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08BANGKOK3082 TENSIONS FLARE WITH CAMBODIA AFTER HUN SEN DEMANDS THAI WITHDRAWAL FROM DISPUTED BORDER AREA NEAR PREAH VIHEAR

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SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 003082

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH, CB

SUBJECT: TENSIONS FLARE WITH CAMBODIA AFTER HUN SEN DEMANDS

THAI WITHDRAWAL FROM DISPUTED BORDER AREA NEAR PREAH VIHEAR

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 3069

B. BANGKOK 3021

C. PHNOM PENH 814

D. BANGKOK 2854

E. BANGKOK 2487

F. BANGKOK 2464

G. STATE 86724

H. BANGKOK 2428

I. PHNOM PENH 679

 

Classified By: Charge d\’Affaires, a.i. James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4

(b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia flared again

October 13 after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said during

the new Thai FM\’s visit to Phnom Penh that Thai troops would

have to withdraw from a disputed area near the Preah Vihear

temple because the area was a \”life and death battle zone.\”

The latest round of accusations occurred after Thailand sent

a demining team into the disputed zone to remove mines that

the Thai government believes were recently placed in the zone

by Cambodia. By mid-day October 14, the situation appeared

to have calmed after Cambodian commanders claimed publicly

that Thai troops had withdrawn. The RTG quickly disputed the

claim privately but appeared willing to accept the resulting

ease in tensions by not commenting publicly to the contrary.

 

2. (C) Comment: While we of course have no independent

account of what transpired with Hun Sen during the October 13

meeting, the Thai Foreign Minister and Permanent Secretary

came away from the visit to Phnom Penh alarmed. Hun Sen\’s

comments to the press after his meeting with Sompong only

increased Thai anxiety. We are pleased that the immediate

tensions appeared to have eased by day\’s end October 14 and

will continue to urge resolution of the dispute through

peaceful, bilateral means. Moreover, we see nothing to give

credence to the MFA Permanent Secretary\’s assertions that

Vietnam is prepared to enter the fray militarily to support

Cambodia. In sum, the Thai Foreign Ministry seems more

worked up about this latest development in the Thai-Cambodia

border dispute than the Thai military. End Summary and

Comment.

 

HUN SEN DEMANDS THAI WITHDRAWAL

——————————-

 

3. (C) Thai MFA Permanent Secretary Virasakdi Futrakul told

the Ambassador October 13 that the border dispute with

Cambodia had become serious. Virasakdi\’s comments came after

he had attended a meeting the same day in Phnom Penh between

Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat and Cambodian Prime

Minster Hun Sen. Virasakdi said that Hun Sen had given an

ultimatum demanding the withdrawal of a Thai 20-person

demining unit and a related 40-person security force from the

disputed zone adjacent to the Preah Vihear Temple by 1500 on

October 14. According to media reports, Hun Sen said

publicly after meeting Sompong that Thai troops must withdraw

from the disputed area because the area was a \”life and death

battle zone.\”

 

4. (C) FM Sompong told the Charge October 14 that Hun Sen had

been blunt and taken a threatening approach during the

October 13 meeting. Sompong said the RTG remained committed

to resolving the conflict peacefully via already in place

mechanisms despite the confrontational approach taken by the

Cambodian Prime Minister. Hun Sen had opened the meeting by

telling Sompong that \”You are not going to like what I am

going to tell you,\” and then gave the ultimatum, Virasakdi

told the Charge. (The Thai official who took notes in the

meeting later told the Charge that Hun Sen was polite (\”he

 

BANGKOK 00003082 002 OF 004

 

said please\”) in his request in the meeting that Thai troops

be withdrawn and only \”got angry\” in his comments to the

press. The same Thai official said Sompong\’s earlier meeting

with Cambodian FM Hor Namhong was \”very cordial.\”)

 

5. (C) The Charge told Sompong that U.S. diplomats in Phnom

Penh would be counseling caution and restraint (as we also

did in Bangkok.) Sompong expressed his thanks.

 

6. (C) Colonel XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, Director of the

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX at the Royal Thai Army (RTA)

Headquarters, told us that RTA had intelligence that Cambodia

had deployed an additional company (approximately 50 to 100

troops) to the area near the disputed territory after Hun

Sen\’s remarks. XXXXXXXX disputed other reports that

indicated that the Cambodia had moved tanks and other heavy

equipment in the area around Preah Vihear.

 

THAI MILITARY REMOVING ALLEGED CAMBODIAN MINES

——————————————— –

 

7. (C) Lieutenant General XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX at the Royal Thai Armed Forces

Headquarters (RTARF), told us October 14 that the Thai

military had October 13 sent a demining team into the 4.6

square kilometer disputed territory in the vicinity of Preah

Vihear temple in order to remove mines that Thailand believed

were recently placed by Cambodian troops in the disputed

region. In the conversation early October 14, LTG XXXXXXX

said the demining team would finish activities by mid-day

October 14 and then withdraw from the area. This would then

put the number of troops in the disputed region back to the

bilaterally agreed number of less than 100 on each side.

