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Cablegate: In Farewell to Ambassador, Sam Rainsy Highlights

VZCZCXRO8730
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0705/01 2391137
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261137Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0079
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2326
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0641
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0105
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 0112
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2308

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PHNOM PENH 000705

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, P, D
BRUSSELS FOR USEU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/22/2018
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL PHUM CB
SUBJECT: IN FAREWELL TO AMBASSADOR, SAM RAINSY HIGHLIGHTS
QUEST FOR "AUTHENTIC" DEMOCRACY

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 694
B. PHNOM PENH 601

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES A.I. PIPER CAMPBELL FOR REASONS 1.4 (B
, D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: An animated Sam Rainsy bade farewell to the
Ambassador in a recent lunch during which Rainsy continued
his single-minded crusade to taint CPP's election victory.
The Ambassador praised the work of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)
which had taken the high road in the election and had gained
further strength with two additional seats in the National
Assembly. While noting that the Embassy takes seriously the
election rigging charges being raised by SRP, the Ambassador
cautioned that he would need to see how the numbers add up to
meet claims of "massive election fraud." (NOTE: The
evidence presented to date shows some local fraud, but
nothing like fraud on the scale claimed and apparently not
enough to change a single provincial outcome. END NOTE.)
Rainsy thanked the Ambassador for a statement that called on
all five parties in the new National Assembly to have a
meaningful role, including on committees. Rainsy claimed
Human Rights Party leader Khem Sokha was solidly in the fold
as a coalition partner.

2. (C) Citing the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, Rainsy said
he has the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's
Diplomatic Advisor Jean-David Levitte to press the
international community to remember the agreement's call for
"authentic and periodic elections." With only modest success
at home, we expect Rainsy to take his "election rigging" case
on the road to Europe, the UN and Washington D.C. In the
meantime, the party Secretary General has stepped down, and
MPs-elect are tentative about their future as Rainsy (almost
alone) threatens an SRP boycott of the National Assembly
opening session. Whether a compromise with CPP on SRP's role
in the National Assembly can be worked out or whether the
threatened boycott will be turned into a charge SRP has
"abandoned" its NA seats are questions that boil down to the
mind-sets of two political personalities -- Hun Sen and Sam
Rainsy. Mediation between the two is desirable but may not
be possible in the immediate future. END SUMMARY.

Long Talk on Election
---------------------

3. (C) Rainsy spent most of the 90-minute discussion on
August 11 laying out his complaint of "massive" election
fraud on a national scale, but without presenting significant
evidence. The Ambassador promised to send Pol-Ec Chief to
monitor the National Election Committee (NEC) hearing on
SRP's six complaints. (NOTE: In the August 13 hearings, we
learned that the six cases involved about 5 individual
examples of mis-issuance of the 1018 identity forms to
otherwise legitimate, listed voters, and the testimony of one
village chief that he wanted to issue more. Four of the
cases were in Kampong Cham, the most populous province. END
NOTE.) When asked about the numbers, Rainsy acknowledged
this was a legitimate question but noted he had shown about
75 forged 1018 identity forms to the EU and said that we
should check with the EU. He also noted that the UNDP would
send an election assessment team which would evaluate whether
it was "worth continuing" to provide election assistance to
Cambodia. (NOTE: The UNDP indicated the assessment team
would both review the past performance and be forward
looking, and would seek commitments from the RGC to make
further improvements before committing itself to additional
election assistance. END NOTE. )

4. (C) Rainsy focused on two allegations of election fraud
- erasures of up to 800,000 voters from the registration
lists and the use of false 1018 identity forms to allow
unregistered CPP supporters to vote. (NOTE: According to the
NEC, 585,723 names were erased during a publicly announced
period last fall, which was appealable by any voter. END
NOTE.) On the false identities, Rainsy insisted these were
produced on a large scale, in "assembly-line" fashion, citing
one CPP commune office where he has reliable testimony this
occurred on the scale of dozens. He said that the SRP was
issuing a "sensitivity study" to show how the erasure of 50
opposition voters from every polling station and the increase
of 10 CPP voters in each station could skew the results by 12

