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Cablegate: Prime Minister Hun Sen Previews Thaksin Visit

VZCZCXRO5591
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0832/01 3141142
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 101142Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1348
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 0009
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 2581
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2411
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0726
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3314
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PHNOM PENH 000832

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EEB, IO
SINGAPORE PLEASE PASS TO DAS SCOT MARCIEL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS TH CB
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER HUN SEN PREVIEWS THAKSIN VISIT

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Classified By: AMBASSADOR CAROL A. RODLEY FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) Summary: The diplomatic spat between Cambodia and
Thailand took center stage during the Ambassador's meeting
with Prime Minister Hun Sen November 8. Hun Sen confirmed
that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra would
arrive in Cambodia on November 10 and would deliver a speech
to Cambodian officials at the Ministry of Economy and Finance
on November 12. He also confirmed that, aside from the
diplomatic friction, tensions were low and military
commanders remained cooperative at the border, and that he
would continue to monitor Thailand's reaction and would
respond in kind to each diplomatic downgrade that the Abhisit
government initiated. We expect Hun Sen will now shift
largely from an offensive to a defensive position. He is of
course hopeful that the Thai will refrain from taking
precipitous actions, but he is prepared to match any Thai
action with a Cambodian reaction. In that context, Hun Sen
will likely be both confident and relaxed during the upcoming
Singapore meetings, amenable to suggestions that a
de-escalation of rhetoric and a re-engagement between
Cambodia and Thailand is in the best interests of the region
as well as the parties. End summary.

2. (C) In raising this issue during a meeting previously
scheduled to discuss a broad range of other issues (septel),
the Ambassador reaffirmed that both Cambodia and Thailand
should work to reduce political tensions and to refrain from
acts that could be considered provocative. Hun Sen replied
that military cooperation was proceeding very well at the
border ) "there is no chaos," he explained, and "things
remain very quiet." He also said there is no need "to keep
so much force there" and confirmed press reports that he had
ordered the 911 Brigade paratrooper unit be recalled to Phnom
Penh and that he would do his best to ensure that Thai and
Cambodian commanders continued to cooperate and avoid any
military confrontation. If the situation remained calm, Hun
Sen added he would also recall Division 1, which would reduce
the Cambodian military presence at the border to normal,
pre-July 2008, levels. Hun Sen reiterated that he wanted to
"build up mutual trust between the armies," and that he hoped
that Thai military commanders would continue to cooperate and
work to "reduce tensions.

3. (C) Hun Sen underscored that Thaksin would travel to
Cambodia from "another ASEAN country," but that "the Thai
don't care" about the purported double standard that has led
the Thai government to criticize Hun Sen so publicly while
ignoring Thaksin's presence elsewhere in the region. (Note:
Hun Sen did not cite the name of the country where Thaksin
was reportedly currently residing. End Note.). "Whether
Thaksin comes or not," Hun Sen explained, it remains the
"business of Cambodia" to engage him as an economic adviser
during the current economic downturn. Hun Sen confirmed what
he has said publicly: that the RGC would not "accept" any
extradition request from Thailand as this case was "purely
political" and the Thai-Cambodian extradition agreement was
based on customary international law that clearly allowed
extraditions to be rejected based on political context. And
although he said he expected the Thai government to deliver a
"letter of extradition," he said that the RGC had already
prepared a reply rejecting the request.

4. (C) Because military relations at the border remained
cooperative, Hun Sen said that the principal conflict with
Thailand was diplomatic and that the public pronouncements
from various Thai officials to downgrade diplomatic relations
between Thailand and Cambodia reflected "internal confusion"
within the Thai government. After Thaksin's arrival, Hun
Sen said he would simply monitor the Thai reaction day by
day. "There are many in the Thai government who are not
acting under orders of the Thai Prime Minister," Hun Sen
stated, pointing to the example of the Thai army, which "had
to obstruct the yellow shirt protesters" sent from Bangkok
from reaching Preah Vihear on September 19. In fact, Hun Sen
averred that the Thai business interests in Sisaket Province
were "already complaining" and would suffer most if Thailand
prolonged and exacerbated the diplomatic dispute by closing
the border with Cambodia in a "frenzied reaction" to
Thaksin's visit. He added that the RGC had already sent a
message to Bangkok that it was indeed the right of Thailand
to close the border but, unlike in 2003 when the Thais

PHNOM PENH 00000832 002 OF 003


allowed goods to continue to cross, he would respond by
directing that Thai goods would also be barred from crossing
into Cambodia if Thailand did so.

