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“168258”,”9/3/2008 10:39″,”08PHNOMPENH735″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,





DE RUEHPF #0735/01 2471039


O 031039Z SEP 08












E.O. 12958: N/A




REFS: (A) PHNOM PENH 516; (B) STATE 77799; (C) 07 PHNOM PENH 1500;

(D) 07 PHNOM PENH 1541




1. (SBU) Summary: In his departure cable, \”Seven Significant

Failures\”, outgoing Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli framed the

U.S.-Cambodia relationship as hovering on the brink of a

transformation: better than it has ever been, but with clearly

identifiable areas for improvement. In the weeks since that cable

was drafted, two events give additional perspective to the question

of where Cambodia is headed. Like the U.S.-Cambodian relationship,

the July 27 National Assembly election was better than any

previous–but still below international standards. Meanwhile,

Cambodia\’s leadership is displaying a new maturity in its handling

of an ongoing border dispute with Thailand. This maturity, so far,

has been echoed in its muted response to opposition parties\’

election critiques. Your visit is the highest-level State visit

here since Secretary Powell\’s participation in the 2003 ASEAN

Regional Forum. It builds on A/S Hill\’s January 2006 trip, as well

as DAS Marciel\’s January 2008 participation in the first

U.S.-Cambodian dialogue. Your visit is an opportunity to reassure

Cambodia\’s leaderships that we have favorably noted improvements.

Simultaneously, we want to send the message that their recent

election victory presents increased opportunities for the new

government-and for U.S.-Cambodian relations–but also amplifies

international expectations that Cambodia will move beyond its

war-torn past and prioritize the development needs of its

population. End Summary.





2. (SBU) The U.S.-Cambodia relationship is better than it has ever

been. We enjoy Cambodia\’s cooperation on counterterrorism efforts,

law enforcement issues and POW/MIA matters. Our growing mil-mil

relationship led to the holding of the first Bilateral Defense

Dialogue August 26-28 (a proposal first raised when PACOM Admiral

Keating visited last year.) The USS Mustin is expected to dock in

Cambodia in early October. This will be the third ship visit in 16

months, after a 30-year hiatus. The ships, as well as medical,

dental and engineering outreach, have been warmly received including

in very remote parts of Cambodia. USG assistance to Cambodia,

currently more than $61.6 million annually, is fueling cooperation

on HIV/AIDS and avian influenza, health care for children and

expectant mothers, cultural preservation, and humanitarian demining.

Cambodia provides temporary haven and a processing site for

Montagnard refugees, as well as another more politically sensitive

refugee caseload. The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has a good

record of supporting U.S. positions in the UN, contributes deminers

to the UN in southern Sudan, and recently began participating in the

Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). In a decision which

significantly increases its multilateral military engagement,

Cambodia has agreed to host the GPOI capstone exercise in 2010. As

Cambodia\’s impressive economic growth continues, more U.S.

businesses are exploring opportunities, although they still fall far

behind investors from South Korea, China, and the region.





3. (SBU) Cambodia\’s July 27 National Assembly election was the

country\’s third parliamentary exercise following the 1993 poll

conducted by the UN Transitional Administration (UNTAC) under the

terms of the Paris Peace Agreement. The 1998 election was conducted

in the aftermath of a short, violent CPP-led coup against coalition

partner FUNCINPEC. It took more than a year to form a government

after the next election, in 2003. The evaluation that this year\’s

polling was the best yet could thus be framed by some as damning

with faint praise. That said, a significant number of Cambodians

participated in an election-day process that was conducted in a

peaceful and open manner with professional conduct by most election

staff. International observers, including 47 teams from the

embassy, traveled freely around the country to observe pre-election

campaigning and the election itself. Although some irregularities

persist, they were relatively low in number and they do not appear

to have affected the outcome or to have distorted the will of the

Cambodian people. Representatives from five different parties have

been elected to serve in the National Assembly.


4. (SBU) The Cambodian People\’s Party (CPP) invested massive

resources to get out to voters in the provinces, capitalizing on

their positions within government to convey a message that CPP

delivers (infrastructure, schools, and roads). The 58 percent of

the popular vote-translating to 90 seats in the 123-seat National

Assembly-won by CPP is directly linked to this well-organized,

well-financed, sustained effort. A divided and multitudinous

opposition split the anti-CPP vote and quite probably confused

voters (for example, two parties competed for Royalist sympathizers


PHNOM PENH 00000735 002 OF 003


while four parties had Amcits in senior leadership roles).