 

8. (C) Thailand sent in the demining team following October 6

landmine explosions in the disputed territory that caused two

Thai paramilitary rangers to lose their legs (Ref A). The

mines reportedly were located approximately 1.5 kilometers

west of the Preah Vihear Temple complex. Virasakdi told the

Charge that the RTG had evidence that the mines were recently

placed by Cambodian forces. Among evidence in Thai

possession were radio intercepts ordering Cambodian troops to

plant the mines, Virasakdi claimed. Virasakdi said the RTG

had planned to take demining NGOs to the disputed area

October 14 to reveal the recent mine laying activities by the

Cambodians, but the visit had been canceled after Hun Sen\’s

remarks. The RTG was now trying to gather evidence to make

an indisputable claim that the mines had been recently placed

in the disputed area by the Cambodians and, in addition to

\”taking it to Geneva\” might also go public if Thai experts

determined the evidence was incontrovertible.

 

TENSIONS APPEAR TO EASE

———————–

 

9. (C) Media reports October 14 said that Thai troops had

withdrawn from the disputed border area by mid-day.

Cambodian officials reportedly said 80 Thai troops had

withdrawn from the area after talks between local commanders

from the two sides. Cambodian Brigadier General Yim Pim was

quoted by AFP to say that Thai troops had withdrawn from the

area and that there was no longer any confrontation. Thai

government officials quickly denied the reports both publicly

and privately. Foreign Minister Sompong reportedly told the

media that Thai troops would remain in the disputed area

because Thailand had overseen that area for twenty to thirty

years. Colonel Saranyu Viriyavejakul, Aide de Camp to RTA

Commander General Anupong Paochinda, told us October 14 that

Thai troops had not withdrawn. According to Saranyu, the RTA

viewed the report as a Cambodian attempt to ease the current

tensions. Cambodia did not want to enter into a conflict

with the Thai military, as it would be at a distinct

disadvantage, Saranyu told us.

 

BANGKOK 00003082 003 OF 004

 

10. (C) LTG XXXXXXX told us late October 14 after he had

attended a meeting between Prime Minister and Defense

Minister Somchai, the RTARF Supreme Commander, and the

service commanders, that Thai government had resolved to keep

the additional demining team and its security force in the

disputed region after Hun Sen\’s ultimatum. Earlier in the

day, the plan had been to remove the demining team, but the

RTG could not be seen as agreeing to Hun Sen\’s demands; to

withdraw the troops would be seen as confirmation that

Thailand had been at fault in deploying the team to the area

in question. XXXXXXX believed that Hun Sen did not carry

through on his threats because an October 14 normal

repositioning of Thai troops within the disputed area had

been erroneously reported in the international press as a

withdrawal. LTG XXXXXX said he thought calmer heads would

prevail and that Cambodia would not attack Thai troops.

 

11. (U) The Thai MFA October 14 posted a statement on its

website in response to Hun Sen\’s comments. The statement

said that Thailand was surprised by the Cambodian Prime

Minister\’s remarks but that Thailand continued to try to

resolve the conflict peacefully through bilateral

negotiations. The statement said that the militaries of two

sides had agreed to convene a special meeting of the Regional

Border Committee (RBC) on October 21. The RBC meeting would

be preceded by a October 15 working level meeting.

 

THAIS CLAIM POSSIBLE VIETNAMESE INVOLVEMENT

——————————————-

 

12 (C) Virasakdi told the Ambassador October 13 that the

Thai embassy in Phnom Penh had received reports that

Vietnamese troops had begun to move into Cambodia in order to

support Cambodian efforts in the disputed area. The RTG was

also attempting to verify a report that Cambodia had recently

obtained nineteen fighter jets that were based at a

Vietnamese airbase and would be flown by Vietnamese pilots in

support of Cambodia in case of war with Thailand.

 

13. (C) Thai military contacts, however, have downplayed

reports of Vietnamese involvement. LTG XXXX did not

express the same sense of urgency as Virasakdi. Colonel

Saranyu told us that he had read a report that 3,000

Vietnamese troops were supporting or even possibly would

fight alongside Cambodian troops but that he doubted the

source of the report. Saranyu believed that the Cambodian

government may have planted the report in order to create the

impression that the Cambodia had regional backing in the

border conflict. The Thai military had good relations with

the Vietnamese and did not foresee outside involvement in the

conflict, Saranyu said. XXXXXXXXXX also told us he

doubted the report of Vietnamese support for the Cambodians.

General Anupong had recently visited Hanoi and had been

assured by the Vietnamese military that they considered the

border conflict a bilateral issue, XXXXXXXXXX said.

 

Manila Treaty and Rusk-Thanat Statement

—————————————

14. (C) Virasakdi told the Ambassador that Thailand may be

required to invoke the 1954 Manila (SEATO) Treaty and the

Rusk-Thanat Communique if Vietnam were to be involved in a

conflict between Cambodia and Thailand. (Note: While we are

obviously nowhere near invoking the various agreements with

the RTG the details follow: The Understanding of the U.S.,

added after Article XI of the Manila Treaty, reads: \”The

United States of America in executing the present Treaty does

so with the understanding that its recognition of the effect

of aggression and armed attack and its agreement with

reference thereto in Article IV, paragraph 1, apply only to

communist aggression but affirms that in the event of other

aggression or armed attack it will consult under the

provisions of Article IV, paragraph 2.\” The Rusk-Thanat

 

BANGKOK 00003082 004 OF 004

 

Communique of 1962, which clarified U.S. commitment to

Thailand, states that the U.S. would assist Thailand \”in case

of Communist armed attack against that country.\” (para 3).

End Note.)

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:03 am

One Response

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  1. Cambodia don’t need to have Vietnam enter the conflict since Cambodia alone can handle any Thai man-girl easily.

    Chucky

    July 22, 2011 at 11:00 am


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