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08BANGKOK2167 THAIS DENY MILITARY INCURSION INTO CAMBODIA AFTER PROTESTORS ENTER DISPUTED TERRITORY

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“162247”,”7/16/2008 10:36″,”08BANGKOK2167″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“VZCZCXRO8149

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2167/01 1981036

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 161036Z JUL 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3712

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0898

RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH PRIORITY 2665

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 5462

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002167

 

SIPDIS

 

PARIS PLEASE PASS TO US MISSION UNESCO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/16/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, UNESCO, SCUL, MOPS, PBTS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: THAIS DENY MILITARY INCURSION INTO CAMBODIA AFTER

PROTESTORS ENTER DISPUTED TERRITORY

 

REF: A. STATE: 02137 (CRIMINAL CHARGES)

B. STATE: 02111 (FM RESIGNS)

 

BANGKOK 00002167 001.2 OF 002

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (SBU) On July 15, a senior monk and two other Thais

crossed into disputed territory between Thailand and Cambodia

in protest of Preah Vihear temple\’s World Heritage status.

Tempers flared on both sides when Cambodian and Thai press

reported that large numbers of Thai troops had entered

Cambodian territory to rescue the protestors and that some

troops had been detained. Some Thai press denied the

allegations and reported that Royal Thai Armed Forces Supreme

Commander General Boonsrang had secured the release of the

prisoners with a phone call to Cambodian Defense Minister

Teah Banh. The sense of tension was heightened with the

additional report of a Thai solider losing a leg to a

landmine near Preah Vihear. Thai officials told us that all

reports of a troop incursion into Cambodia are unfounded.

End Summary.

 

2. (SBU) On the morning of July 15, a senior monk and two

other protestors crossed into disputed territory in the

vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple, in protest of the

decision to inscribe the temple on the UNESCO World Heritage

List. The protestors claimed an affiliation with the

\”Dharmayatra\” organization, which the local press has

described as \”ultranationalistic.\” (Note: We do not believe

this group, heretofore unknown to us, is connected to the

\”Dharma Army\” associated with leading anti-government figure

Chamlong Srimuang. End Note.)

 

3. (SBU) Thai press quoted a Cambodian official as saying

that 40 Thai troops entered Cambodia on the morning of July

15 after Cambodian soldiers seized the protestors for evading

a border-crossing checkpoint. Cambodian government spokesman

Khieu Kanharith was quoted as stating that 140 Thai troops

crossed into Cambodian territory to assist the protestors,

and that some had been detained – although Khanarith later

protested to Cambodia-based journalists that he had never

said anything about Thai soldiers being detained by Cambodian

military. However, a Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

official told us that Thai troops never entered Cambodian

territory and that there was no \”incident\” involving Thai

troops. He described the area around Preah Vihear as \”good

and controllable,\” noting that the three protestors had been

released but will most likely continue to protest the RTG\’s

policies over Preah Vihear. Both a Deputy Army Spokesman and

the Deputy Governor for Security Affairs of Sisaket Province,

which borders the Cambodian site where the temple is located,

told us that the news reports were unfounded. An Australian

diplomat told us that her Embassy\’s contacts in the Thai

military also asserted Thai troops had not been detained.

Some Thai press denied the allegations and reported that

Royal Thai Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Boonsrang

had secured the release of the prisoners with a phone call to

Cambodian Defense Minister Teah Banh.

 

4. (C) A BBC correspondent who wrote an article alleging the

incursion into Cambodia of 40 Thai soldier told us that he

received this information from Cambodian authorities. He

added that the Thai soldiers most likely crossed into

disputed territory, noting that the Thais probably did not

view this as Cambodian land. He said that the Thai soldiers

he interviewed during his visit to the area had been

stationed at the temple border area for many years and most

speak Khmer. However, they told him that they stopped their

daily conversations with the Cambodian border soldiers after

the temple\’s inscription. Since his last visit to the area,

the correspondent noted an addition by the Thai side of

layered barbed-wire with multiple warnings of landmines. He

saw the Cambodians approaching the wire several times and the

Thais yelling at them to retreat. The tension was definitely

high, he added. (An Embassy DAO officer who visited the area

on June 30 confirmed that Thai soldiers were fortifying their

positions, and some of the junior troops believed they might

clash with the Cambodians.)

 

5. (C) The BBC correspondent was also at the temple site with

a group of Thai Rangers when their radios picked up the

report of a landmine blast that resulted in a Ranger losing a

leg. The Rangers considered the event unrelated to the

tension at the temple since it occurred around four

 

BANGKOK 00002167 002.2 OF 002

 

kilometers away from the site, when the Ranger was conducting

a routine border patrol. The Rangers told the correspondent

that the landmine was likely many years old, in an area known

for being littered with the old devices.

 

6. (SBU) The debate over Preah Vihear on internet sites

reflected the polarized national political environment. Some

postings expressed anger at the anti-government People

Alliance for Democracy (PAD) for exacerbating the issue (ref

A). Popular Thai website and chat board http://www.pantip.com

featured debates that centered around Thailand and Cambodia

potentially going to war over Preah Vihear and the role of

PAD in the controversy. Some posters assessed that the U.S.

would aid Thailand while China would side with Cambodia;

others said that both the U.S. and the UN would not interfere

in the conflict. Some online commentators noted that

Cambodia successfully promoted its stance on Preah Vihear

during Thailand\’s 2006 coup, adding that the loss of the

temple could not be blamed entirely on former Foreign

Minister Noppadon Pattama (ref B). They seemed to suggest

that the U.S. chose to favor Cambodia on the temple issue

since it held a democratically-elected government in contrast

to Thailand\’s interim military government.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

7. (SBU) Despite its World Heritage status, the controversies

surrounding Preah Vihear continue, mainly fueled by turmoil

in domestic Thai politics. Many Thais, whether they support

the People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) or not, seem

genuinely dismayed over the perceived lack of transparency in

the Samak government over the Preah Vihear joint communique

and the map submitted to UNESCO. Political cartoons continue

to portray the event as a loss of Thai territory and depict

Thaksin as the only Thai who benefited from the UNESCO

decision. (Thaksin\’s opponents allege he used his influence

to support inscription and, in return, received favorable

treatment in ostensibly unrelated commercial transactions.)

We will continue to monitor how Preah Vihear is used to fuel

nationalist sentiments and channel displeasure over the

current government\’s performance.

 

8. (SBU) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Phnom Penh,

which reports that the Thai-Cambodian face off was front page

news in most local papers today, but with both Cambodian and

local Thai officials seeming to try to defuse the situation.

The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh responded to local media

inquiries with a faxed statement dismissing rumors that Thai

military personnel had entered into Cambodia territory and

asserting instead that a few Thai paramilitary personnel were

introduced into the border area within Thai territory.

 

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 16, 2011 at 6:27 am

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