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08BANGKOK2207 PREAH VIHEAR: TENSION, DIALOGUE, AND EMBASSY RECOMMENDATIONS

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“162610”,”7/18/2008 11:09″,”08BANGKOK2207″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“08BANGKOK1951|08BANGKOK2111|08BANGKOK2137”,

“VZCZCXRO0737

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2207/01 2001109

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 181109Z JUL 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3748

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS IMMEDIATE 0904

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI IMMEDIATE 5469

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 002207

 

SIPDIS

 

PARIS PLEASE PASS TO USMISSION UNESCO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2018

TAGS: PREL, MOPS, ASEC, CASC, UNESCO, SCUL, PBTS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: PREAH VIHEAR: TENSION, DIALOGUE, AND EMBASSY

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2137 (CRIMINAL CHARGES)

B. BANGKOK 2111 (FM RESIGNS)

C. BANGKOK 1951 (NO-CONFIDENCE DEBATE)

 

BANGKOK 00002207 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission, James F. Entwistle, reason 1.4

(b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Tensions in the Thai-Cambodian border area remain

high, with an influx of Thai soldiers to the area close to

Preah Vihear temple. The Royal Thai Air Force is standing by

to evacuate Thais from Cambodia should bilateral relations

deteriorate dramatically before a Thai-Cambodian meeting of

top-level security officials scheduled for Monday, July 21.

Further heightening tensions on the Thai side are protestors

from the People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), who clashed

with Sisaket province locals in an attempt to protest at the

temple site. The clash resulted in photos of bloodied

protestors and local villagers on the front page of most Thai

papers. Prime Minister Samak, in public statements,

criticized PAD for attempting to use Preah Vihear\’s

disposition to promote a coup d\’etat. Considering the

polarized and volatile political environment in Thailand, we

recommend that the USG avoid becoming embroiled in this

emotional territorial dispute at present. Post has

distributed a warden message advising American citizens to

avoid the temple area. End Summary.

 

TROOP INFLUX INTO CONTESTED AREA

——————————–

 

2. (C) An intelligence officer attached to the Internal

Security Operation Command (ISOC) office in Sisaket (near

Preah Vihear) told us on July 18 that there were more than

400 Thai soldiers in the area of the Preah Vihear temple with

the mission to enhance security of the temple and border

region. However, a contact at the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs (MFA) said the number of Thai troops was closer to

1,000. (Note: We do not have a clear understanding of

exactly where in the border area the Thai troops are

positioned, but our sources tell us they are in an area of

overlapping Thai-Cambodian claims. End note.) Thai press

quoted Suranaree Task Force Commander Major General Kanok

Nettarakawaysana as stating that he has been in the border

are for three days and is waiting for negotiations to begin

with Cambodian authorities about the disputed territory near

the temple. Air Force Chief Chalit Phukpasuk was quoted as

saying that the Royal Thai Air Force is prepared to evacuate

Thais residing in Cambodia with one hour\’s notice.

 

THAI MEDIA COVERAGE

——————-

 

3. (C) Reports of tension on the Thailand-Cambodia border

continue to dominate Thai newspaper headlines, with photos

depicting outbreaks of violence between People\’s Alliance for

Democracy (PAD) protestors and local residents. (Note: PAD

was formed as an anti-Thaksin group, and its core purpose is

blocking former Prime Minister Thaksin\’s return to influence.

End Note.) The press reported heavily on the July 17

appearance of PAD protestors who were confronted by around

200 locals during a march to gain access to the temple.

According to reports, over 100 carloads of PAD protestors,

stretching for two kilometers, attempted to reach the temple

before being confronted by local anti-PAD protestors, who

blocked the road around 8 kilometers from the temple. Our

contact at ISOC told us that there were around 2,000 PAD

protestors during the July 17 march. The violence started

when PAD demonstrators ordered their security personnel to

break through police barriers of wood and barbed wire. The

locals reacted by throwing objects at the protestors, at

which point the police intervened. Many local residents of

Sisaket rely on tourism for their livelihood, and they are

reportedly upset with the PAD because the increased tension

has hurt their business interests.

