Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More



Cablegate: Eap/Mls Deputy Director Palmer Sees Up Close

DE RUEHPF #0811/01 3030559
P 300559Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2019

REF: A. STATE 108210

Classified By: DCM Theodore Allegra for reasons 1.4 (B,D)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: EAP/MLS Deputy Director Matthew Palmer
visited Cambodia October 20-26 to take part in a Conference
on the Lower Mekong Initiative (septel), meet key
counterparts in the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC),
address human rights issues, visit bilateral assistance
program sites, and observe the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT).
While progress was palpable at the KRT, with the first case
soon coming to a close, the complications to be faced in the
second case against four Khmer Rouge leaders were evident. A
visit to a resettlement site west of Phnom Penh showed some
progress being made to handle land issues. Human rights
leaders indicated that, while progress had been made in the
2008 national election, the restriction of political space
since that time remained a major issue. Cambodia's bilateral
border dispute with Thailand was painted by Senior Minister
Var Kim Hong as solvable under international law, but
Cambodia is waiting for Thai action in Thailand's parliament.
Palmer also briefed Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary of
State Ouch Borith on the latest plans for the Lower Mekong
Initiative and outlined the new U.S. approach towards Burma.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal

2. (SBU) KRT Public Affairs Section chief Reach Sambath led
a brief tour of the KRT courtroom facilities, noting the
large auditorium had hosted more than 27,000 Cambodian
observers at the seven-month-long trial (Case 001) of S-21
torture center head Kaing Guek Eav (aka Duch) and that the
advanced audiovisual equipment allowed for live feeds,
including live telecasts of the trial by the popular CTN TV
network. In a subsequent joint briefing by the ECCC's
national director Tony Kranh and UN deputy Knut Rosandhaug,
Kranh remarked on the success of Case 001, which could make
the ECCC a model for hybrid tribunals undertaken with the UN
but hosted by the nation in which international crimes had
been committed. He underscored that such a "mixed court"
also posed challenges in meeting international standards as
well as in attracting needed financial support. Although the
KRT administration was comprised of one court with two
components, Kranh said that the UN and the Cambodian sides
had very good relations. The closing arguments in the Duch
case in mid-November were expected to be a big event in
Cambodia and would attract much international attention, he

3. (SBU) Deputy Director Rosandhaug said the KRT faced the
prospect of massive enhancements to its pace and process in
2010 to meet the requirements of Case 002 against four Khmer
Rouge leaders -- Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng
Thirith. He glossed over the budget for 2010-2011 (which
others have reported as approximately $64 million for the
international side and $19 million for the national side),
but noted positive developments in the appointment of Clint
Williamson as a Special Advisor to the UN Office of the Legal
Advisor (UN/OLA), who is expected to focus on the KRT. When
asked about implementing the mechanism to prevent corruption
(Ref B), Rosandhaug said that although some in the court did
not easily understand this ombudsman-type mechanism, its
start-up was underway. But more importantly, all of the
evidence suggested that corruption at the court had ceased
and was no longer a problem.

4. (SBU) Rosandhaug speculated on the timetable for the
conduct of the three cases before the court -- Cases 001 and
002 against the five detained suspects, and Case 003 for a
sealed indictment against five additional unnamed suspects
who remain under investigation. Rosandhaug said that the
timetable and resulting budget were "much more credible" as
the result of budget planning by former Special Advisor to
UN/OLA David Tolbert. A rough sketch of that timeline

Case 001
Closing arguments Nov. 2009

PHNOM PENH 00000811 002.3 OF 004

Judges' Decision March 2010
Appeal conclusion End of 2010

Case 002
Co-investigation by judges ends End of 2009
Closing Order (CO) Sept. 2010
Appeals of CO Dec. 2010
Trial ends Mid- 2012
Judges' Decision Dec. 2012
Appeal conclusion End of 2013

Case 003
Co-investigation by judges ends July 2011
Closing Order Apr. 2012
Appeals of CO Aug. 2012
Trial ends Early 2014
Judges' Decision Mid- 2014
Appeal conclusion Mid- 2015

5. (SBU) Stating his belief that Cambodia did not intend to
violate international standards at the KRT, Rosandhaug
nonetheless cautioned that some in the RGC did not understand
the concept of separation of powers, such as between the
legislature and the judiciary. Although he gave no
indication of any interference to date, Rosandhaug appealed
for the United States to remain engaged in the ECCC as both a
donor and as a moral leader to communicate the international
community's expectations for credible justice. He also
praised the work of the Documentation Center of Cambodia
(DC-CAM) as "invaluable" to the ECCC's mission.

