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08BANGKOK3094 THAI AND CAMBODIAN TROOPS CLASH NEAR DISPUTED PREAH VIHEAR AREA

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“173791”,”10/15/2008 11:28″,”08BANGKOK3094″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“08BANGKOK2428|08BANGKOK2464|08BANGKOK2487|08BANGKOK2854

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OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #3094/01 2891128

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

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RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6412

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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03

BANGKOK 003094

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, CASC, ASEC, TH, CB

SUBJECT: THAI AND CAMBODIAN TROOPS CLASH NEAR DISPUTED

PREAH VIHEAR AREA

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 3082

B. BANGKOK 3069

C. BANGKOK 3021

D. PHNOM PENH 814

E. BANGKOK 2854

F. BANGKOK 2487

G. BANGKOK 2464

H. STATE 86724

I. BANGKOK 2428

J. PHNOM PENH 679

 

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

(b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Despite initial indications that tensions surrounding

the Preah Vihear border dispute had eased (ref A), Thai and

Cambodia troops exchanged fire mid-afternoon October 15 in

the area near the temple. Initial media reports indicated

that at least four Thai soldiers had been injured in the

clash; the Thai army (RTA) claimed to us that one Cambodian

had been killed. The clash came as the Thai military was

rotating troops located in the disputed zone. The Thai

government continued to pursue evidence that Cambodia had

placed mines in the disputed area in contravention of the

Ottawa Convention and appeared ready to soon go public with

the claim.

 

2. (C) Comment: While we continue to use every opportunity

to strongly urge the Thai government to continue to pursue

bilateral negotiations to resolve the issue peacefully and

diplomatically, the rhetoric and actions of the past few days

are alarming. From our conversations with Thai

interlocutors, and given the domestic political crisis, we do

not foresee a RTG desire to escalate the border dispute.

However, the October 15 clash is evidence that rhetoric from

the two governments and the military buildup could lead to a

wider clash between the two sides. We are advising extreme

caution in border areas. End Summary and Comment.

 

SHOTS EXCHANGED NEAR PREAH VIHEAR TEMPLE

—————————————-

 

3. (C) Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged fire mid-afternoon

October 15 in the area near the disputed territory around the

Preah Vihear temple. MFA Permanent Secretary Virasakdi

Futrakul told the Charge that the fighting had started at

approximately 2:20 pm and lasted until 3:00 pm. Royal Thai

Armed Forces (RTARF) Headquarters Director for Border Affairs

Lieutenant General Nipat Thonglek told us that Cambodia had

initiated the clash by firing a rocket-propelled grenade

(RPG) at Thai troops. Nipat said the two sides were still

firing as of 4:00 pm with RPGs, machine guns, and other small

arms. Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak, Director of the

Foreign Liaison Division at the Royal Thai Army (RTA)

Headquarters, told us that the clash had primarily involved

machine gun and mortar fire.

 

4. (C) Virasakdi indicated that the Thai military had been

in the middle of a regular troop rotation that the Cambodians

may have misinterpreted as an increase in Thai troops in the

disputed area. Colonel Werachon confirmed earlier reports in

the day that the Thai military had sent 500 troops to Thai

territory adjacent to the disputed grounds surrounding Preah

Vihear temple. The troops were reinforcements for the

security forces that were located in the disputed territory

(Ref A). Werachon said the RTA had one battalion of troops

in the vicinity of the disputed region and one company from

that battalion in the disputed area reinforcing Thai

paramilitary rangers.

 

BANGKOK 00003094 002 OF 003

 

5. (C) While Virasakdi confirm four Thai injuries to the

Charge. Werachon said the RTA had four injured Thai

paramilitary rangers and had confirmed one Cambodian killed.

Media reports also indicated that the Thai military was

sending reinforcements to the area via tanks, other armored

vehicles, and buses.

 

6. (C) The clash occurred despite apparent indications

earlier in the day that tensions were easing. MFA Permanent

Secretary Virasakdi Futrakul told the Charge early October 15

that he believed the situation on the border had improved.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had called Thai

Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat to express appreciation

for the \”restrained tone\” of the October 14 Thai MFA

statement (Ref A). The two Foreign Ministers agreed to meet

\”as soon as possible\”, however, no details had been worked

out yet.

 

RTG STRONGLY PURSUING LANDMINE ISSUE – TO GO PUBLIC?

