
plans. The MOI approval step is thereby removed from the
process. The DPM accepted the proposal in principle for
consideration but made no commitments; he stated his desire
to have better cooperation with UNHCR despite problems
between the RGC and UNHCR in previous years.

APPEAL FOR INVESTIGATION OF MISSING VIETNAMESE DISSIDENT
--------------------------------------------- -----------

4. (SBU) On May 6, Vietnamese trade union leader, Le Tri
Tue, went missing from his temporary place of residence in
Phnom Penh. In April, Le Tri Tue fled Vietnam seeking asylum
in Cambodia, where UNHCR designated him a person of concern.

PHNOM PENH 00000710 002 OF 002


The Ambassador pressed the DPM to investigate the
disappearance, noting the RGC has a commitment to honor UNHCR
letters of concern. The DPM agreed to investigate the
disappearance and, over the weekend, MOI officials were
quoted in the local media acknowledging that they were aware
of the case and looking into the matter.

5. (C) Comment. The DPM told us that he agreed in
principle regarding the three issues put forth during the
meeting but offered no commitments. We believe Sar Kheng is
sincere in wanting Cambodia's overall record on TIP to
improve. The MOI has been a worthwhile partner on TIP and
refugee matters in the past but he may have little
flexibility on these particular issues. On the Chhay Hour II
matter, the Ministry of Interior has no disciplinary role
vis-a-vis the judges who released the suspects - although the
police could launch an investigation to bring possible
criminal charges against the judges depending on what the
Ministry of Justice determines took place. On the
Montagnards, this is a sensitive issue for the RGC because of
Vietnamese interest, and any change in current practice that
might be perceived as more lenient to the Montagnards would
likely require discussion with the GVN. Likewise, the
Cambodian government's consciousness of GVN sensitivities is
likely to impact any RGC reaction to the dissident's
disappearance.

6. (C) Comment Continued. Sar Kheng has typically enjoyed
a very good rapport with the Ambassador, even when the
meetings cover contentious issues. The DPM has also often
hosted the Ambassador for meetings at his residence, located
across the street from the CMR. The May 17 meeting took
place at the Ministry with numerous MOI notetakers and a
strong air of formality. The DPM's demeanor was the most
somber since the Ambassador's arrival, and the DPM did not
appear to be fully engaged throughout the discussion. There
have been rumors over the past two months of increasing
friction within the CPP -- notably between Hun Sen and Sar
Kheng, and it may not be coincidence that the DPM looked as
though he had a great deal on his mind. End Comment.
CAMPBELL

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