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Cablegate: Shooting Incident Near Preah Vihear

VZCZCXRO7885
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0813 2771212
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 031212Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9955
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0130
RHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L PHNOM PENH 000813

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D, P, EAP/MLS, DS/IP, DS/IP/EAP, DS/TIA/PII
STATE ALSO FOR CA/OCS, INR/GGI- R. MILEFSKY
BANGKOK FOR POL - D. GREENBERG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/03/2018
TAGS: PREL ASEC KTIA MOPS TH CB
SUBJECT: SHOOTING INCIDENT NEAR PREAH VIHEAR

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, A.I. PIPER CAMPBELL.

1. (C) SUMMARY: A Royal Cambodian Government (RGC)
official who leads border negotiations with Thailand reported
a "clash between the two sides" the afternoon of October 3 in
disputed territory near the Preah Vihear temple resulting in
the wounding of one Cambodian soldier. The source called the
report from the Ministry of Defense preliminary and details
remain sketchy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expected
to lodge a formal protest with the Thai embassy. It is too
early to tell how the government will treat the incident in
the local press; past less-violent altercations at Preah
Vihear have been kept quiet or been downplayed although
Thai-Cambodian issues have, in the past, inflamed public
opinion and led to riots. No new bilateral border talks have
been scheduled, although officials have been telling the
local press that Prime Minister Hun Sen will raise the border
issue during the October 13 visit by Thai Prime Minister
Somchai Wongsawat. Charge will continue to urge restraint by
the government in response to this latest incident. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Details of the incident have already surfaced in
the international press. Phay Siphan, Secretary of State in
the Council of Ministers, confirmed to us that the Thai fired
upon the Cambodian soldiers with M-79 rockets and M-16
rifles. The Cambodians responded with B-40 rockets and AK-47
machine guns. The firefight lasted about five minutes, he
told us. Phay Siphan said the Thai unit was comprised of
about 30 soldiers, the Cambodian unit about 17.

3. (C) Var Kim Hong (strictly protect), Senior Minister and
Chairman of the RGC Joint Border Commission, reported the
clash to A/DCM late October 3 noting that the information was
preliminary. He said that at about 3:00 p.m. a Cambodian
mobile patrol walking along Phnom Trap (Trap Mountain) west
of the Preah Vihear temple complex entered an area previously
called "prohibited" by the Thai. The Thai soldiers spotted
the Cambodian unit and "opened fire on the Cambodian
soldiers," he said. In a follow-up call, Var Kim Hong
confirmed that one Cambodian solider was shot and wounded and
that the Cambodian unit had responded by firing a B40 rocket
at the Thai. He stated that the area in which the dispute
occurred is claimed by both sides on their respective maps.
The source did not have details and was quick to call the
report "preliminary."

4. (C) Var Kim Hong noted that the matter was being handled
by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that the MFA planned
to file a formal note of protest with the Thai embassy in
Phnom Penh. Phay Siphan added that MFA Secretary of State
Long Visalo was handling the matter. In the meantime, DPM
Sok An was seeking to keep the RGC response muted and police
were boosting security in order to keep in check any
potential public over-reaction, said Phay Siphan.

5. (C) Charge is seeking out MFA interlocutors over the
weekend to inquire about the RGC response and to urge
continued restraint.

6. (C) Var Kim Hong passed the news of the incident after
noting to A/DCM that the Cambodian side had not yet confirmed
any of the additional bilateral talks which had been
discussed in August between the Thai and Cambodian Foreign
Ministers. These include further talks at the Foreign
Minister level, talks between military negotiators to discuss
modalities to "re-deploy" troops away from the disputed
border territory, and the convening of the Joint Border
Commissions from the two sides to continue technical talks on
the border.

7. (C) COMMENT: In the recent past, the RGC has played
down altercations along the border and has managed public
press coverage so as not to stir up public opinion. We
don,t know if recent displays of impatience with the
on-again-off-again bilateral talks have changed that general
low-key posture. END COMMENT.)
CAMPBELL

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