 

MFA: SITUATION UNDER CONTROL

—————————-

 

BANGKOK 00002207 002.2 OF 003

 

4. (C) Deputy Director General of the East Asian Department

at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Pisanu Suvanajata

told us on July 18 that PAD had not only protested at the

entrance to temple site on Preah Vihear mountain, but also at

the Cambodian Consulate in Sa Kaeo Province. A leading

member of the PAD movement who led supporters to Preah Vihear

on July 17 told us that PAD has since left the area, but the

situation remained very tense. He claimed that PAD did not

plan to return to the vicinity of Preah Vihear. He added

that the remaining protestors belong to the Dharmayatra

(Dharma March) movement, led by media and social activist

Saman Si-ngam. This group, formed in May 2008 and heretofore

unknown, consists of civilians from Bangkok and Sisaket

Province who marched toward Preah Vihear to meditate and

claim Thai sovereignty over the temple.

 

5. (C) Despite tension on the ground, the RTG has expressed

confidence that the situation is under control. Pisanu told

us that the RTG has ordered provincial authorities to control

future PAD movements and to continue to limit their access to

the area. He referred to a letter sent by Cambodian Prime

Minister Hun Sen to Thai Prime Minister Samak that requested

a withdrawal of Thai troops. (The text of this letter has

been e-mailed to EAP/MLS.) Pisanu said this letter showed

dialogue was ongoing. He noted that \”as long as the two

leaders can still talk, it is under control,\” although he

added that Hun Sen\’s request was unacceptable since Thai

troops were in overlapping or disputed territory. Pisanu,

one of the six government officials alleged by PAD to have

committed a criminal offence through the handling of Preah

Vihear\’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List,

blamed the current tension on the combination of PAD

stirring-up the issue and the presence of Cambodian troops at

the border. Prime Minister Samak publicly chastised the

three protestors who crossed into the disputed territory on

July 14, accusing them of trying to elicit a violent reaction

from border security. Samak also blamed PAD for the public

furor over the temple and said the group hoped to inspire

another coup d\’etat.

 

UPCOMING MEETING

—————-

 

6. (C) Thai and Cambodian officials intend to meet on July 21

in Sa Kaeo province to discuss the situation. This will be

an emergency meeting of the General Border Committee, which

is normally chaired by Defense Ministers and normally meets

once per year. MFA contacts have told us that the Thai side

will be represented by Royal Thai Armed Forces Supreme

Commander General Boonsrang Niumpradit. The Thais expect

that the Cambodian side will be represented by either the

Cambodian Defense Minister or Supreme Commander.

 

ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATION

—————————

 

7. (C) In Thailand, the issue of Preah Vihear\’s disposition

has become extraordinarily politicized. The opposition

Democrat Party focused on Preah Vihear above all else in the

June no-confidence debate (ref C); PAD has filed a request

for charges of capital crimes against the officials involved

(ref A); and the Constitutional Court used the Thai-Cambodian

Joint Communique to open the door to the cabinet\’s

impeachment, prompting the Foreign Minister\’s resignation

(ref B). The temple\’s disposition hits a raw nerve with some

Thais, and some significant actors are actively manipulating

the controversy to advance their anti-Thaksin agenda.

 

8. (C) We recommend that the USG avoid becoming embroiled in

this emotional territorial dispute, especially during this

time of polarized and volatile Thai politics. We suggest

that we only address Preah Vihear issues on an \”if asked\”

basis, urging in general terms that all parties work in a

spirit of good will and cooperation to resolve their concerns

peacefully and diplomatically, and to create an atmosphere in

which the existing mechanisms (such as the upcoming General

Border Committee meeting) to resolve border issues can

function.

 

WARDEN MESSAGE

————–

 

BANGKOK 00002207 003.2 OF 003

 

9. (U) With CA/OCS concurrence, post has distributed a warden

message citing tensions along the Thai-Cambodian border and

recommending that American citizens defer travel to the area

near the temple.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 16, 2011 at 6:29 am

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