5. (C) Again referring to perceived dissension among key
leaders of the current Thai government, Hun Sen claimed that
"not everyone is on good terms" and that Deputy Prime
Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Minister of National Defense
General Prawit Wongsuwan did not agree with Prime Minister
Abhisit and Foreign Minister Kasit on this issue. "I met
with them here," Hun Sen noted, and "spent three hours with
them in Hua Hin" on October 23, where their lack of support
for the direction of the current Thai government was clear.
Moreover, Hun Sen said that he had been contacted by
unspecified Thai Senators and other members of the government
to begin the work of diplomatic "remediation."

6. (C) As previewed by the Prime Minister, Thaksin's private
commercial charter arrived at the military side of Phnom
Penh's airport at about 9:30 a.m. on November 10, originating
from Mumbai. Although local and international press viewed
the arrival from a distance, Ministry spokespersons were
guarded in their comments about the visit. Thaksin's car
entered a motorcade secured by Hun Sen's bodyguard unit and
departed for a lunch at Hun Sen's residence in Takhmao, south
of the capital. At the end of the day, MFA spokesman Koy
Kuong told reporters that no Thai request for extradition had
yet been officially received, although others report that an
extradition request from the Thai government has been already
transmitted. Thaksin is reported to be staying in a villa
close to the Cambodian Peoples Party headquarters not far
from the Royal Thai embassy. Unconfirmed reports indicated
that Thaksin is scheduled to depart Cambodia on November 13.
Separately, in response to the Ambassador's inquiry during a
meeting November 10, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh commented
that he was very familiar with the popularity polls recently
conducted in Thailand and did not think they were the least
bit credible. He added that he thought nothing Thaksin did
or said in Cambodia would have much effect on the domestic
situation in Thailand.

7. (C) Comment: Hun Sen remained thoughtful and calm
throughout his discussion with the Ambassador, and there was
no hint of the provocative rhetoric that he sometimes
displays in public or private. In the weeks since Hun Sen's
October 23 announcement that he would appoint Thaksin as an
adviser, he has been most concerned about increases in border
military activity; he now seemed pleased with the extent of
military cooperation and believes that his decision to reduce
the number of troops will contribute to continued
cooperation. With that in place, Hun Sen has now turned his
attention to the diplomatic front and seemed focused
predominantly on how much and how quickly the Thai would
erode diplomatic relations in what he believes is an effort
to attract public support for a regime that can command long
term support of neither the military nor a majority of the
people. While it remains to be seen whether he has
miscalculated in that assessment, it is apparent that he has
received indications from some Thai officials that he has
not. But, more importantly, none of that seems to matter
much to the Prime Minister. Hun Sen has clearly calculated
that whatever diplomatic downgrades are initiated by the
Abhisit government do not outweigh the benefits that Hun
Sen's friendship and support to Thaksin could provide to
Cambodia both now and in the future. He seemed similarly
uninterested in ASEAN or international reaction to the spat
and did not directly respond to the Ambassador's inquiry
about the message he intended to send to ASEAN or the
international community about his actions.

8. (C) As much of the press and other reporting has
suggested, Hun Sen's motivations are best described as
personal political moves designed to attract perceived
benefits to himself and Cambodia and to disarm his foes in
the current Thai government. As this continues to play out,
we expect Hun Sen will shift largely from an offensive to a
defensive position. He is of course hopeful that the Thai
will refrain from taking precipitous actions, but he is
prepared to match any Thai action with a Cambodian reaction
every step of the way, as he has done with the reciprocal
recall of Ambassadors. In the meantime, we expect the U.S.
and others will find a confident and relaxed Hun Sen during

PHNOM PENH 00000832 003 OF 003


the upcoming Singapore meetings amenable to suggestions that
a de-escalation of rhetoric and a re-engagement between
Cambodia and Thailand is in the best interests of the region
as well as the parties themselves. End Comment.
RODLEY

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