——————————————— ——-

 

7. (C) Virasakdi said FM Sompong believed that Cambodia

changed its tone (as relected in the call from the Cambodian

FM) because Phnom Penh knew that the Thai government now held

the upper hand on the landmine issue. Virasakdi had met

Bangkok-based ASEAN Ambassadors late October 14 to share

information about the dispute and to share pictures taken in

the area. (Note: The Cambodian and Philippine Ambassadors

did not attend.) Virasakdi said the MFA had planned to show

the ASEAN Ambassadors two Russian mines that the Thai

military had removed from the disputed area, but the mines

had not arrived in Bangkok in time for the meeting. (Note:

The Bangkok Post October 15 reported that the Thai military

had found Russian PMN 2 mines.)

 

8. (C) The Thai military had located and marked two

additional mines in the disputed area but, according to

Virasakdi, the Cambodians had removed the mines before the

Thai were able to act. This confirmed, in Virasakdi\’s view,

that the Cambodians knew they had been caught red-handed.

The Cambodian government was worried, Viraskadi speculated,

about the issue being raised in relation to the Ottawa

Treaty, of which Thailand and Cambodia are signatories, as

the treaty bans the use of landmines.

 

9. (C) Virasakdi told the Charge late October 15 that the RTG

had decided to go public with the evidence that Cambodia had

recently planted the mines in the disputed area. The MFA

would hold a press conference October 16 to provide more

details and produce evidence of landmines retrieved from the

disputed border areas. The mines had been located on routes

in the disputed territory that the Cambodians knew the Thais

routinely patrolled and were clearly \”modern,\” Virasakdi

asserted. We understand the diplomatic corps will be called

in the afternoon of October 16, presumably for a briefing on

both the landmine issue and the border situation.

 

10. (C) MFA XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX of International

Organizations Department XXXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that

RTG had firm evidence to substantiate that Cambodia had

recently placed the mines in the disputed area. The RTG,

however, had not yet decided whether to raise this issue with

the United Nation\’s Secretary General as provided by the

Ottawa Treaty. XXXXXXXXXXX said the RTG still held to the

principle that bilateral negotiations were the preferred

solution to the dispute. MFA XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX of East

Asian Affairs Department XXXXXXXXXXX, however, told us

the RTG would likely raise the issue with the UN Secretary

General as it had substantial evidence in pictures and

shrapnel from October 6 incident that resulted in two Thai

paramilitary rangers losing their legs. We suspect the Thais

may plan to raise it at the meeting of Ottawa Treaty

signatory states in Geneva November 24-28.

 

BANGKOK 00003094 003 OF 003

 

THAILAND PREPARES FOR NEO CONTINGENCY

————————————-

 

11. (C) The Bangkok Post reported October 15 that the Thai

Navy (RTN) had dispatched ships to patrol the waters off of

Thailand\’s Trat province while the Thai Air Force (RTAF) had

put jet fighters and C-130 aircraft on stand-by. We learned

before the clash October 15 that the RTN and the RTAF were on

alert but were essentially in normal force employment

patterns. Both services had begun planning for a response in

the event of non-combatant evacuation (NEO) operations of

Thai citizens from Cambodia that would likely involve the

RTN\’s aircraft carrier and RTAF C-130s. DAO will report

separately a more comprehensive look at Thai air and sea

assets that could come into play in the event of a wider

conflict. Thai C-130s successfully conducted a NEO in

January 2003 after Cambodian rioters burned down the Thai

embassy in Phnom Penh.

 

PURSUING THAI-CLAIMED VIETNAMESE INVOLVEMENT

——————————————–

 

12. (C) According to Virasakdi, Foreign Minister Sompong had

planned a \”four eyes\” with the Vietnamese Ambassador to

Bangkok on October 14 to discuss the allegations that Vietnam

was providing aircraft and troop support to Cambodia, but the

Vietnamese Ambassador had canceled the meeting. The MFA

would try to again to schedule a meeting October 15.

 

EMBASSY REPRESENTATIVES TO ASSESS THAI MILITARY MOVEMENTS

——————————————— ————

 

13. (C) In order to try to obtain more information on Thai

military movements, members of the Embassy Bangkok Defense

Attache Office plan to travel to Si Sa Ket province October

16 to look for military movements along transportation routes

that lead to the disputed area. DAO representatives will

keep a safe distance from the areas of potential conflict.

 

14. (U) We are putting out a short warden message advising

Amcits in Thailand to stay away from the Preah Vihear area

and to exercise caution anywhere along the Thai-Cambodian

border.

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:05 am

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