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Cablegate: Cambodia's Minister of Defense Prepares For

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPF #0664/01 2461023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031023Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1153
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000664

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS KTIA CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA'S MINISTER OF DEFENSE PREPARES FOR
WASHINGTON

REF: PHNOM PENH 638

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a September 3 call on Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of National Defense Tea Banh, the
Ambassador previewed the Minister's upcoming travel to
Washington where he will meet Secretary of Defense Gates,
congratulated the Minister on Cambodia's diplomacy with
respect to the dispute over Preah Vihear, highlighted the
continued strengthening of military-to-military relations,
and introduced the new U.S. Embassy Defense Attache. Tea
Banh expressed his commitment to reduce troops and help
settle the Preah Vihear dispute peacefully. He also stressed
the importance of Cambodia's upcoming Capstone training event
and detailed peacekeeping operations planned for Chad and the
Central African Republic. The Minister rounded out the
meeting by outlining areas of defense reform and continued
engagement. END SUMMARY.

Tensions Subside in Preah Vihear
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) In preparation for his upcoming Washington visit,
which will include a meeting with Secretary of Defense Gates,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Tea
Banh provided an overview of areas of mutual interest,
specifically noting the calmed situation in Preah Vihear.
Tea Banh detailed the history of the dispute over Preah
Vihear and recent troop reductions in the border area (Ref
A). He stated that both the Thai and Cambodian sides have
drawn back in order to decrease the potential of further
tension. Declaring that "there is no longer a worry of
conflict," Teah Banh said that some troops would remain to
stand guard and maintain the area as normal, but that a large
number of troops is no longer necessary. He indicated that
he is optimistic about further troop reductions and
redeployments away from Preah Vihear in the future. However,
Tea Banh said that the lower levels within the Thai and
Cambodian armed forces still need to meet in order to avoid
small flare-ups.

3. (SBU) Decreased tensions with Thailand have resulted in
small numbers of tourists returning to the Preah Vihear
temple. The Ambassador congratulated the Minister on the
restraint and diplomacy required to get to this point, and
noted the need to fully resolve the military and border
situation in order for Cambodia to take full advantage of the
World Heritage site designation and to increase tourism and
development in a very poor area. Tea Banh responded that
both he and the Thai Minister of Defense will meet to discuss
and find solutions to the border issues in order to create an
open area in Preah Vihear for development, trade and
business. He said that Cambodians are already beginning to
move and build houses along a better-understood border, and
he is optimistic that there will soon be a defined border
with Thailand.

Increased Military-to-Military Relations
-----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Both the Ambassador and the Minister praised the
strong and growing military-to-military relations between
Cambodia and the United States. Tea Banh specifically
expressed his appreciation of U.S. assistance with the Global
Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). He stated that his
office is working closely with the Embassy's Defense Attache
office in order to prepare for the July 2010 multilateral
Capstone training exercise, which will showcase Cambodia's
increased capacity and expertise. Tea Banh also detailed
current and future peacekeeping assistance, stating that
Cambodia's PKO work in Sudan has received positive reports.
When asked about publicized future operations in Chad and the
Central African Republic, Tea Banh indicated that there are
some issues to be worked out before Cambodian peacekeepers
can be deployed. He said that thus far, 40 members of the
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) have been trained and are
prepared for deployment. However, an RCAF observer went to
Chad and based on his report, it was determined that the
total number of required peacekeepers should be increased
from the originally agreed upon 100 to 200. In order for
this to happen, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must initiate
a new MOU for the increased numbers.

The Road Ahead
--------------

5. (SBU) The upcoming meeting between Minister of National
Defense Tea Banh and Secretary of Defense Gates marks an

important step forward for both countries. As further
evidence of the improved and growing military-to-military
relations, the Ambassador introduced the Embassy's new
Defense Attache, Col. Mark Gillette, noting that the two
countries have an exchange of attaches for the first time in
some decades. Col. Gillette will escort Tea Banh to
Washington, and both will participate in a portion of the
Defense Strategic Review, supported by DoD, prior to meeting
with Secretary Gates. The Minister stated that based on a
recent bilateral defense dialog held in Hawaii, specific
areas for defense reform and continued U.S. engagement
include maritime security, border security, humanitarian
disaster response, and counterterrorism - an area where the
two countries already have close cooperation. Tea Banh
stated he is proud of what the two countries have
accomplished thus far, and said there remains much work to be
done, with reform a key priority.

RODLEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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