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08PHNOMPENH694 AMBASSADOR’S FAREWELL CALL ON PM HUN SEN: IMPROVING SITUATION AT PREAH VIHEAR AND IMPROVING BILATERAL RELATIONS WITH THE U.S.

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“166782”,”8/21/2008 4:36″,”08PHNOMPENH694″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“08PHNOMPENH679″,”VZCZCXRO5252

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHPF #0694/01 2340436

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 210436Z AUG 08

FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEKDIA/DIA WASH DC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY 0108

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2302

RHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02

PHNOM PENH 000694

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR D, P, EAP/FO, AND EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PBTS, MARR, TH, CB

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR\’S FAREWELL CALL ON PM HUN SEN:

IMPROVING SITUATION AT PREAH VIHEAR AND IMPROVING BILATERAL

RELATIONS WITH THE U.S.

 

REF: PHNOM PENH 679

 

Classified By: Classified by: Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli for reasons 1

.4(b) and (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY. During the Ambassador\’s farewell call on

Prime Minister Hun Sen August 20, the Prime Minister thanked

the U.S. for its encouragement for a peaceful resolution to

the dispute over Preah Vihear and expressed his appreciation

for the Ambassador\’s contribution to improved relations

between the two countries. PM Hun Sen confided that although

the results of the Cambodian-Thai bilateral talks earlier

this week still need to be put before the Thai cabinet for

approval, the results \”exceeded (his) expectations.\” The PM

indicated that both sides have agreed to resolve the dispute

through the Joint Border Commission, and in the context of

broader issues. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (SBU) Recognizing that historically U.S.-Cambodian

relations have been fraught with misunderstandings and

mistrust, PM Hun Sen expressed his appreciation for the

marked improvements over the past three years. He

highlighted the increasingly robust mil-to-mil relationship,

exemplified by recent U.S. ship visits and cooperation on MIA

issues, as well as the presence of Peace Corps volunteers

throughout Cambodia as indicative of the improved level of

trust between the two countries. The Ambassador credited Hun

Sen\’s leadership and efforts to understand the U.S. as

contributing to building a better working relationship to the

benefit of both countries, while cautioning that 50 years of

difficult relations will require continued attention by both

governments to ensure a fully normal and multifaceted

relationship in the future.

 

3. (C) The Ambassador applauded Hun Sen for exercising

patience and courage in avoiding armed confrontation over

Preah Vihear. Hun Sen confided that the dispute, arising so

close to the national election, posed a great challenge to

him and he expressed his gratitude for U.S. support for a

peaceful resolution to the conflict. He recalled that

tensions had risen to the point where Thai and Cambodian

soldiers had guns pointed directly at each other. However,

he gave the order for Cambodian troops to stand down, thus

abating tensions and allowing room for a diplomatic solution.

Hun Sen cited the Russian use of force in Georgia to

illustrate the point that Thailand and Cambodia narrowly

escaped a similar fate.

 

4. (C) Dismissing local media\’s criticism of the outcome of

the August 18-19 bilateral meeting as narrow-minded

nationalism, Hun Sen stated that FM Hor Namhong briefed him

on the outcome of the talks and that the results \”exceeded\”

his expectations. He noted that details of what had been

agreed would not be discussed publicly until approval by the

Thai cabinet. Hun Sen emphasized that the border dispute

would be resolved in the context of other areas of

cooperation with Thailand, perhaps referring to the Joint

Border Commission, which local media report will convene in

October to take up the border issue. He also stressed that

FM Hor Namhong\’s audience with the Thai king sends a positive

message regarding both sides\’ commitment to cooperate to

resolve the problem peacefully.

 

5. (C) The Ambassador explained continued U.S. support for

resolution of the dispute. He noted the advantages of a

bilateral approach, warning that, while still an option,

resort to the UNSC could damage relations with Thailand in

the long term. He also expressed his hope that the

statesmanship demonstrated by Hun Sen during this crisis will

be applied as wisely to his dealings with the political

opposition following CPP\’s victory at the July polls.

 

6. (C) Reflecting on the progress achieved in U.S.-Cambodian

relations, Hun Sen mused that during the 1960s he engaged in

anti-U.S. protests. The Ambassador replied that ironically

during this same time, he was briefly expelled from school

for organizing protests against the U.S. invasion of

Cambodia. The Ambassador explained that while Cambodia has

changed greatly since then, challenges remain in educating

Washington to modernize perceptions of Cambodia, which are

currently colored by the events of the 1970s. He suggested

that the upcoming Deputy Secretary\’s visit to Cambodia

presents an opportunity to enhance U.S. understanding of

 

PHNOM PENH 00000694 002 OF 002

 

Cambodia in the twenty-first century and to bring the two

countries even closer together.

 

7. (C) COMMENT: The Prime Minister has demonstrated

increasing maturity, reflected in his government\’s restrained

responses to a number of challenges over the past months.

Hun Sen\’s cool-headedness in the face of armed conflict with

an important neighbor is but one example. Another would

appear to be the entrenchment of some modest democratic gains

within the country. While there remains room for significant

further progress, Hun Sen deserves some credit for these

positive developments, as well as progress in the bilateral

relationship.

MUSSOMELI

Written by thaicables

July 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

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