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Cablegate: Ambassador to Dpm Sar Kheng: Can Successful

VZCZCXYZ2719
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPF #0229/01 0651149
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051149Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY0000
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L PHNOM PENH 000229

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR D, EAP, EAP/MLS, G/TIP, AND DRL
BANGKOK FOR MICHAEL HEATH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KWMN CACS CB
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR TO DPM SAR KHENG: CAN SUCCESSFUL
APPROACH ON TIP EXTEND TO LAND DISPUTES?

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 207 - 2008 TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
REPORT FOR CAMBODIA
B. PHNOM PENH 179 - CAMBODIAN ANTI-TIP LAW PASSED
AND PROMULGATED
C. 07 PHNOM PENH 1026
D. 07 PHNOM PENH 961

Classified By: Political Officer Janet Deutsch for reasons 1.4 (b, d)

1. (SBU) Summary: On March 3, the Ambassador praised
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar
Kheng and the RGC for a strong commitment to combating
trafficking in persons over the past year. The Ambassador
noted the many achievements the Cambodian government has made
including passage of a comprehensive anti-TIP law; the
establishment of the National Task Force to combat TIP; and
the removal of Appeals Court Judge Ly Vouch Leng based on
suspicions of corruption in connection with a trafficking
case. The Ambassador recommended that the RGC consider
extending the transparent approach taken in tackling TIP to
Cambodia's challenging issues regarding land disputes and
evictions. American citizens are being drawn into land
disputes, and in the past month alone, two land dispute cases
involving Amcits have been reported to the Embassy. Land
disputes have the potential to be destabilizing, and could
have a chilling effect on investment. The Ambassador's
message that the Cambodian government should be more
transparent in dealing with land disputes and evictions was
openly received by the Deputy Prime Minister. End summary.

Ambassador Commends Sar Kheng on TIP
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Ambassador thanked the DPM for his personal
commitment to the issue of trafficking, which has been a
driving force behind the many successes achieved over the
past year. Specifically, the Ambassador commended passage of
the comprehensive anti-TIP law (Ref B); the establishment of
the National Task Force to combat TIP (Ref C); and the
removal of Appeals Court Judge Ly Vouch Leng based on
suspicions of corruption in connection with a trafficking
case (Ref D). The Ambassador thanked Sar Kheng for his
ministry's efforts to transparently provide information and
statistics to the U.S. The National Task Force has also
openly and cooperatively offered TIP information to the
embassy, and has provided periodic TIP activity reports. The
DPM plays a leading role in Cambodia's activities to combat
TIP, serving as chair of the government's "High Level Working
Group" or "Leading Task Force," which leads the country's
anti-TIP efforts and functions as an oversight mechanism to
the National Task Force. During the meeting, the Ambassador
informed Sar Kheng that the embassy submitted to G/TIP a
recommendation that the Cambodian anti-TIP National Task
Force be considered a best practice for the 2008 TIP Report.
DPM Sar Kheng received the news with apparent delight. The
DPM stated that Cambodia's TIP progress is made possible by
the "cooperative efforts" of the United States and Cambodia.

Thai PM Visit -- A Chance to Coordinate on TIP
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) Exemplifying the Cambodian government's proactive
anti-TIP efforts, DPM Sar Kheng updated the Ambassador on RGC
conversations regarding TIP with newly-elected Thai Prime
Minister Samak Sundaravej during the Thai PM's March 3-4
visit to Cambodia. Sar Kheng stated that the Thai PM and the
RGC discussed the possibility of setting up a "joint
mechanism" between Cambodia and Thailand for formal
discussions on TIP issues. (NOTE: The governments of
Cambodia and Thailand signed an anti-TIP cooperation MOU in
2003 calling on both governments to cooperate in
investigations on domestic and cross-border trafficking, to
repatriate TIP victims through diplomatic channels, and to
promote bilateral cooperation in judicial procedures against
trafficking. END NOTE.) Specifically, the DPM stated that
the RGC would like to continue the dialogue with Thailand
during future meetings about joint anti-TIP activities, and
also to look at how economic development of the border
provinces could help prevent trafficking. The DPM did not
provide details on activities but stated that they have had
"good cooperative efforts fighting TIP" with Thailand.

Ambassador Requests TIP-Like Transparency on Land Issues
--------------------------------------------- -----------

4. (SBU) Turning to the sensitive issue of land disputes and
evictions, the Ambassador expressed his hope that the
Cambodian government would approach this sensitive area with

the same transparency it has TIP. The Ambassador noted that
the embassy continues to receive unsettling complaints on
land cases, several of which have come to us from American
citizens who are caught up in disputes. (NOTE: Embassy will
report on these cases septel. END NOTE.) As Americans and
other international business people are drawn into land
disputes, it could have a chilling effect on investment. The
Ambassador also expressed concern that land disputes and
evictions could negatively impact Cambodia's stability. The
DPM responded that he agreed in principle that forced
evictions should not take place "at all" and especially not
without compensation. He stated that sometimes evictions
cannot be avoided and that the government has instructions
for how people are to be moved off land, and has government
authorities designated to deal with the issue. However, Sar
Kheng confided, the authorities on these issues "have not
always conducted resolutions properly."

5. (SBU) Sar Kheng made reference to two recent Phnom Penh
land dispute cases in areas known as "Dey Krahorm" and
"Russei Keo." In the case of Dey Krahorm, the DPM told the
Ambassador that this was a case where local authorities were
about to evict community members but he ordered the
authorities not to proceed with the eviction. On last
month's Russei Keo eviction, the DPM stated that he has not
yet received a report from his staff on the incident and what
to do about it. He stated that he accepts the Ambassador's
request for transparency and he will forward this request to
the government.

Comment
-------

6. (C) DPM Sar Kheng continues to be a vital ally on TIP and
he deserves our praise for the strides the RGC has made over
the past several months. Regarding land disputes and
evictions, the Minister of Interior does not necessarily hold
the power to resolve disputes. However, we believe the
Ambassador's request provides Sar Kheng with a hook to raise
the issue with the PM and other DPMs, such as Sok An. The
all-of-government approach and strong senior leadership which
have helped the government address TIP could be a useful
model for dealing with the complex and troubling range of
issues relating to land.
MUSSOMELI

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