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Cablegate: A/S Lowenkron Discusses Burma, North Korea And

VZCZCXRO5574
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #1908/01 2931132
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201132Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7489
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1543
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2183

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PHNOM PENH 001908

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS, DRL AND EAP/RSP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL CB
SUBJECT: A/S LOWENKRON DISCUSSES BURMA, NORTH KOREA AND
CAMBODIA'S DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS WITH PM HUN SEN AND MFA HOR
NAMHONG

Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Margaret B. McKean; Reason: 1.4 (b) and
(d)

1. (SBU) Summary. DRL A/S Barry Lowenkron met separately
with Cambodian PM Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong
during an October 14-17 visit to Cambodia. The PM reassured
the USG of Cambodia's decision to back Guatemala for the
rotational Latin American UNSC seat. Lowenkron thanked Hun
Sen for his support on Burma; the PM disparaged recent North
Korean nuclear activities. Cambodia's positive democratic
developments were highlighted in both meetings, but A/S
Lowenkron underscored USG concerns over corruption, land
disputes, and restrictions on civil society. In a separate
meeting, the FM complained about the UNOHCHR Cambodia office
and sharply criticized UN Special Representative Yash Ghai.
Lowenkron warned that wealth from raw materials and
corruption are a dangerous mix and urged the RGC to plan
wisely for its future use of oil/gas reserves. End Summary.

2. (U) Participants: A/S Lowenkron was accompanied by the
Ambassador, DCM, DRL staff member Michael Orona, POL/ECON
officer (notetaker) and LES (interpreter). The PM was
accompanied by DPM Sok An, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh,
MFA Secretary of State Ouch Borith, Om Yentieng and an
interpreter. At the MFA meeting, the FM was accompanied by
MFA Secretary of State Ouch Borith and Acting Head of the
Americas Department Yous Makana.

Guatemala, Burma and North Korea
--------------------------------

3. (C) During his October 17 meeting with Prime Minister
Hun Sen, A/S Lowenkron thanked the Cambodian government for
supporting the candidacy of Guatemala over Venezuela for the
rotational Latin America seat at the United Nations Security
Council. The Prime Minister noted that President Chavez's
criticism of President Bush at the UNGA had swayed the RGC to
support Guatemala, despite an earlier promise to back
Venezuela.

4. (C) Secretary Rice has been disappointed over ASEAN's
inability to pressure the Burmese junta over the past year,
noted Lowenkron, adding that recent statements by ASEAN
countries have been more encouraging. The PM noted his
concern over the lack of progress towards democracy in Burma,
and highlighted that the Cambodian National Assembly had
recently established a legislative caucus on Burma.
Lowenkron applauded the National Assembly's initiative, and
considered it a positive development.

5. (C) Hun Sen raised the issue of North Korea,
underscoring strong RGC condemnation of the DPRK's recent
nuclear test. Cambodia had issued a recent statement and
privately warned other ASEAN members during an August meeting
to distrust North Korea's motives, said Hun Sen, who thought
that North Korea had used the Six-Party Talks as a delaying
tactic to advance its nuclear program. The A/S expressed
appreciation for the RGC's principled stance on North Korea.
The PM promised to support UNSC discussions on North Korea
and Burma.

A/S: Cambodia Has Great Potential
---------------------------------

6. (C) Lowenkron explained that the Secretary understands
democracy building does not happen overnight. A country's
overall trajectory and progress towards democracy is more
important. He and the Secretary focus on three areas: a
political process that leads to a free, fair election; the
government's ability to govern openly, fight corruption and
respect its citizens' rights; and the role of a civil
society. In this context, Cambodia presents opportunities
and challenges. The election process for the upcoming
commune elections in April 2007 and general elections in 2008
must be free, open and fair. Lowenkron also underscored USG
dissatisfaction over the slow progress on anti-corruption
legislation and the growing problem of land disputes. He
warned that these problems would erode trust in government
and set back democratic progress. Cambodia has many NGOs and
a robust civil society, and he continued that the RGC's
proposed NGO legislation should not hamstring the very
organizations who can help Cambodia's democratic development.