Post-election, four parties protested the results, but two-FUNCINPEC

and the Norodohm Randariddh Party (NRP)-are now seeking a coalition

with CPP. This leaves two parties as the serious opposition: the

Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) which won 26 seats and the Human Rights Party

(HRP) with three. They are threatening to boycott the September 24

opening of the National Assembly, but told us privately that they

would join, if they could be sworn in by the King in a ceremony

separate from CPP, FUNCINPEC and NRP. We have suggested to them

that the more important thing on which to focus is the role(s)

opposition parliamentarians can play in Assembly structures and

committees, ensuring that their significant voter base is fairly

represented. Among our medium-term goals will be further efforts to

address election process shortfalls, strengthen the sense of

parties\’ accountability to their voters, and support press freedoms

and the right to demonstrate peacefully.





5. (SBU) The mid-July movement of Thai soldiers into disputed

territory thrust the temple of Preah Vihear into the international

spotlight. Just weeks before, the World Heritage Committee (WHC)

had agreed to Cambodia\’s request to register the 9th century,

cliffside temple as a site of outstanding universal value. As Ref B

explains, the unanimous WHC decision was the result of a sustained

and serious Cambodian lobbying effort. The fact that Cambodia had

made (eventually thwarted) efforts to negotiate an MOU with Thailand

also was perceived favorably by WHC members. Post continues to be

concerned by the ongoing stalemate and presence of armed soldiers in

and around a pagoda near the temple site. Equally worrying, two

additional border temples at Ta Moan have become hotspots. But, we

believe that the RGC\’s handling of its quest to register Preah

Vihear temple (which was awarded to Cambodia by a 1962 ICJ

decision), its dignified response following the registration, and

its handling of the Thai incursion merit note, especially against

the backdrop of a national election during which playing a bellicose

card predictably would have rallied support to CPP. In a number of

areas, we have noted more restrained and more open reactions from

Cambodia\’s leaders, most notably Hun Sen. Whether it is allowing a

demonstration (Ref C), engaging with critical NGOs such as Freedom

House (Ref D), or accepting an FBI offer of assistance in a murder

investigation, the RGC seems to be reacting more maturely.





6. (SBU) The U.S.\’s harshest criticisms of Cambodia all spiral back

to three things: weak systems – in many cases the fruit of the Khmer

Rouge period; endemic corruption; and a sense that the wealthy or

powerful can operate with impunity. These problems are the root of

Cambodia\’s continued human rights problems, including those linked

to unclear land title in a burgeoning real estate market. They

still deter U.S. businesses, which worry about investing when

regulatory frameworks are weak and informal networks abound. They

slow our engagement with the military, who face accusations ranging

from human rights abuses to illegal logging. And, while a concerted

government effort has improved Cambodia\’s trafficking in persons

standing, mixed messages based on individual judicial decisions make

some pedophiles and other criminal elements believe Cambodia is safe

territory for their pursuits.


7. (SBU) A still-outstanding question is whether the Khmer Rouge

Tribunal can strengthen rule of law here. The U.S. is on the

threshold of funding, and we hope that you may be able to announce

an initial tranche during your visit. Administrative problems,

directly linked to the corruption endemic in Cambodia, trouble the

court and are a continued focus of donor and UN attention. But, the

first case is set for trial soon and already Cambodian judges

participating in the mixed tribunal seem to have acquired a greater

comfort in enforcing politically unpopular positions-and to believe

that they have the space to do so. The country as a whole is

watching the Tribunal, and many believe that finally ending the

impunity that Tuol Sleng chief Duch, Brother Number Two Nuon Chea

and others enjoyed for nearly thirty years is the starting point to

tackle these hardest of challenges. We are encouraged to move ahead

for two reasons: first, the long-suffering people of Cambodia

deserve the best-possible chance; second, all of the progress in the

other areas described by this cable will stall, if we cannot-working

with the government and people of Cambodia-address these three root



8. (SBU) Your meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign

Minister Hor Namhong; discussions with opposition parties, economic

leaders, and civil society; and briefings on the election and the

Khmer Rouge Tribunal will provide key opportunities to note the

areas of improvement described in this cable. While discussing how

their recent election victory presents increased opportunities for

the new government-and for U.S.-Cambodia relations, you can


PHNOM PENH 00000735 003 OF 003


reinforce expectations that Cambodia will move beyond its war-torn

past and prioritize the development needs of its population. Eight

local newspapers have already run stories on your planned visit, and

press and local interest is high.





Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 5:47 am

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