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09PHNOMPENH815 HUN SEN MANEUVERS OVER POSSIBLE THAKSIN VISIT

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“232209”,”10/30/2009 9:09″,”09PHNOMPENH815″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“09BANGKOK2746|09PHNOMPENH811″,”VZCZCXRO4499

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHPF #0815/01 3030909

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 300909Z OCT 09

FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1325

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000815

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, IO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MOPS, CB

SUBJECT: HUN SEN MANEUVERS OVER POSSIBLE THAKSIN VISIT

 

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 811

B. BANGKOK 2746

 

Classified By: DCM THEODORE ALLEGRA FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Cambodian officials cite personal relations

as justification for a possible visit by former Thai Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in November. Some also cite the

Preah Vihear situation, which has seen no diplomatic movement

since April. Prime Minister Hun Sen appears to be taking a

longer view of Cambodian-Thai relations — maneuvering to

keep the current government attentive to Cambodia\’s needs

while cozying up to a potential future (read Pheua Thai)

government in Bangkok grateful for Cambodia\’s strong support.

Hun Sen\’s bottom line seems to be a deal on Preah Vihear

that both countries can live with, even if one Thai party

cannot. In the meantime, Thai and Cambodian regional

military commanders reinforced October 27 the message that

armed confrontation should be avoided. Although units on

both sides remain on alert, peaceful intentions were

reiterated by line commanders at Preah Vihear on October 29,

who voiced support for the bilateral Joint Border Committee.

END SUMMARY.

 

No Official Confirmation?

————————-

 

2. (C) Noun Chivorn, Deputy Director-General of the MFA

ASEAN Department confirmed October 29 that no official

messages had been received regarding a visit by Thaksin.

Noting the heavy media speculation, he said that the story

was being driven by the newspapers since Hun Sen\’s remarks on

October 21 inviting Thaksin to Cambodia and offering to

appoint him as an economic advisor. Phay Siphan, Secretary

of State and Spokesperson in the Council of Ministers, echoed

the view that a media frenzy had stirred up a hornet\’s nest

but noted that so far, there had been only one personal

message delivered to Hun Sen from Thaksin expressing

gratitude for Hun Sen\’s personal support. On October 30 MFA

spokesperson Koy Kuong repeated there were no official

indications of a visit but added that reports from the press

of an impending Thaksin visit appeared to be \”credible.\”

 

Only a Personal Relationship?

—————————–

 

3. (C) Phay Siphan acknowledged that a visit may indeed be

possible and that it would \”present difficulties\” for

Cambodia. He nevertheless emphasized that if Thaksin chose

to visit it would be the personal visit of a long-term

friend. Sry Thamarong, close foreign affairs advisor to Hun

Sen, said that the whole matter should be viewed as \”only

personal\” with no connection to official relations between

Cambodia and Thailand. He nonetheless hinted that a short

visit was in the works. \”Thaksin has no business here,\” he

said. \”He has billions to look after elsewhere,\” he

emphasized, \”so even if Thaksin came for a visit to Cambodia,

he would have no reason to stay.\” When asked about the

extradition of Thaksin from Cambodia to Thailand, Phay Siphan

said that Cambodia reserved the right to interpret its treaty

obligations consistent with international law. (NOTE: On

October 23, a hastily issued MFA press release stated that

Cambodia would not extradite Thaksin to Thailand. END NOTE.)

Phay Siphan emphasized that he was speaking only about a

possible visit, \”if\” Thaksin chose to make it. That said, a

senior minister advisor to Hun Sen has confirmed that

Thaksin\’s people have been on the ground in Cambodia for some

time, and that Hun Sen already signed the order appointing

Thaksin an economic advisor.

 

Mind Boggling!

————-

 

4. (C) An ASEAN embassy official commented that it \”boggles

the mind\” to think about what Hun Sen intended when he \”stuck

it to the Thai\” at the ASEAN summit October 23 by his

statements inviting the fugitive from Thai justice and to

appoint him as an economic advisor. It was embarrassing to

the hosts and not in the interests of Cambodia, he noted. He

speculated that Hun Sen was mad about something the Thai had

done behind the scenes but noted that it \”was a case of Hun

Sen saying what he says and everybody scrambling to explain

it.\”

 

A Diplomatic Feint and Maneuver?

