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Cablegate: Ambassador's Farewell Call On Pm Hun Sen:

VZCZCXRO5252
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0694/01 2340436
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 210436Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASH DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 0108
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2302
RHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000694

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR D, P, EAP/FO, AND EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PBTS MARR TH CB
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S FAREWELL CALL ON PM HUN SEN:
IMPROVING SITUATION AT PREAH VIHEAR AND IMPROVING BILATERAL
RELATIONS WITH THE U.S.

REF: PHNOM PENH 679

Classified By: Classified by: Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli for reasons 1
.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. During the Ambassador's farewell call on
Prime Minister Hun Sen August 20, the Prime Minister thanked
the U.S. for its encouragement for a peaceful resolution to
the dispute over Preah Vihear and expressed his appreciation
for the Ambassador's contribution to improved relations
between the two countries. PM Hun Sen confided that although
the results of the Cambodian-Thai bilateral talks earlier
this week still need to be put before the Thai cabinet for
approval, the results "exceeded (his) expectations." The PM
indicated that both sides have agreed to resolve the dispute
through the Joint Border Commission, and in the context of
broader issues. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Recognizing that historically U.S.-Cambodian
relations have been fraught with misunderstandings and
mistrust, PM Hun Sen expressed his appreciation for the
marked improvements over the past three years. He
highlighted the increasingly robust mil-to-mil relationship,
exemplified by recent U.S. ship visits and cooperation on MIA
issues, as well as the presence of Peace Corps volunteers
throughout Cambodia as indicative of the improved level of
trust between the two countries. The Ambassador credited Hun
Sen's leadership and efforts to understand the U.S. as
contributing to building a better working relationship to the
benefit of both countries, while cautioning that 50 years of
difficult relations will require continued attention by both
governments to ensure a fully normal and multifaceted
relationship in the future.

3. (C) The Ambassador applauded Hun Sen for exercising
patience and courage in avoiding armed confrontation over
Preah Vihear. Hun Sen confided that the dispute, arising so
close to the national election, posed a great challenge to
him and he expressed his gratitude for U.S. support for a
peaceful resolution to the conflict. He recalled that
tensions had risen to the point where Thai and Cambodian
soldiers had guns pointed directly at each other. However,
he gave the order for Cambodian troops to stand down, thus
abating tensions and allowing room for a diplomatic solution.
Hun Sen cited the Russian use of force in Georgia to
illustrate the point that Thailand and Cambodia narrowly
escaped a similar fate.

4. (C) Dismissing local media's criticism of the outcome of
the August 18-19 bilateral meeting as narrow-minded
nationalism, Hun Sen stated that FM Hor Namhong briefed him
on the outcome of the talks and that the results "exceeded"
his expectations. He noted that details of what had been
agreed would not be discussed publicly until approval by the
Thai cabinet. Hun Sen emphasized that the border dispute
would be resolved in the context of other areas of
cooperation with Thailand, perhaps referring to the Joint
Border Commission, which local media report will convene in
October to take up the border issue. He also stressed that
FM Hor Namhong's audience with the Thai king sends a positive
message regarding both sides' commitment to cooperate to
resolve the problem peacefully.

5. (C) The Ambassador explained continued U.S. support for
resolution of the dispute. He noted the advantages of a
bilateral approach, warning that, while still an option,
resort to the UNSC could damage relations with Thailand in
the long term. He also expressed his hope that the
statesmanship demonstrated by Hun Sen during this crisis will
be applied as wisely to his dealings with the political
opposition following CPP's victory at the July polls.

6. (C) Reflecting on the progress achieved in U.S.-Cambodian
relations, Hun Sen mused that during the 1960s he engaged in
anti-U.S. protests. The Ambassador replied that ironically
during this same time, he was briefly expelled from school
for organizing protests against the U.S. invasion of
Cambodia. The Ambassador explained that while Cambodia has
changed greatly since then, challenges remain in educating
Washington to modernize perceptions of Cambodia, which are
currently colored by the events of the 1970s. He suggested
that the upcoming Deputy Secretary's visit to Cambodia
presents an opportunity to enhance U.S. understanding of

PHNOM PENH 00000694 002 OF 002


Cambodia in the twenty-first century and to bring the two
countries even closer together.

7. (C) COMMENT: The Prime Minister has demonstrated
increasing maturity, reflected in his government's restrained
responses to a number of challenges over the past months.
Hun Sen's cool-headedness in the face of armed conflict with
an important neighbor is but one example. Another would
appear to be the entrenchment of some modest democratic gains
within the country. While there remains room for significant
further progress, Hun Sen deserves some credit for these
positive developments, as well as progress in the bilateral
relationship.
MUSSOMELI

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