6. (SBU) ECCC acting international Co-Prosecutor William
Smith gave Palmer a brief assessment of judicial progress,
stating that the prosecutor may seek to begin courtroom
proceedings in Case 002 as early as November 2010. He gave
assurances that the KRT cases were "tuned and narrow," and
wer not too broad or complicated. Thus, although he
acknowledged the potential for "political" interference, he
speculated that the cases could proceed well as a result.
The other "real issues" facing the court were the
three-languages requirement and the ages of the four main
accused in Case 002, he said. Smith, an Australian national,
made clear his view that the Pre-Trial Chamber must sit
full-time in order to accomplish its work in a timely fashion
to keep Case 002 moving. On cooperation with the Cambodian
co-prosecutor, he said that the two sides had agreed to
disagree on the Case 003 submissions (NOTE: the Cambodian
co-prosecutor was opposed and the Pre-Trial Chamber ruled in
favor of prosecuting. END NOTE), but that they had very, very
good cooperation on the work of their office.

The Long View on Human Rights

7. (SBU) At a lunch hosted by the DCM, the four most
influential human rights leaders in Cambodia gave their views
on the current status of human rights in the country. Kek
Pung of activist group LICADHO gave the most emotional and
pessimistic assessment, noting the unsolved killing of
journalists over the years (the last in 2008), and claiming
that Koh Kong residents along a river that was being dredged
for sand (in violation of an order by Prime Minister Hun Sen)
had lost their livelihoods. All of the HR leaders agreed
that the political space in Cambodia was now narrower as a
result of a spate of defamation cases in 2009 (Ref D), and
expressed unspecified concerns for the new Penal Code's
potential effect on freedom of expression. They had
similarly non-specific anxiety about the potential for a
proposed draft "NGO Law" to curtail their organizations'
activities. ADHOC Leader Thun Saray explained the pressure
put on ADHOC land issues advocate Pen Bonnar in Ratanakiri by
a local judge, and ADHOC's decision to remove their rights
advocate from that area. Ou Virak of the Cambodian Center
for Human Rights presented an overall positive view of
Cambodia's human rights development and noted that the
judge's numerous improprieties had come to the attention of
the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, which would likely
investigate the judge. (NOTE: We later confirmed that the
RGC was actively investigating the judge for corruption
related to Ratanakiri land cases. END NOTE.)

8. (SBU) Thun Saray observed that a free market economy could
not exist in the absence of a pluralistic democracy, and vice
versa. He and the other human rights leaders urged the U.S.

PHNOM PENH 00000811 003 OF 004

to press the RGC on this point, while helping to reaffirm the
dynamic and hopeful character of the Cambodian people.
Christophe Peschoux noted that the UN Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights was making progress in
Cambodia, especially with the Ministry of Interior on some
aspects of due process, but that many challenges to the rule
of law remained, including corruption. Although most agreed
that the national election in 2008 was the most peaceful and
best-regulated to date, reactions were mixed about the
actions of the elected parliament controlled by the CPP (with
90 of 123 seats) and with internal rules that allow for
little participation by the opposition other than 20 minutes
of debate time allotted to a "group of 10." Issues regarding
land claims were considered a central problem by all four
human rights advocates.

9. (SBU) Palmer visited Damnak Trayoeung, a resettlement site
occupied by former residents of the Dey Krahorm community who
were forcibly evicted in January after a long-running land
dispute in central Phnom Penh (Ref F). The site, while
vastly improved since January with access to electricity,
water, and schools, nevertheless highlighted some of the
humanitarian issues related to evictions and resettlement in
Cambodia. Former Dey Krahorm land-owners had received brick
apartments in Damnak Trayoeung, but former renters, who under
Cambodian law were not eligible for compensation, continue to
live under tarps or other makeshift structures at the site
and rely on NGOs for basic humanitarian support. A renter
community representative told Palmer that the government
planned to move them again to neighboring Kandal Province.

Land Border Dispute Stuck in Thai Parliament

10. (SBU) At the RGC Council of Ministers, Var Kim Hong,
Senior Minister and Chairman of the RGC Border Committees
briefed Palmer on UNESCO's 2008 inscription of the Preah
Vihear Temple World Heritage Site and the subsequent dispute
with Thailand over 4.6 square kilometers adjacent to the
site. Var Kim Hong reasserted that Cambodia stood by the
judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962,
that a French-Siam survey in 1904-07 and the map it produced
(and used by the ICJ) were a sound basis for border
demarcation negotiations with Thailand, and that Cambodia was
ready to resolve the issue peacefully based on a 2000 MOU
with Thailand and related Terms of Reference. Var Kim Hong
praised the professionalism of his Thai counterpart on the
Joint Border Commission (JBC), but lamented that the JBC
could not meet because the Thai parliament had yet to approve
3 joint Cambodian-Thai communiqus already initialed in prior
meetings over the last 18 months. Var Kim Hong mentioned
that agreed border resolution mechanisms were poised to move
just as soon as the Thai parliament took a decision on the
joint communiqus. These mechanisms would include further
negotiations within the main JBC as well as the convening of
a joint legal committee and a joint border demarcation team
supplemented by joint de-mining activities in agreed areas
along the border areas. (NOTE: Tens of thousands of mines
were laid along the Thai-Cambodian border during Cambodia's
multiple conflicts during the period 1969 to 1998. It was
only in late 1998 when the Khmer Rouge finally laid down its
weapons that locations such as the Preah Vihear Temple
reverted to Cambodian government control, and many areas
immediately adjacent to the 805-kilometer border have not
been de-mined. END NOTE.) Var Kim Hong also remarked on the
need to implement a Cambodian-Thai agreement to re-deploy
troops now in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple.

