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Cablegate: Cambodia Withdraws Troops; Still Waits for Thai

VZCZCXRO3253
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0638 2400849
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 280849Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1126
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000638

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, P, D

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS KTIA CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA WITHDRAWS TROOPS; STILL WAITS FOR THAI
MOVEMENT ON PREAH VIHEAR

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR DISSEMINATION ON THE
INTERNET.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC)
sources confirmed a recent reduction in Cambodian troops from
around the disputed Preah Vihear border area, but could not
readily give the full scope or extent of those movements. The
senior RGC border official assigned to the Preah Vihear
dispute noted that Cambodia is "still waiting" for the Thai
parliament's approval of already agreed communiques marking a
clear path forward for border negotiations, including joint
demining and demarcation, but expressed deep skepticism that
the Thai government would act soon. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Following through on a public vow made by Prime
Minister Hun Sen on August 22, senior military leaders from
the Cambodian and Thai armed forces met on August 24 in Phnom
Penh, and declared an end to hostilities on the border. Thai
General Songkitti Jaggabatra announced that "the border will
not be the cause of any further disputes." Cambodian troops
started withdrawing from the Preah Vihear temple area on
August 26. Military officials in Phnom Penh could not yet
confirm how substantial these withdrawals have been, but
field commanders have confirmed the target is a 50 percent
reduction in the Cambodian troop presence. Var Kim Hong,
Senior Minister and Chairman of the Border Committees, told
Pol/Econ Chief that Deputy Prime Minster and Minister of
Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong had raised the Preah Vihear
border dispute with both Thai Prime Minister Abhisit
Vejjajiva (Aug. 4) and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya
(Aug. 5) during participation in the Cambodian-Thailand Joint
Policy Commission in Bangkok. Hor Namhong "pushed to have
the Thai parliament agree to the communiques we already
negotiated with the Thai," said Var Kim Hong. Commenting
that it is already the end of August, he said the RGC was
"still waiting."

3. (SBU) Confirming the Cambodian troop reductions, Var Kim
Hong also noted that Thai soldiers still had not withdrawn
from the small pagoda at the base of the Preah Vihear temple
and thus agreed-upon joint demining and border demarcation in
that area could not commence. Citing a "negative" article in
Bangkok's English-language daily "The Nation" on August 27
which took a stand against the Abhisit government settling
the Preah Vihear dispute, Var Kim Hong expressed skepticism
that the Thai government would honor the agreements made with
his Thai counterpart in the bilateral Joint Border
Commission. Nonetheless, he said, Cambodia would keep
waiting.

4. (SBU) Separately, when questioned at the opening ceremony
for a Kampong Speu health center refurbished by U.S. Marines,
on August 27, the Ambassador noted to the local press that
reports of the withdrawal were an encouraging development and
a positive sign that showed the border dispute could be
solved by peaceful means.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: The Cambodian troop withdrawals from
Preah Vihear follow the very positive talks between the Thai
and Cambodian commanders in chief in Phnom Penh earlier in
the week. If the Thai military responded with troop
"re-deployments" to match, including from sensitive areas in
the disputed territory which they had not occupied before
July 2008, then a first concrete and positive step to resolve
this dispute bilaterally will have been completed, providing
a good basis for further diplomatic progress.
RODLEY

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