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09PHNOMPENH101 DPM SOK AN IS FIRM BUT PATIENT ON THAI BORDER DISPUTE, DOWNPLAYS KRT CORRUPTION

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“191926”,”2/13/2009 7:34″,”09PHNOMPENH101″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0384

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0577

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0678

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SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, P, D, IO, EEB

PARIS FOR AMB. OLIVER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2019

TAGS: PREL, ENRG, KJUS, KTIA, EPET, PINR, SCUL, TH, CB

SUBJECT: DPM SOK AN IS FIRM BUT PATIENT ON THAI BORDER

DISPUTE, DOWNPLAYS KRT CORRUPTION

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CAROL A. RODLEY FOR REASONS 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: In an initial courtesy call on Deputy Prime

Minister Sok An February 12, the Ambassador emphasized the

U.S. commitment to a re-invigorated and growing relationship

with Cambodia and support for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Sok

An outlined mixed developments in negotiations with the Royal

Thai Government (RTG) over the disputed border in the

vicinity of UNESCO World Heritage Preah Vihear temple. The

Ambassador questioned whether the Royal Government of

Cambodia (RGC) should go forward with plans to reverse an

earlier decision and now exclude Thailand from the Preah

Vihear International Coordinating Committee (ICC) required by

UNESCO inscription. DPM Sok An indicated that the ongoing

negotiation regarding renewal of the Chevron offshore oil

concession was going well and that the two sides were seeking

compromises on taxation of oil revenues and the development

of an action plan to start oil well drilling so that

Cambodia\’s \”money does not sleep under the sea.\” END

SUMMARY.

 

Excellent Relations; RGC Counts on \”President of World\” Obama

——————————————— —————

 

2. (SBU) The Ambassador and DPM Sok An agreed that the

U.S.-Cambodia bilateral relationship is better than ever

before. The Ambassador noted that the USG now has better and

deeper relations with the RGC compared to her previous tour

in Cambodia nine years earlier when relations were

characterized by mistrust and suspicion. The DPM

acknowledged the current bilateral cooperation enjoyed by

both countries and mentioned that he is looking forward to

implementation of a USAID-supported economic growth program

based on an agreement he signed with Deputy Secretary

Negroponte in September 2008. The Ambassador commented that

restoring the U.S. economy is the top priority of the Obama

administration and that the current financial picture is far

different from the period just five months ago when the

economic development agreement was signed. She went on to

say that American economic recovery will have implications

for Cambodia given the interrelated nature of both economies.

The Ambassador noted that when Americans are unemployed and

not buying shirts, orders for Cambodian garment manufacturers

decrease and both countries feel the consequences of the

economic crisis. DPM Sok An replied that President Obama is

viewed as not only the President of the U.S., but also \”the

President of the world\” because the situation in the U.S. has

a profound impact on other countries and this is evident in

Cambodia.

 

KRT: Some Success, But Need to Prevent Corruption

——————————————— —-

 

3. (C) The Ambassador commended DPM Sok An for the amazing

progress that has been achieved on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal,

officially called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of

Cambodia (ECCC). She confirmed that she will attend the

opening hearing at the KRT on February 17. The DPM

reiterated the \”five successes\” of the KRT thus far and noted

achievements of the KRT compared to other international war

crimes tribunals: the speedy arrest of 100 percent of the

accused; the inclusion of victims as civil parties in the

trial; the relatively minimal cost; significant national and

international participation; and the timely establishment of

internal rules by the court\’s judges. Noting that there are

well-understood \”problems in the ECCC\” (NOTE: an allusion to

salary kickback allegations against ECCC Director Sean Visoth

and calls for his removal. END NOTE), the DPM went on to say

that the RGC could only make decisions with respect for the

rule of law and due process. \”Our friends want us to act (to

dismiss Sean Visoth, who is currently on an indefinite sick

leave), but we cannot do this without due process of law,\” he

said. The Ambassador acknowledged the court\’s achievements,

but emphasized the importance of the national and

international communities maintaining confidence in the

integrity of the court and that the reputation of the

administrative side will affect the reputation of the

judicial side. Noting that the matter was essentially a

political question based on the lack of confidence in an

individual, the Ambassador called on Sok An to continue to

show leadership on the issues of corruption within the KRT.

(NOTE: In a room full of more than ten Sok An staffers,

neither side mentioned Sean Visoth by name. END NOTE.) The

DPM replied that corruption exists in every country and that

this complication within the scope of the larger KRT is a

 

PHNOM PENH 00000101 002 OF 003

 

relatively small point. He added that few people have been

part of the tribunal process since its beginning in the

mid-1990s (as Sean Visoth has), implying that Sean Visoth had

a significant role to play and not closing the door on his

return.