Mekong River Initiative

11. (SBU) At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palmer October
22 briefed Secretary of State Ouch Borith on the Lower Mekong
Initiative (LMI), noting that the Deputy Chiefs of Mission
from the four Lower Mekong countries and senior USAID
personnel had met in Phnom Penh to discuss next steps. We
wanted to follow up the commitments from the Phuket
ministerial and set the stage for what we hoped would be a
similarly successful ministerial in Hanoi. The LMI had
strong support in Washington and from the Lower Mekong
countries themselves. We were interested in RGC ideas to
refine the initiative and further strengthen cooperation in
the areas agreed to in Phuket, including health, environment,
and education.

PHNOM PENH 00000811 004 OF 004

12. (SBU) Ouch Borith said that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong
had been highly receptive to the LMI and was eager to know
when an experts group could meet. For Cambodia, among the
most significant concerns were climate change and protecting
the environment of the Mekong River. The RGC looked forward
to more information on the LMI and intended to cooperate
fully in the effort, he concluded.

13. (SBU) Palmer raised Cambodia's recent spate of
defamation cases (Ref D) as a problem that affected USG
perceptions of Cambodia. Ouch Borith replied that he has had
frank discussions with the EU on the same subject, but noted
that Cambodia had been acting in accordance with an
UN-drafted law from the UNTAC era in order to defend the
credibility and honor of RGC leaders. Acknowledging that the
right balance had to be struck between defending honor and
allowing freedom of expression, Ouch Borith urged more
officials from the U.S. to visit Cambodia in order to see the
scope of freedom of expression that is evident throughout
Cambodian society.


14. (C) Palmer then briefed Ouch Borith on the U.S. Burma
policy review and current plans for U.S. engagement with
Burmese officials (Ref A). Noting that sanctions had not
worked in Burma, Ouch Borith said that Cambodia welcomed the
new Burma policy. Referring to gas and oil pipelines the
Burmese junta was developing jointly with Thailand, Ouch
Borith said that business as usual continued with the Burmese
despite the sanctions. If the world pushes too hard with
sanctions, Burma will "go to India and China," he cautioned.
When Senator Webb met with Prime Minster Hun Sen in August
(Ref E), the Prime Minister noted his support for the
democratization of Burma, his concern about Aung San Suu Kyi,
and his support for elections in 2010. In the meantime,
Cambodia would wait to see what happens with A/S Campbell's
visit to Burma in November. Ouch Borith took on board the
USG request that other ASEAN nations -- including Cambodia --
underscore to the Burmese leadership they have a new opening
to improve their standing in the international community if
they moved forward now to address the world's concerns.

TIP Challenges

15. (SBU) In meetings with anti-trafficking NGOs in Siem
Reap, Palmer heard of the many challenges facing Cambodia in
the fight against trafficking and child sex tourism. Rong
Ratana from Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), noted he receives
good cooperation from the national police, which he believes
is committed to the issue, but that he faces obstacles with
the court, which is corrupt, focuses on hard evidence, and
often ignores victim testimony. Rong admitted that APLE
focuses on Western sex tourists because they are easier to
spot and often approach or groom the child directly. Asians
tend to be more careful and use middlemen to solicit
children. Although procuring prostitution is illegal,
middlemen such as tuk-tuk drivers or guest house operators
are typically not targeted or prosecuted by law enforcement
and the courts. Rong also noted the lack of capacity within
law enforcement and Cambodia as a whole in the area of
information technology as being a major obstacle to
successful forensic child pornography investigations.

16. (SBU) Sao Chhoeurth, National Coordinator for NGO AFESIP
which also provides victims assistance, affirmed that the
government is committed, but that it lacked capacity,
sufficient policies, and clear plans. Chhoeurth indicated
that the TIP Report is a "powerful tool" for promoting
change, and has prompted increased action and understanding
of the problem of human trafficking in Cambodia. According
to Chhoerth, noteworthy recent government advancements
include the creation of TIP working groups and increased
consultation with NGOs.

17. (SBU) EAP/MLS Deputy Director Matthew Palmer cleared
this cable.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.