PHNOM PENH 00000705 002 OF 004


seats in CPP's favor. The Ambassador said that the embassy
was always open to receiving additional evidence, but he
would want to see the actual evidence that indicated fraud on
such a massive scale, to get a sense of the dimension of it
all. (NOTE: As of August 25, SRP claims it has amassed 180
cases of fraudulent identities used nationwide among a voter
base of 8,125,529 registered voters. Embassy understands
that partial evidence regarding over 100 of these cases of
fraudulent ID's was submitted to the Constitutional Council.
END NOTE.)

Authentic Elections
-------------------

5. (C) Noting anecdotal information on one or two cases,
including a male using the 1018 form of a female, Rainsy
claimed again that SRP had enough evidence to show
large-scale irregularities. Citing the 1991 Paris Agreement
on Cambodia, Rainsy said that the current election violated
its call for "authentic and periodic elections." This
violation would force all of the Paris Agreement signatories
to "open their eyes," said Rainsy. In the meantime, if Hun
Sen declared that an SRP boycott was the equivalent of
abandonment of National Assembly seats, it would show that
Hun Sen is violating the law and that Cambodia is a
"dictatorship without rule of law." Rainsy commented that
CPP's trouble was that it was "greedy to an unprecedented"
extent in the election. This was a moment when the
international community was at a crossroads, he noted. In
the meantime, without an opposition, the people who were
disaffected would have no outlet and they would take to the
jungles, he said. When the Ambassador noted Khem Sokha's
absence at an SRP press conference, Rainsy replied that Khem
Sokha went on an HRP radio show the same day to support the
SRP stance. We later learned that friction between HRP's
number two, Keo Remy, and Rainsy was the reason for a pause
in relations but that now Rainsy and Khem Sokha are back
together.

Party in Turmoil
----------------

6. (C) A week after the Ambassador's farewell lunch, SRP
Secretary General Eng Chhay Eang announced to the press that
he was leaving his position so that he could "follow others"
in SRP. The fact that he did not consult with the SRP
leadership before the announcement is being touted as one
more indicator of disarray in the party. Conversations with
two of SRP's most senior parliamentarians and a member of his
cabinet confirm that the party has had only two meetings
since the election -- one of the roughly 70-member Standing
Committee and one of the elected MP's -- in which Rainsy
reportedly did most of the talking. In the first days after
the July 27 election, Rainsy was reportedly so agitated by
the results that he wanted to take to the streets in a
"people power" demonstration. His advisors eventually
convinced Rainsy that he would not attract large crowds, that
the international community was not convinced the elections
were rigged, and that CPP, by contrast, was unified and would
stand up to any such action. Since then, MP Son Chhay told
Pol/Ec Chief Rainsy has been "going left, going right" in
disorganized fashion, with the main goal of "causing trouble
for CPP" but without thinking through the party's next steps.
Rainsy has surrounded himself with a small coterie of
advisors, but mainly is "doing things himself," according to
Son Chhay, who was appointed spokesman after the election but
"chose to say nothing" as the only safe course, so as not to
contradict the unpredictable Rainsy's many public
pronouncements.

Some Seeking a Dialogue with CPP...
-----------------------------------

7. (C) Son Chhay indicated there is general agreement
within SRP that the election climate, while improved over
past elections and certainly less violent, was still "dirty"
and an agreed upon long-term goal in SRP is to use lessons
learned from this election to seek reforms for the next one.
However, Son Chhay indicated there was less agreement in SRP
on what to do over the next month during the formation of the
new government. Finally, on August 25, Rainsy approved
submitting to NA President Heng Samrin a written proposal by

PHNOM PENH 00000705 003 OF 004


Son Chhay for new internal rules in the National Assembly.
The rules would jettison the notion that a party with a
simple majority would control all NA appointments and
apportion NA vice president slots and committee
chairmanships, for example, according to a party's ranking in
the election. The first vice president would be from the
ruling party but second and third vice presidents would come
from the second and third-ranking parties in terms of number
of seats. Son Chhay indicated he wanted SRP Senator Kong
Korm to negotiate the proposed rules changes as part of an
SRP initiative at dialogue with CPP.