 

Tensions at Preah Vihear

————————

 

4. (C) The DPM emphasized Cambodia\’s good will, sincerity,

flexibility, respect for the rule of law, and resolve

regarding the tensions at Preah Vihear — despite the Thai

\”incursion\” onto Cambodia\’s territory last July — and he

repeated Cambodia\’s position that they will defend the

territorial boundaries and cultural heritage of Cambodia.

However, he added that the Cambodian position was to continue

to have good bilateral relations with Thailand in all areas.

The UNESCO inscription of Preah Vihear last July which had

been agreed to by Thai authorities at that time in Quebec was

an issue of culture and heritage, not a boundary issue. DPM

Sok An again expressed the gratitude of the Cambodian

government to Ambassador Oliver and A/S Anderson in joining a

multilateral group to broker the UNESCO inscription by a

consensus of 21 nations on the UNESCO inscription committee.

Sok An reviewed the UNESCO policy that inscription of the

Preah Vihear temple did not require a \”buffer zone\” around

the temple with well-defined borders. However, he recalled

the 1962 decision by the International Court of Justice that

the Preah Vihear temple complex belonged to Cambodia. He

noted pointedly that the ICJ decision made no reference to

\”Khao Pra Viharn,\” the name for Preah Vihear used by the Thai

and an ongoing source of disagreement which surfaced during

February 3-4 bilateral border talks in Bangkok.

 

5. (SBU) The DPM stated that the Cambodia-Thai Joint

Boundary Commission (JBC) will continue meetings the second

week of April and will focus on negotiating the border marker

posts installed by the French early in the last century. To

date, 48 markers have been located out of the 73 known to

have been installed; the RTG and RGC have agreed in principle

to accept the locations of 33 of the marker posts so far, he

said.

 

Thailand as Member of ICC

————————-

 

6. (C) The DPM discussed Cambodia\’s plans to revise its

position, after the Thai \”incursion\” into Cambodian territory

last July 15, to exclude Thailand from membership on the ICC.

The Ambassador asserted that an ICC without Thailand\’s

participation seemed like an untenable proposition given that

most of the currently available access to Preah Vihear is

through Thailand.

 

Offshore Oil Development and Renewal of Chevron\’s Concession

——————————————— —————

 

7. (C) Although the Ambassador and DPM were not able to

discuss the issue of offshore oil development in detail

during this initial meeting, the Ambassador asked about the

status of Chevron\’s bid to renew its concession on Bloc A.

The DPM averred that he had a good discussion with Chevron

Asia Pacific President James Blackwell recently and had

promised to work with the Ministry of Economy and Finance on

an expeditious compromise on oil revenue taxation. (NOTE:

Since Chevron signed its first concession agreement with

Cambodia the government has been pushing for a law to

increase taxes on oil revenue. In the renewal of the

concession, Chevron is seeking the same treatment as in the

original agreement. END NOTE.) Commenting on the need for

its first big concession-holder to start pumping oil, Sok An

said that Cambodia \”does not want our money to sleep under

the sea.\” Complaining that they initially thought production

would begin in 2009, but were then told 2010, and now that it

would be 2011 before oil production begins, he noted the RGC

requested a Plan of Action from Chevron. He half-jokingly

requested that the USG prod Chevron to start oil production

soon.

 

Biographical Note

—————–

 

8. (SBU) Sok An stated that his four sons are now grown up,

have graduated from college and are successful. His third

son (a twin, Sokan) works for the DPM as an aide and attended

 

PHNOM PENH 00000101 003 OF 003

 

this meeting. His fourth son graduated first in his class

from a university in Switzerland with a degree in Tourism and

Hotel Management, and is now an assistant in the Department

of Tourism and Industry. The DPM mentioned that his daughter

already had two children, and noted his son-in-law works in

the Foreign Ministry in its inspectorate. Sok An stated that

now that his children are grown, he no longer has to \”find

them jobs\” but instead can work for his government and

country. Another of Sok An\’s twin sons (Soken) is married to

the daughter of Senior Minister Cham Prasidh, and serves as

the latter\’s Chief of Cabinet.

 

COMMENT:

——–

 

9. (C) Sok An was well briefed and prepared to engage on

subjects of importance in this first meeting. The Cambodian

chair of the JBC, Senior Minister Var Kim Hong, sat next to

him and reminded Sok An of recent developments in the Preah

Vihear border negotiations. The DPM went on at length about

moments in the negotiations over UNESCO inscription where the

Thai either tried to ignore the rules of the game or agreed

to a point, only to reverse themselves later. Nonetheless,

he exhibited patience and understanding for the fractious

political situation in Thailand. Sok An seemed to take on

board the notion that the Thai must be a part of the ICC. On

the KRT, Sok An was just as inscrutable as he has always been

these past few months on the fate of Sean Visoth. In the

meantime, Visoth appears to be well away from the court on an

extended sick leave and the UN staff at the ECCC are

satisfied with this arrangement.

RODLEY

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:23 am

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