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09BANGKOK1275 THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE: MILITARY DIALOGUE AS BORDER DEMARCATION TALKS PROGRESS

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“208824”,”5/27/2009 10:28″,”09BANGKOK1275″,

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SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/27/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PBTS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE: MILITARY DIALOGUE

AS BORDER DEMARCATION TALKS PROGRESS

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4

(b) and (d)

 

1. (C) Summary. A May 21 phone conversation between Thai Army

Commander General Anupong Paochinda and Cambodian Prime

Minister Hun Sen underscored efforts to preclude further

clashes between the militaries of the two countries. The

Director of the Thai Army\’s Foreign Liaison Division called

talks between the two militaries frequent, but said they were

conducted quietly. Despite the ongoing talks, the Thai Army

viewed Hun Sen\’s demands that Thai troops unilaterally

withdraw from the disputed territory as nonsensical. The

Thai MFA told us that the Thai and Cambodian joint border

commission had in early April made substantial progress,

leading to an acceleration of joint field surveys along the

Thai-Cambodian border to the west of the temple. The MFA

judged the current status of Thai-Cambodian relations overall

as stable, with cooperation moving forward in other areas.

 

2. (C) Comment. We remain reassured by seeming commitment by

Thai and Cambodian governments to the joint border commission

process for resolving the border dispute. That said, the

process of settling overlapping claims will not be easy. The

dispute covers a range of areas well beyond the immediate

area around the Preah Vihear temple, and the Thai government

is more focused on the vital, difficult domestic issues of

political conflict, economic troubles, and the insurgency in

the South. As such, it may be difficult to forge a

compromise soon. Talks by the two militaries are promising,

but the continued presence of soldiers in close proximity to

each other could easily lead to further clashes. We will

continue to raise the issue with Thai interlocutors and urge

peaceful resolution of misunderstandings and disputes. End

Summary and comment.

 

MILITARY TALKS PROGRESSING UNDER THE RADAR

——————————————

 

3. (U) A May 21 phone conversation between Royal Thai Army

Commander General Anupong Paochinda and Cambodian Prime

Minister Hun Sen highlighted ongoing talks between Thailand

and Cambodia over 4.6 square kilometers of disputed territory

around Preah Vihear temple. The Bangkok Post reported May 23

that Anupong and Hun Sen spoke of the need for the two

countries\’ soldiers to carry out their duties peacefully.

Anupong reportedly initiated the conversation with Hun Sen in

hopes of preventing further clashes between troops located in

the disputed area. According to the article, Cambodian

Deputy Commander-in-chief General Chea Dara also hosted

Anupong for a visit to the temple itself, a first for high

ranking Thai officials since the UNESCO-related controversy

broke a year earlier in May 2008.

 

4. (C) The RTA 2nd Army command in charge of the

Thai-Cambodia border region told us that Anupong had

discussed with Hun Sen ways to avoid clashes and had stressed

to the Cambodian leader that both Thai and Cambodian troops

should work together and leave resolution of the border

dispute to the joint border commission process. The 2nd Army

also told us that it was quite rare for the Thai Army

commander to communicate directly with the Cambodian Prime

Minister.

 

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

Royal Thai Army\’s (RTA) Foreign Liaison Division, told us May

22 that General Anupong\’s conversation with Hun Sen reflected

ongoing, discreet talks between the two militaries that were

conducted at many levels. These talks were intended to

reduce tensions and to preclude clashes rather than to

resolve the border dispute. Werachon said that the Thai and

Cambodian militaries were comfortable talking with each other

and preferred direct talks to those involving their

countries\’ diplomats because political issues complicated

matters when other actors were included.

 

THAI ARMY CALLS HUN SEN\’S DEMANDS UNREALISTIC

———————————————

 

6. (C) Werachon said Hun Sen\’s repeated demands that Thailand

remove military personnel from the disputed area were

 

BANGKOK 00001275 002 OF 002

 

particularly sensitive for the RTA. The RTA did not dispute

the 1962 International Court of Justice\’s decision that

granted Preah Vihear to Cambodia, but the effect of Thailand

complying with Hun Sen\’s ultimatum would be to give legal

legitimacy to Cambodian claims on the 4.6 square kilometers

of disputed territory. The RTA would withdraw troops from

the disputed territory if Cambodia did as well, Werachon

said. Failing a coordinated joint withdrawal, the RTA

intended to maintain positions in the disputed territory

until Thailand and Cambodia could resolve the dispute through

the joint border commission mechanism, as had been agreed to

in 2000. If both sides withdrew, then the disputed territory

could be developed over time for tourism.

 

7. (C) Werachon said the RTA believed that the issue of the

disputed territory would be extremely difficult to resolve.

As such, it was likely to take many years before the two

sides could come to an agreement; the RTA therefore hoped to

pursue activities in the interim to build trust between the

two militaries in order to avoid provocations. Despite

continued dialogue, the RTA was concerned with what it

perceived to be strengthened Cambodian military positions in

and around the disputed territory, Werachon said. Cambodia

had constructed more robust positions in the disputed

territory and had recently replaced provincial,

paramilitary-type soldiers with Special Forces soldiers.

(Note: We have no independent confirmation of this. End note.)

 

MOVEMENT IN JOINT BORDER COMMISSION TALKS

—————————————–

 

8. (C) MFA Chief of Cambodia Section Mongkol Visitstump

characterized Thai-Cambodian relations as a friendly in a May

22 conversation. Mongkol said he believed that much progress

had been made during the April 6-7 Joint Thai-Cambodian

Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) meeting in

Phnom Penh, but that the success of the meeting had been

overshadowed in Thailand by protests later that week which

had resulted in the postponement of the ASEAN 6 Summit in

Pattaya. The two sides had agreed to endorse the minutes of

three meetings of the JBC, something that had not been

achieved since the first JBC meeting in November, 2008. In

addition, the two sides agreed that joint operations in the

disputed area would be called \”Temporary Military Monitoring

Groups.\” With these agreements, a joint field survey of the

condition and location of boundary pillars for the

Thai-Cambodian border along Si Sa Ket and Surin provinces

would commence soon after Thailand and Cambodia transferred

joint survey teams from border areas at Chanthaburi and Trat

provinces.

 

9. (C) Mongkol told us that the official name for the temple

remains a sticking point for the JBC, because the Thai

government believed it must use Khao Phra Viharn, as that was

the Thai-language name used by the Thai Parliament in

approving the bilateral negotiations per Article 190 of

constitution, not the Cambodian Preah Vihear (Note: In JBC

meetings, the Thai have proposed both names be used, but the

Cambodians have rejected the request, according to LTG Nipat

Thonglek, Head of the Border Division at Royal Thai Armed

Forces Headquarters and a JBC participant. End note). This

issue would be discussed at the next JBC meeting which would

be held in August, according to Mongkol.

 

10. (C) MFA Deputy Director-General of East Asian Affairs

Department Pisanu Suvanajata also confirmed to us that the

MFA viewed Thai-Cambodian relations as currently stable. The

border dispute, including the area around Preah Vihear temple

and other border problems, remained contentious, but other

areas of cooperation were proceeding well.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:34 am

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