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Cablegate: Cambodia-Thailand Border: Cambodia Withdrawing

VZCZCXRO1506
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0679/01 2280854
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 150854Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0639
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2296
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASH DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 0105
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000679

NOFORN
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/FO, EAP/MLS, P, D,

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2018
TAGS: PREL KTIA TH CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA-THAILAND BORDER: CAMBODIA WITHDRAWING
MOST TROOPS, PREPARING DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS, STILL CONCERNED
ABOUT REMAINING THAI TROOPS

REF: A. STATE 86724
B. JAKARTA 1552
C. BANGKOK 2428
D. PHNOM PENH 664

PHNOM PENH 00000679 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOSEPH A. MUSSOMELI FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador August 15 delivered Ref A
demarche to Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, noting ongoing
concerns about the troop presence in the vicinity of Preah
Vihear temple and the need to continue to exercise restraint.
Saying the U.S. did not support one side over the other, and
noting recent reports of planned troop withdrawals as well as
the scheduled August 18-19 bilateral FornMin talks in
Thailand, the Ambassador emphasized that we support
diplomatic efforts by both sides to resolve the border issues
through bilateral channels, if at all feasible. Hor Namhong
emphasized the need to remove all troops. He complained of a
second Thai incursion that would have to be addressed in the
August 18-19 bilateral talks with Thailand. He did not rule
out UNSC consideration. Ambassador, echoing the Secretary,
noted that UNSC consideration would be premature at this
time, while not ruling it out altogether. Embassy learned
that most troops should be withdrawn by 1600 on August 16.
END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Ambassador August 15 delivered Ref A demarche to
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong,
noting ongoing concerns about the troop presence in the
vicinity of Preah Vihear temple and the need to continue to
exercise restraint. Ambassador noted an identical demarche
was being delivered in Bangkok. Saying the U.S. did not
support one side over the other, and noting recent reports of
planned troop withdrawals as well as the scheduled August
18-19 bilateral FornMin talks in Thailand, the Ambassador
emphasized that we support diplomatic efforts by both sides
to resolve the border issues through bilateral channels, if
at all feasible.

Better to Remove All Troops
---------------------------

3. (C) FM Hor Namhong confirmed that Cambodia and Thailand
had agreed to withdraw all troops in the vicinity of the Keo
Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda (NOTE: sitting below Preah Vihear in
disputed territory), except for ten soldiers each inside that
pagoda's walls and another 20 each in the area around the
pagoda. He agreed that troops facing off against each other
on disputed territory could lead to unexpected consequences:
"With a stand-off like that, we don't know what could
happen," he said. He noted, however, that in a July 28
meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag, they had
decided in principle to remove "all" troops from the area
around Preah Vihear, but conceded that Cambodian Minister of
Defense Secretary of State Gen. Neang Phat had made the
agreement for removal of troops on the ground in meetings
with Thai military counterparts on Aug. 12-13.

4. (C) Remarking on the positive bilateral step to remove
troops, the Ambassador agreed that it would be best if all
troops were withdrawn from the disputed territory, but
emphasized the significance of reaching bilateral agreement.
If the issues could not be resolved at the bilateral level,
then we would support Cambodia working within the ASEAN
context, he said.

A New Problem: Ta Moan Temple
------------------------------

5. (C) Hor Namhong expressed the RGC's desire to reach
bilateral understanding on the Preah Vihear temple area. He
said he would also be forced to raise a "new problem" on the
border at the Prasart Ta Moan area 150 kilometers to the west
of Preah Vihear, where Thai troops had dramatically increased
their presence and entered on new territory in another
overlapping border area. The Thai soldiers also constructed
a fence and other structures on the disputed territory.
Citing an August 14 letter to Thai Foreign Minister Tej
Bunnag, he said the area was clearly within the territory of
Cambodia, and he was now clarifying the situation with his

PHNOM PENH 00000679 002.2 OF 002


Thai counterpart. "Like it or not, we must resolve this
issue," during the August 18-19 talks, he said.

6. (C) Hor Namhong passed a copy of the letter which Post
is transmitting to EAP/MLS. The claim to territory is based
on 1908 minutes of the Commission for the Delimitation of
Frontiers Between Indochina and Siam, referring to the "Route
named Prasart Tamone." Citing good neighborliness and the
ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation the letter requests
that Thailand: (1) remove the fence and new structures; (2)
withdraw Thai troops from the area and pull down a military
camp at the temple; and (3) return the temple complex area to
the status quo ante "before being occupied by the Thai armed
forces."

Diplomatic Commitment; Talk of UN
---------------------------------

7. (C) On the August 18-19 talks in Hua Hin, Hor Namhong
said that he would propose that the Joint Border Commission
(JBC) be tasked with handling border discussions and that
this be supplemented with legal experts' meetings. In the
August 14 letter he also refers to "jurists from both sides"
attempting to find a solution to the problem. Embassy
understands from MOD sources that military leaders from both
sides will participate in the Hua Hin talks to further
elaborate on planned troop withdrawals. Minister of Defense
Tea Bahn and MOD Secretary of State Neang Phat are part of
the Cambodian delegation.

8. (C/NF) Hor Namhong said that negotiations would probably
take "days and days" but that Cambodia was willing to "talk
and talk and talk" to reach a resolution. Turning to the
first bilateral FornMin talks on July 28, Hor Namhong averred
that the prospect of UN Security Council consideration of the
issue had "pushed (Thai PM) Samak into asking for the meeting
between foreign ministers." Ambassador repeated that the
U.S. believes it premature for the UN Security Council to
consider this issue at this time and that resolving the
border dispute bilaterally or with ASEAN would be better for
both sides. A bilateral solution would be one that both
sides could live with for generations to come. Hor Namhong
noted that UNSC consideration could not be entirely ruled
out, but held out great hopes for the border dispute to
proceed on a bilateral track.

Troops Moving on August 16
---------------------------

9. (C) MOD Secretary of State Gen. Neang Phat told A/DATT
August 15 that he had negotiated the troop removals from the
Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda and that Cambodia would soon move
its troops back to their barracks. The draw-down to ten
troops for each side in the temple and 20 on the perimeter
would commence at 1600 hours on August 16. Neang Phat added
the withdrawals were in preparation for the talks the
following Monday. RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief Gen Pol
Saroeun told A/DATT mid-day that there may be some troop
withdrawals from the Ta Moan area, as well.

Comment:
-------

10. (C) We are heartened by indicators of positive progress
made over the past few days, which suggests the two sides are
close to removing most of the troops. The position that all
troops should be removed and that the border area be returned
to the status quo ante before July 15 remains the most
responsible approach to achieving a bilateral diplomatic
solution. However, until all troops are actually
re-deployed, the situation could easily deteriorate to the
tense stand-offs seen just after armed Thai military might
entered onto land long occupied by Cambodia.
MUSSOMELI

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