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Cablegate: Enhancing the U.S.-Cambodia Military Relationship

VZCZCXRO1562
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0730/01 2421021
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291021Z 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 0123
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2316
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000730

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PBTS MASS MARR TH CB
SUBJECT: ENHANCING THE U.S.-CAMBODIA MILITARY RELATIONSHIP

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Following the first ever U.S.-Cambodian
Bilateral Defense Discussions (BDD), the U.S. Pacific Command
(PACOM) team, accompanied by the Charge d'Affaires, called
upon Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense General
Tea Banh to highlight progress achieved in strengthening the
bilateral military relationship. The PACOM team described
plans to expand security assistance programs and cooperation
in a number of areas. Demonstrating Cambodia's commitment to
enhanced mil-to-mil cooperation, Tea Banh announced RGC
support for the installation of a Defense Attach in
Washington, D.C., affirmed Cambodia's commitment to host the
GPOI Capstone exercise in 2010, and committed to work to
enhance cooperation through the State Partnership Program and
upcoming Partner Nation Maritime Needs Assessment. The DPM
also raised Preah Vihear, noting that talks scheduled for
August 29 were postponed due to the unavailability of key
Thai contacts. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) The first ever bilateral defense discussions
illustrate the broadening and deepening of the U.S.-Cambodia
military-to-military relationship. This relationship has
grown significantly over the past few years, with three
recent ship visits and the expansion of security assistance
programs to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF). During
the BDD, the PACOM-RCAF team agreed to regularize the
relationship by making BDDs such as this an annual event.
The DPM designated Colonel Hun Manet of the National Counter
Terrorism Center to serve as the point of contact for
preparations for the next meeting, anticipated for late
spring 2009. The PACOM team highlighted for Tea Banh
expanding U.S.-Cambodia cooperation through security
assistance programs in the areas of maritime security,
counter-terrorism, boarder security, and peacekeeping
operations.

3. (SBU) Perhaps most significant, Tea Banh announced the
intention of the RGC to meet next week to discuss the
possibility of installing a Cambodian Defense Attach (DATT)
in Washington, D.C. (NOTE: While the DPM announced the plans
to meet to discuss this issue, a senior officer from the
Cambodian Foreign Policy and Plans Department separately told
A/DATT that the Cambodians planned to announce their
intention to install a DATT next week. RCAF counterparts were
encouraging on the issue of finally assigning a DATT to D.C.,
however they cautioned about the challenges to achieving this
goal in the near term due to the need to coordinate closely
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of
Finance and Economics, and the fiscal implications of opening
a DATT office in D.C. END NOTE.)

4. (U) The Minister also affirmed Cambodia's commitment to
host the Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative (GPOI)
Capstone exercise and the creation of a dedicated working
group to begin preparations for the 2010 exercise. Tea Banh
expressed his appreciation for the invitation to observe the
upcoming 2009 exercise which will be held in Indonesia. Tea
Banh welcomed PACOM's announcement that the State Partnership
Program will soon be approved and announced the creation of a
working group to better collaborate on the preparations for
Cambodia's participation in this valuable program.

5. (SBU) Tea Banh also explained that the bilateral talks on
the Preah Vihear dispute planned for August 29 in Siem Reap
were unfortunately canceled due to some difficulties for
their Thai counterparts, referring to the recent political
unrest in Thailand. He informed the CDA that had the meeting
gone ahead as planed, he expected both sides to announce a
further withdrawal (or "redeployement") of both countries'
troops. The CDA expressed understanding for the postponement
but noted that further withdrawals would help reduce tensions
in the area.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Throughout the meeting, Tea Banh appeared
more engaged and responsive to the issues raised than he has
in previous encounters, and he attempted to convey a sincere
appreciation for the strengthening military ties between the
two countries. (NOTE: General officers from the International
Relations Department later lamented to A/DATT that the
Minister's attempts to express his deep appreciation for the
expanding relationship were lost in translation. END NOTE.)
The military relationship has expanded significantly since
restrictions were lifted in early 2006. The successful first
BDD and strengthening of mil-to-mil ties demonstrate the
normalizing" of our bilateral relationship. The first BDD

PHNOM PENH 00000730 002 OF 002


paves the way for even greater cooperation on security
issues. The instillation of a DATT in D.C. would help to
capitalize on these recent gains.
CAMPBELL

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