...But SRP Inner Circle not Talking
-----------------------------------

8. (C) Mu Sochua, the Secretary General heir apparent at
SRP, told Son Chhay August 25 that, while she supports
talking with CPP, Rainsy has decided to keep the pressure on
the "unacceptable election cheating," to threaten a boycott
of the September 24 inaugural session of the National
Assembly, and to travel to Europe and the U.S. to once again
highlight the story. SRP August 25 unveiled a letter to
Indonesia and France (the Paris Agreement co-chairs) calling
the Cambodian election a "violation" of the Paris Accords.
Son Chhay said he worried that either the boycott would split
SRP (and some would show up at the NA inaugural session) or
that CPP would be so angered by SRP's antics that they would
use the threatened boycott as a pretext for not talking, not
considering proposed NA rules changes, and keeping SRP out of
all NA committees.

Rainsy: "Respect the Opposition"
--------------------------------

9. (C) In the August 11 farewell lunch with the Ambassador,
as Rainsy noted that 25 percent of the SRP MP's are women and
that SRP is gaining a more rural base, the Ambassador closed
by praising SRP for its maturity as a party and applauded the
dedication Rainsy has personally shown to the cause of
democratic reform in Cambodia. Rainsy thanked the Ambassador
for his support, noting that at least four SRP MP's were also
U.S. citizens, and others hailed from France and Australia.
Rainsy again turned to the need for the international
community to more strongly back the Sam Rainsy Party,
pointing to the support of Nicolas Sarkozy's Diplomatic
Advisor Jean-David Levitte, who had personally sent a letter
to Rainsy and who advocated that "Cambodia should be more
democratic." It was important for the international
community to force the Hun Sen government to abide by
democratic principles and to respect the opposition, Rainsy
said in closing.

COMMENT
-------

10. (C) The Ambassador's discussion with Sam Rainsy was
warm and collegial, though Rainsy abruptly changed the
subject when asked about the lost opportunity of a "coalition
bonus" that would have netted some 20 more NA seats to the
combined forces of SRP, HRP, FUNCINPEC and NRP. Given the
reaction of SRP's newspaper these past two weeks -- which is
pinning all of its hopes on the EU and the UN to act as the
agreeable jury while Rainsy appeals to the court of public
opinion on unsupported claims of massive vote rigging --
Rainsy appears to understand that we cannot support him
without the evidence. However, while the Ambassador went
into his final meeting with the understanding that Sam Rainsy
was struggling with his party, it was not apparent then just
how isolated the SRP inner circle has become in the
post-election period or how far apart are SRP's two main
strategies for dealing with the new government.

11. (C) Rainsy clearly still does not consult with his full
party membership. In the meantime, those in the party who
would like to build on the solid base they have, including by
fostering a dialogue with the CPP, are left stranded by a
type of short-term, fire-brand politics that only divides
Cambodians. We assume this latter tactic will probably gain
Rainsy more moral and financial support in the planned trip
abroad, most likely with Tioulong Saumura and HRP leader Khem
Sokha.


PHNOM PENH 00000705 004 OF 004


12. (C) However, Rainsy is testing not just Hun Sen but all
of the CPP factions, which can easily unite around the fact
that CPP took 58 percent of the vote, most by well-resourced,
well-organized work at the grass roots (and not by fraud),
and CPP would feel that it was well within its rights to
translate its electoral mandate into domination of the
National Assembly. Spokesman Khieu Khanarith signaled as
much when he spoke August 24 of the government proposing a
"package" at the first parliamentary session.

13. (C) Son Chhay's conclusion may offer the best next step
forward: Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy may need an outsider to bring
them together. Son Chhay has proposed the king being
mediator as one solution. But at SRP, the drumbeat of
uncompromising "opposition" appears to be the only tune heard
among the inner circle.
CAMPBELL

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