——————————–

 

5. (C) That Preah Vihear was uppermost on Hun Sen\’s mind

before the ASEAN summit was obvious after the Cambodian

Ministry of Foreign Affairs had seized on an article quoting

the Thai foreign minister as favoring a neutral third party

 

PHNOM PENH 00000815 002 OF 002

 

to take up the border dispute. The RGC slyly suggested that

ASEAN might be considered, causing the Thai FM to quickly

clarify the record and reassert that Preah Vihear should be

solved bilaterally. That Hun Sen deliberately repeated his

\”personal\” support for Thaksin on the opening day of the

ASEAN summit made it abundantly clear that he is not happy

with the current Thai government and that he is not convinced

the Thai government has the willingness or even the ability

to resolve the Preah Vihear dispute anytime soon.

 

Border Meetings Ease Tensions

—————————–

 

6. (SBU) In the meantime, Cambodian and Thai military and

border officials continue to meet. Siem Reap governor Sou

Phirin told embassy staff that an October 27 meeting focused

on avoiding military confrontation and maintaining border

security. Cambodian Military Region 4 commander Gen. Chea

Mon and newly installed Thai Military Region 2 commander LTG

Wiwalit Chonsamrit were in attendance, as were the three

Cambodian governors from Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, and Banteay

Meanchey and four deputy governors from the adjacent Thai

provinces. \”The meeting was unofficial\” Sou Phirin said.

\”Both sides agreed to avoid armed confrontation and respect

law and order to make the disputed border as peaceful as

before that of last July. The two sides agreed to facilitate

the work of the Border Committees of the two countries to

implement their duty.\”

 

7. (SBU) On October 29, the line commanders at Preah Vihear

met once again and Cambodian press reports indicate that

although units on both sides of the border remain on high

alert, their commanders repeated their joint desire for

avoiding armed clashes. Cambodian Commander Srey Deuk and

his Thai counterpart (identified as Gen. Suvatchai) also

pledged to leave the resolution of border issues to the

bilateral Joint Border Committee (JBC) (Ref A).

 

COMMENT

——-

 

8. (C) Hun Sen wants to deal with a Thai counterpart who can

deliver on Preah Vihear. It seems clear to the RGC that the

current Thai government has placed the border issue well down

on the Parliamentary agenda and the lack of diplomatic

movement (Ref A) reflects that low priority. By establishing

informal party-to-party relations between CPP and Pheua Thai

(Hun Sen met former Thai PM Chavalit October 21 as vice

chairman of the CPP) Hun Sen is betting on Pheua Thai\’s

ascendancy and is taking first steps to cement what he may

view as a more productive bilateral relationship. This

remains true notwithstanding the statements of other RGC

officials, who have been out in force repeating the message

that Thai-Cambodian relations on all fronts remain positive

and friendly.

 

9. (C) But this reserved approach — especially in view of

protracted and incremental diplomatic activity on the border

issue — has clearly made Hun Sen impatient. He is playing

to a rambunctious domestic polity fed up with perceived Thai

dissembling and unable to shoulder the cost of a huge army

stationed at the border. Some RGC officials have referred to

the provocations of Thai yellow shirts regarding Preah

Vihear, and to a general state of Thai \”anarchy\” as

negatively affecting Cambodia (through lower numbers of

tourist visits, for example). In addition, recent shootings

of Cambodian civilians by Thai militia (Tahan Prahn) along

the Thai border have been a festering popular grievance that

was reportedly aired in the October 27 civilian-military

meeting in Siem Reap. Hun Sen\’s flamboyant performance at

Hua Hin may have had some subtle nuances after all, with a

cathartic effect at home and a wake-up call for a little more

respect — and action — from his neighbor.

RODLEY

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

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