7. (C) The PM responded that Cambodia is a haven for NGOs.
Sidestepping the issues raised by Lowenkron he said that the
Cambodian government and the Ministry of Interior are working
on a draft version of an NGO law, but NGOs will have an

PHNOM PENH 00001908 002 OF 003


opportunity to provide input. On the land issue, the
government has established a Land Dispute Authority headed by
DPM Sok An that includes the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
Hun Sen has appealed for an end to illegal land grabs but the
government may have to take stricter measures to deter
unscrupulous wealthy developers. Corruption is a core issue
and impediment for Cambodia's development, acknowledged the
PM, who added that the CPP faces a difficult election if this
issue is not properly addressed. Opposition leader Sam
Rainsy has opened discussions with the government to help
solve the corruption problem, and Hun Sen has recently
discussed including SRP members on the national auditing
authority.

8. (C) The A/S underscored President Bush's concern over
corruption and the need for all governments to address the
issue fairly and transparently. The A/S urged the PM to view
the United Nations as a a friend to Cambodia and a partner
that can strengthen the RGC's work in eliminating poverty and
improving the Cambodian people's lives. The PM responded
that Cambodia had welcomed UNTAC, is currently involved in
U.N. operations in Sudan, and will soon send a PKO force to
East Timor.

Meeting with FM Hor Namhong
---------------------------

9. (C) Earlier on October 16, A/S Lowenkron met Foreign
Minister Hor Namhong, who foreshadowed the PM's comments
about North Korea and Burma and characterized both countries
as unpredictable and troublesome for the region. The A/S
added that the situation in Burma is serious and has negative
transnational implications for the ASEAN region. The FM
thanked the USG for assistance in health, education, and
demining, and outlined areas where Cambodia has made positive
democratic progress: a free media environment, a land law,
and a strong political opposition. A/S Lowenkron also
applauded Cambodia's commitment to religious freedom.

10. (C) Despite democratic progress, continued the FM, the
UNSGY's Special Representative for Human Rights Yash Ghai was
pessimistic about the human rights situation in Cambodia.
Cambodia may not be perfect, Hor Namhong allowed, but it has
performed better than other countries in the region. The A/S
responded that no country's record on human rights is
perfect, and Cambodia has tremendous potential. As in the
later meeting with PM Hun Sen, the A/S underscored USG
concerns over land issues, political participation,
corruption and good governance. On elections, the FM said
that the RGC will invite observers from many organizations on
election day. The A/S responded that the period leading up
to the election is equally important in judging the validity
of elections. The FM assured the A/S that Cambodia will pass
a good anti-corruption law but offered no timetable.
Cambodia's future oil and gas revenues will require careful
planning, offered A/S Lowenkron. Officials in other oil-rich
countries seem to believe that development can thrive even
with rampant corruption, but history has shown otherwise, he
warned.

11. (C) The FM raised the issue of three suspected
containers of uranium found near the border with Thailand,
and asked for USG technical assistance to ascertain the
contents of the containers and help dispose of the contents.
The Ambassador responded that the Embassy has conveyed a
request for USG assistance. The FM also conveyed an
invitation for the Secretary to visit Cambodia and stated
that he was sorry to miss A/S Hill in New York City; A/S
Lowenkron promised to convey these messages.

Comment
-------

12. (C) Overall, both meetings were friendly and
underscored the key human rights issues in our bilateral
relationship. A/S Lowenkron delivered a clear message to the
PM regarding the proposed law that NGOs fear will restrict
their activities, describing it as a troubling worldwide
phenomenon. The PM offered no clear timetable for passage of
the draft anti-corruption law or an indication that the donor
community's suggestions would be approved. The latest draft
version suggests that the RGC will provide budgetary support
to the proposed Anti-Corruption Body (ACB) as well as
investigative authority, but will not grant autonomy to the
ACB nor address the issue of asset declaration. End Comment.

13. (U) A/S Lowenkron did not have the opportunity to clear

PHNOM PENH 00001908 003 OF 003


this message before his departure.


MUSSOMELI

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