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Cablegate: Cambodia's Reversal On Memorial Stupa

VZCZCXRO3238
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0909 1860316
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 050316Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8671
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L PHNOM PENH 000909

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, D, P, INR, H FOR CINDY CHANG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/05/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA'S REVERSAL ON MEMORIAL STUPA

REF: PHNOM PENH 890

Classified By: Political Officer Janet Deutsch for reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d).

1. (C) Summary. On June 29, the Ambassador confirmed in a
meeting with Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema that Prime
Minister (PM) Hun Sen has given word not to destroy a
memorial stupa commemorating a 1997 grenade attack on a Sam
Rainsy Party rally killing 16 people (reftel). During a June
25 meeting between the Ambassador and Prime Minister Hun Sen,
the PM appeared not to be aware of plans to remove the stupa.
However, the PM quickly agreed that removal of the stupa
would be disrespectful of the dead and hurt Cambodia's
international image, and said he would contact Phnom Penh's
Governor to ensure the stupa stays put. According to the
Governor, Hun Sen called him immediately after the June 25
meeting. End summary.

2. (C) On June 29, the Ambassador confirmed in a meeting
with Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema that Prime Minister Hun
Sen has given orders not to remove a memorial stupa
commemorating a 1997 grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy Party
rally. The 1997 explosion killed 16 people and injured many
more including an Amcit working for IRI. On June 25, PM Hun
Sen agreed that removing the stupa would hurt Cambodia's
international image and be disrespectful of the dead, and
said he would call the Phnom Penh Governor to tell him not to
take away the memorial. Soon after we left Hun Sen's
residence on June 25, the Governor requested a meeting with
the Ambassador.

3. (SBU) In early June, upon hearing that plans to beautify
a park area in front of the National Assembly did not include
the 1997 memorial stupa, the Ambassador asked for a meeting
with the Governor, and wrote letters to him and Minister of
Interior Sar Kheng. The letters spelled out that removing
the stupa would be disrespectful to the dead, would provoke
political opposition, and likely precipitate unrest. There
was no response from the MOI but the Governor responded with
a letter stating the Embassy needed to address the issue with
the Royal Government in order for "us as local authorities"
to take action. It was at this point the Ambassador decided
to bring up the issue with Hun Sen. While the PM quickly
identified the issue as a threat to Cambodia's image and as a
needless provocation of the political opposition, it appears
the decision was made without the PM's consent. Even after
the Ambassador raised the matter with MOI and the Governor,
Hun Sen seems not to have been informed.

4. (C) Comment. The incident serves to show how quickly
action is taken when PM Hun Sen gives orders. However,
contrary to perceptions that Hun Sen has total command of
what goes on in Cambodia, the stupa uproar highlights what
should be obvious but is lost on many interested groups -- he
is not omniscient. Here is a case where someone at a lower
level of government decided to take an action, possibly
deliberately against the Sam Rainsy Party, or even to
undermine the PM himself, that would have affected Hun Sen's
continuing quest for international respectability. We are
left to wonder how uninformed the PM might be on other
sensitive issues. End comment.
MUSSOMELI

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