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Cablegate: Thai Mfa Field Trip Seeks to Explain Preah Vihear

VZCZCXRO0694
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #1027/01 0930135
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020135Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2508
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0863
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 5033

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001027

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

PARIS PASS TO USMISSION UNESCO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNESCO SCUL TH CB
SUBJECT: THAI MFA FIELD TRIP SEEKS TO EXPLAIN PREAH VIHEAR

REF A: BANGKOK 871
REF B: PARIS 570

BANGKOK 00001027 001.2 OF 002


1.(SBU) Summary. The Thai say they support Cambodia's application
for World Heritage designation of the Preah Vihear temple but feel
that the Thai perspective has not been adequately considered. After
the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok objected, the Thai MFA decided to
cancel a trip it had arranged for third country diplomats to visit
the temple and instead only take the group to the adjacent Khao Phra
Wihan National Park area in Thailand to present their side of the
story. End Summary.

2. (U) At the invitation of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
econoff went on a field trip with a group of foreign diplomats to
Sisaket Province March 20-21. After disembarking at a point where
the temple could be seen at a distance, Touchayoot Pakdi, Director
of the Boundary Division, Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs,
Thai MFA, briefed field trip participants on the history of the
boundary dispute and the current status from the Thai perspective.
An archeologist showed field trip participants the quarry where the
Thai say the stone for the temple came from and the ancient dam that
was built to create a small reservoir, Sra Trao, to supply water for
the temple. The proposition that the reservoir is man-made is
central to the Thai view that the World Heritage inscription must
include Thai territory that was historically part of the temple
complex. The Thai also argue that Cambodia and Thailand must
jointly manage the area adjacent to the temple unless and until
there is a final demarcation resolving overlapping claims.

3. (SBU) According to Thai officials, the Cambodians have moved a
goods market, which caters to tourists, from Cambodian territory on
the temple grounds to disputed territory outside the base of the
staircase entrance. The Cambodians running the market, the Thai
say, are careless in their waste disposal and are polluting Sra
Trao, adding to the tensions in the area.

4. (SBU) Prior to the trip, the Embassy of Cambodia in Bangkok sent
the following diplomatic note to the embassies of each country that
had been invited, protesting the planned visit.

Begin text of diplomatic note:

The Royal Government of Cambodia considers this kind of field trip,
officially organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand,
without asking for prior authorization of the Royal Government of
Cambodia constitutes a voluntary violation of the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia. In this
connection, the Royal Embassy of Cambodia kindly asks the esteemed
Embassies not to join the said trip in order to avoid problems which
could eventually occur on the ground.

End text of diplomatic note.

5. (SBU) After receiving this note, post contacted the Thai MFA and
learned that they decided not to take field trip participants to the
actual temple or into any disputed territory, but only to the
adjacent Khao Phra Wihan National Park. From Sra Trao on the edge
of disputed territory, the delegation was able to see the temple
plateau through binoculars. A Cambodian helicopter perched near the
temple and Thai soldiers were stationed along the trail.

6. (SBU) Econoff received conflicting reports about the degree of
Cambodian upset and the reasons for the helicopter. One Thai
official told econoff that the helicopter was there not as a threat
but to bring the governor of Preah Vihear province and a few other
Cambodian notables to greet the delegation. According to him, Thai
Prime Minister Samak mentioned the upcoming field trip to the
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister during a recent official visit to
Cambodia, who in turn told Samak he would make sure a party was
there to greet the delegation. This Thai official told econoff that
when it became apparent that the delegation was not going to enter
the temple, the Cambodians waiting on the temple plateau were upset
at the no-show. He also said that it seemed that the Cambodian MFA
and Deputy PM's office were not on the same page on this issue,
given the protests the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok had made.
Another Thai official told econoff that the helicopter was there to
back up the words in the Cambodian diplomatic note and was not there
to welcome the delegation.

7. (SBU) Econoff asked the Thai MFA's lead border demarcation
official whether the Preah Vihear dispute is more difficult to
resolve than a separate conflict over competing maritime boundary
claims. The official responded that Preah Vihear is definitely the
more difficult of the two, because the revenue at stake in potential
oil and gas concessions offshore provides more incentive for the
parties to come to resolution on the maritime dispute. With Preah
Vihear, the financial stakes are lower, but cultural sensitivities
much higher.

BANGKOK 00001027 002.2 OF 002

John

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