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09BANGKOK2489 PREAH VIHEAR IN PLAY AGAIN AS BOTH A DOMESTIC ISSUE AND IRRITANT IN THAI-CAMBODIAN RELATIONS

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“227604”,”9/30/2009 10:16″,”09BANGKOK2489″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002489

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/12/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: PREAH VIHEAR IN PLAY AGAIN AS BOTH A

DOMESTIC ISSUE AND IRRITANT IN THAI-CAMBODIAN RELATIONS

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2405 (BRAWL NEAR BORDER)

B. 08 BANGKOK 1951 (DEBATE BEGINS)

C. 08 BANGKOK 1878 (TEMPLE MAP APPROVED)

D. BANGKOK 2418 (RUBBER SAPLING VERDICT)

 

BANGKOK 00002489 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: Charge a.i. JAMES F. ENTWISTLE, REASON 1.4 (B) AND (D)

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The swirl of issues around the Preah Vihear

temple on the Thai-Cambodian border once again garnered

headlines as both a domestic issue and irritant in

Thai-Cambodian relations, as it did in mid-2008. The Thai

National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) voted on

September 29 to file criminal charges against former Prime

Minister Samak Sundaravej and former Foreign Minister

Noppadon Pattama for their roles in a 2008 joint communique

with Cambodia regarding the Preah Vihear temple inscription

as a World Heritage Site. At the same time, the NCCC dropped

possible related charges against a host of other lesser

ranking officials. While the indictment of Samak and

Noppadon was front-page news, the legal procedures involved

in bringing the case to trial mean this case is far from

resolution. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other Thai

officials responded in a cool and measured manner to

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen\’s reported acerbic comments

that any Thais entering disputed territory along the border

would be shot.

 

2. (C) COMMENT: Less than two weeks after opposing Thai civil

society movements violently clashed several kilometers away

from Preah Vihear temple (REF A), issues related to the

temple and nearby disputed territory continue to loom large

in the Thai public consciousness and management of the

Thai-Cambodian bilateral relationship. The NCCC decision has

little immediate impact, given the months before the case

against Samak and Noppadon possibly makes it to court, and a

likely lengthy subsequent court proceeding. The measured

Thai response to Hun Sen\’s reported comments represents an

interest avoiding any rhetorical escalation of the issue as

Bangkok seeks to manage border issues and bilateral

relations. End Summary and Comment.

 

THE CASE AGAINST SAMAK AND NOPPADON: HURRY UP AND WAIT

——————————————— ———

 

3. (U) The National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC)

voted 6-3 on September 29 to file criminal charges against

former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and former Foreign

Minister Noppadon Pattama, based on Article 157 of the

Constitution, for their role in approving a joint communique

with Cambodia in June 2008 supporting Preah Vihear temple\’s

inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list (refs B

and C). The NCCC voted 8-1 to dismiss complaints against the

other members of the Samak cabinet, as well as lower-ranking

officials in the MFA and elsewhere. (Note: In addition to

financial corruption, the NCCC has a broad mandate which

includes malfeasance, removal from office, and initiating

criminal proceedings against persons holding political

office).

 

4. (SBU) The charges of malfeasance stem from the 2008

Constitution Court ruling that the joint communique violated

Article 190 of the Constitution, with the court deciding that

the Samak government had failed to seek parliamentary

approval/review of the agreement. The People\’s Alliance for

Democracy (PAD, aka \”yellow-shirts\”) filed a subsequent

complaint, alleging officials had violated both Articles 157

and 119 of the Criminal Code. While the NCCC found Samak and

Noppadon negligent in their duties under Article 157, which

carries a potential punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment

and/or a fine of up to 20 thousand baht if a court finds them

guilty, the NCCC declined to pursue charges of damaging

national sovereignty under Article 119, which would carry a

possible punishment of death or life imprisonment.

 

5. (U) Legal procedures ensure the case against Samak and

Noppadon is unlikely to see the inside of the courtroom for

some time, however. The NCCC will submit its ruling to the

President of the Senate for further consideration of the

removal of the Samak cabinet from office, per the PAD

 

BANGKOK 00002489 002.2 OF 002

 

complaint. While the Samak government fell in October 2008,

the procedure still has a potential impact; if found guilty,

Samak and Noppadon would be banned from holding any political

office for five years from the time of the decision (Note:

both are currently banned due to the December 2, 2008 ruling

against the People\’s Power Party for electoral fraud).

 

6. (SBU) The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) must then

review the case and decide whether to formally file criminal

charges. Based on the handling of the recently concluded

rubber sapling case (REF D), the OAG will likely take several

months to consider the case; if the OAG deems the case

incomplete, a working group of the OAG and NCCC will be

established to complete the case. If the OAG-NCCC working

group cannot come to a consensus, the NCCC has the power to

pursue the case directly with the courts. However, the

rubber sapling case precedent suggests that, in the absence

of an OAG endorsement, an NCCC forwarded case may well prove

to be too weak to secure a court decision against the

defendants.

 

MEASURED THAI RESPONSE TO HUN SEN\’S REPORTED REMARKS

——————————————— ——-

 

7. (SBU) On the same day as the NCCC ruling, Thai headlines

September 29 focused on Cambodian PM Hun Sen\’s alleged

comments threatening to shoot any Thai, civilian or military,

who crossed the border, and to tear up any Thai map used in

border negotiation talks. Thai civilian and military

officials involved in security and border issues, such as DPM

Suthep and Army Commander Anupong, reacted calmly to the

reported comments, stressing that Thailand would seek to

resolve border disputes peacefully, through the established

joint border commission mechanism. Prime Minister Abhisit

subsequently reiterated Thailand\’s commitment to finding a

peaceful solution to the disputed territory near Preah Vihear

temple.

ENTWISTLE

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Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:01 am

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