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08BANGKOK3120 SITUATION CALM OCTOBER 16 AROUND DISPUTED PREAH VIHEAR AREA, THAI SHOW OFF ALLEGED CAMBODIAN LANDMINE

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“173977”,”10/16/2008 11:52″,”08BANGKOK3120″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“08BANGKOK3094″,”VZCZCXRO7044

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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

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RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9106

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RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY”,

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

BANGKOK 003120

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

NSC FOR LAN TRANH

PACOM PASS AMB. JOHN, A/S HILL, DAS MARCIEL

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH, CB

SUBJECT: SITUATION CALM OCTOBER 16 AROUND DISPUTED PREAH

VIHEAR AREA, THAI SHOW OFF ALLEGED CAMBODIAN LANDMINE

 

REF: BANGKOK 3094 (AND PREVIOUS)

 

Classified By: Charge d\’Affaires, a.i.

James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4

(b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) The situation in the Preah Vihear temple area appeared

calm October 16 as the two sides reportedly agreed to conduct

joint patrols in the disputed area. The Thai MFA asserted in

a briefing for the diplomatic corps that Cambodia had

recently placed mines in the disputed area and presented what

it said was one such mine for inspection. The MFA also

expressed frustration at what it claimed was a lack of

patience on the part of the Cambodian government in trying to

resolve the border conflict; a Royal Thai Armed Forces

General expressed similar confusion over why Hun Sen would

have initiated armed conflict at this time.

 

2. (C) Comment: We are pleased that the two sides have

reportedly been able to agree to joint patrols that could be

a useful confidence building measure. However, the buildup

of military assets in the vicinity of the temple and

continued rhetoric by both sides create an environment that

could lead to further conflict. With the Thai Parliament

scheduling the mid-August Thai-Cambodian provisional

agreement for consideration October 22, we hope that the two

sides will refrain in the interim from escalating tensions.

We will continue to urge restraint and consultation on the

Thai side. End Summary and Comment.

 

SITUATION ON THE BORDER CALM

—————————-

 

3. (C) As of late October 16 the situation at Preah Vihear

appeared calm, with no reports of further clashes. DAO

observers who traveled October 16 to vicinity near Preah

Vihear reported the situation quiet. Thai artillery were

seen in the vicinity ,as well as heavy transport vehicles

that had likely been used to transport tanks to the area.

The Royal Thai Army (RTA) had reportedly recently deployed at

least one artillery (likely 155 millimeter guns) and one tank

battalion to augment Thai troops in the vicinity of the

disputed area.

 

4. (C) Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak, Director of the

Foreign Liaison Division at the RTA Headquarters, told us

early October 16 that the situation on the border was calm.

The RTA retained forces in the disputed area and was ready to

reinforce those troops. Werachon made a point of reiterating

the RTG\’s intention to defend Thai territorial rights.

 

5. (SBU) Media reports late October 16 said the Thai and

Cambodian militaries had agreed to conduct joint military

patrols in the disputed territory. The Royal Thai Armed

Forces Headquarters (RTARF) told Defense Attaches during a

late October 16 briefing that Thai and Cambodian military

representatives would meet October 21 under the auspices of

the Regional Border Committee. The RTARF confirmed that

local commanders from the two sides had met earlier October

16 but did not have details on the results of the meeting.

The RTARF also reiterated Thai Army Commander General

Anupong\’s public statements that Thailand would not initiate

hostilities in the disputed area and would only respond with

force commensurate to that displayed by Cambodia. The RTARF

said approximately 600 Thai troops were located approximately

10 kilometers from the temple and stood ready to support

paramilitary troops located in the disputed zone. The RTARF

claimed that 1,600 Cambodian troops were located in Cambodian

territory below the temple.

 

BANGKOK 00003120 002 OF 003

 

THAILAND CLAIMS STRONG EVIDENCE OF RECENTLY-PLACED MINES

——————————————— ———–

 

6. (SBU) During a October 16 briefing for the diplomatic

corps led by MFA Director-General Virachai Plasai, the MFA

claimed that \”it was a fact\” that Cambodia had recently

placed mines in the disputed territory near the Preah Vihear

temple. Evidence to this effect included a mine that

appeared to be new, fresh soil found over the mines, the

strength of the October 6 explosions that injured Thai

troops, and the tightness of the detonator found in the mine

that had been removed from the disputed area.

 

7. (SBU) The MFA presented for inspection by the diplomatic

corps a mine that it claimed had been removed from the

disputed area October 12 after two previously marked mines

had disappeared from the area. The MFA said the mine was a

Russian-made PMN 2 landmine. The mine appeared (by the

inspection of Embassy representatives who attended the

briefing) to be a new mine, not one that had been weathered

by being located in the ground for 20 to 30 years since the

Khmer Rouge era. The MFA also claimed that the mines found

in recent days were placed on well-worn pathways used by Thai

troops to patrol the disputed area and which had been used

regularly by local villagers prior to the outbreak of

tensions over the Preah Vihear temple.

 

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON THAI CAPTIVES

————————————

 

8. (U) Local newspapers October 16 featured the October 15

border clash incident and reported that 7 Thai soldiers had

been wounded. Media reports said the RTA claimed that 2

Cambodian soldiers were killed and 2 were injured during the

fighting. The media also reported that Cambodia claimed to

have taken 10 Thai paramilitary rangers captive. Despite

official Thai denials to the contrary, photos in the local

media and in the IHT appeared to confirm Cambodian claims

that had they taken Thai troops captive. One photo showed a

Cambodian soldier talking on a radio while 4 Thai

paramilitary rangers sat unarmed nearby in the traditional

Ranger uniform of black pants and shirt. A caption for

another photo claimed to show an armed Cambodian soldier

standing watch over several Thai paramilitary soldiers. MFA

Director-General Virachai stressed during the October 16

briefing to the diplomatic corps that the pictures that the

media had published earlier in the day had been taken some

time earlier when the two sides were mingling amicably.

 

9. (C) RTA Colonel Werachon disputed the reports of Thai

captives and said that the RTA had accounted for all military

and paramilitary troops in the area. The Cambodian claim of

Thai captives was \”propaganda.\” Werachon confirmed the

reports of Thai injuries but said none was life threatening.

Most of the wounds were from small arms fire and from

explosions of rocket-propelled grenades. Werachon said the

RTA had evidence that 3 Cambodian soldiers had been wounded.

 

RTG ASKS \”WHY ESCALATE TENSIONS NOW?\”

————————————-

 

10. (U) During the October 16 briefing, MFA Director-General

Virachai repeatedly expressed RTG frustration that the

Cambodian government had not been patient in trying to

resolve the dispute. Virachai said that the Thai

constitution required Parliamentary approval of the

provisional agreement that had been agreed to by then-Thai

Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and Cambodian Foreign Minister

Hor Namhong in mid-August. The Thai Parliament would

consider the agreement October 22, Virachai said. Thailand

was committed to addressing the issue bilaterally and

peacefully and would display the patience necessary to come

 

BANGKOK 00003120 003 OF 003

 

to resolve the issue.

 

11. (C) In a late October 15 conversation with a DAO

representative, Lieutenant General Surapong Suwana-adth,

Director of Joint Intelligence at the Royal Thai Armed Forces

Headquarters, expressed surprise at the pace of the conflict.

Surapong asked rhetorically: \”why do you think that the

Cambodians have pushed the issue so quickly?\” Surapong said

many factors could be involved, one of which could be

\”influence\” on Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. DAO will

separately report more from this conversation.

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:06 am

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