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Cablegate: Defense Minister Given Command Control

R 070336Z NOV 95
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1794
INFO USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
AMEMBASSY HANOI
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

C O N F I D E N T I A L PHNOM PENH 003699


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/06/05
TAGS: MCAP PGOV PINS CB
SUBJECT: DEFENSE MINISTER GIVEN COMMAND CONTROL
OVER ARMED FORCES

1. CLASSIFIED BY ROBERT C. PORTER, DEPUTY CHIEF
OF MISSION, PHNOM PENH; REASON 1.5 (B).
DECLASSIFY NOVEMBER 6, 2005.

2. (C) SUMMARY. THE RECENT APPOINTMENT OF THE
CO-DEFENSE MINISTERS AS DEPUTY COMMANDERS-IN-CHIEF
PLACES THE MILITARY UNDER TIGHTER CIVILIAN
CONTROL, BUT HAS DISPLEASED CHIEF OF THE GENERAL
STAFF GEN. KY KIM YAN, WHO UNTIL NOW HAD BEEN ABLE
TO IGNORE THE DEFENSE MINISTERS WHEN IT SUITED HIS
PURPOSES. MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOWEVER, CO-DEFENSE
MINISTER GEN. TEA BANH, A STRONG SUPPORTER OF
SECOND PRIME MINISTER HUN SEN, HAS BEEN TAKING AN
INCREASINGLY ASSERTIVE ROLE VIS-A-VIS THE RCAF.
TO FOSTER UNITY AND COUNTER ANY BAD FEELINGS,
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT CHEA SIM INVITED
SENIOR RCAF, POLICE AND DEFENSE MINISTRY PERSONNEL
TO A "NATIONAL DAY" BASH TWO WEEKS BEFORE NATIONAL
DAY. NONE OF OUR CONTACTS BELIEVES THAT KE KIM
YAN WILL ACT ON HIS UNHAPPINESS; WE AGREE WITH
THAT ASSESSMENT. END SUMMARY.

3. (C) SEVERAL RCAF CONTACTS HAVE CONFIRMED THAT
THEN-ACTING CHIEF OF STATE CHEA SIM RECENTLY
APPROVED A PROPOSAL FROM THE TWO PRIME MINISTERS
APPOINTING THE CO-MINISTERS OF DEFENSE AS DEPUTY
COMMANDERS-IN-CHIEF. THE CHANGE, WHICH IN THEORY
WENT INTO EFFECT ON OCTOBER 11, PROVIDES THE
MINISTERS WITH THE AUTHORITY TO GIVE ORDERS TO
CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF KE KIM YAN, WHO FORMERLY
REPORTED DIRECTLY TO THE TWO PRIME MINISTERS IN
THEIR CAPACITY AS COMMANDERS-IN-CHIEF. THE PRIME
MINISTERS MADE THE CHANGE IN PART BECAUSE THEY
WANTED A CIVILIAN TO BE IN COMMAND OF THE MILITARY
WHEN THEY BOTH TRAVELED ABROAD (AS THEY RECENTLY
DID DURING THE UNGA).

4. (C) A VARIETY OF SENIOR CIVILIAN AND MILITARY
OFFICIALS HAVE TOLD US THAT KE KIM YAN IS UNHAPPY
WITH THE CHANGE, IN PART BECAUSE HE DOES NOT GET
ALONG WELL WITH CO-DEFENSE MINISTER GENERAL TEA
BANH (CPP). MAKING MATTERS WORSE FOR KIM YAN,
ACCORDING TO OUR CONTACTS, TEA BANH HAS BECOME
INCREASINGLY ASSERTIVE IN DEALING WITH THE RCAF IN
RECENT WEEKS, APPARENTLY BECAUSE OF INCREASED
BACKING FROM SECOND PRIME MINISTER HUN SEN;
MEANWHILE, THE FUNCINPEC CO-DEFENSE MINISTER
GENERAL TEA CHAMRATH HAS GONE INTO REPOSE. KE KIM
YAN BELIEVES HE HAS BEEN PUT INTO A DIFFICULT
POSITION BECAUSE, IN THE PAST, HE WAS ABLE TO
STRADDLE SUCCESSFULLY THE FENCE BETWEEN THE
LEADERSHIP OF THE TWO MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES.

5. (C) WHEN CHEA SIM WAS MADE AWARE OF KE KIM
YAN'S UNHAPPINESS, HE DECIDED IT WAS TIME FOR A
PARTY TO SOOTHE HARD FEELINGS AND FOSTER A SENSE
OF UNITY. REACHING FOR AN OCCASION TO HONOR THE
ARMED FORCES, HE HELD A PREMATURE NATIONAL DAY
CELEBRATION MORE THAN TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE REAL
EVENT AND INVITED THE TOP MILITARY, POLICE, AND
DEFENSE MINISTRY LEADERSHIP. OVER 200 RCAF AND
POLICE GENERAL OFFICERS ATTENDED, INCLUDING KE KIM
YAN AND THE CO-MINISTERS OF DEFENSE AND INTERIOR.
IN HIS SPEECH, CHEA SIM REVIEWED PROGRESS TO DATE
IN UNIFYING AND RESTRUCTURING THE ARMED FORCES AND
POLICE AND URGED BOTH THE MILITARY AND POLICE TO
CONTINUE THEIR COOPERATION.

6. (C) COMMENT: THE MOVE IS A WELCOME CHANGE
BECAUSE IT PUTS THE MILITARY UNDER GREATER
CIVILIAN CONTROL AND WILL HELP IMPROVE
COORDINATION BETWEEN THE RCAF GENERAL STAFF AND
THE DEFENSE MINISTRY, WHICH SOMETIMES HAS BEEN
LACKING. NO ONE WITH WHOM WE HAVE SPOKEN BELIEVES
THAT KE KIM YAN WILL ACT ON HIS UNHAPPINESS IN A
WAY WHICH WOULD BE POLITICALLY OR OTHERWISE
DESTABILIZING. WHAT IT MAY DO, HOWEVER, IS MOVE
HIM CLOSER TO CO-INTERIOR MINISTER SAR KHENG TO
WHOM HE HAS BEEN CLOSE PERSONALLY FOR SOME TIME.
IT IS CURIOUS THAT, THROUGH TEA BANH, PRIME
MINISTER HUN SEN WOULD TAKE ACTIONS WHICH WOULD
ALIENATE THE ARMY, FROM WHICH HE HAS FREQUENTLY
CLAIMED TO DERIVE CONSIDERABLE SUPPORT. WE WILL
BE COMMENTING SEPTEL ON HUN SEN'S INCREASING
RELIANCE ON THE MILITARY POLICE AND HIS INTEREST
IN CREATING A SPECIAL UNIT TO ACT AS HIS
BODYGUARDS.

TWINING

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