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09PHNOMPENH832 PRIME MINISTER HUN SEN PREVIEWS THAKSIN VISIT

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“234047”,”11/10/2009 11:42″,”09PHNOMPENH832″,

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

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1348

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RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI PRIORITY 0009

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PHNOM PENH 000832

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EEB, IO

SINGAPORE PLEASE PASS TO DAS SCOT MARCIEL

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MARR, MOPS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER HUN SEN PREVIEWS THAKSIN VISIT

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary: The diplomatic spat between Cambodia and

Thailand took center stage during the Ambassador\’s meeting

with Prime Minister Hun Sen November 8. Hun Sen confirmed

that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra would

arrive in Cambodia on November 10 and would deliver a speech

to Cambodian officials at the Ministry of Economy and Finance

on November 12. He also confirmed that, aside from the

diplomatic friction, tensions were low and military

commanders remained cooperative at the border, and that he

would continue to monitor Thailand\’s reaction and would

respond in kind to each diplomatic downgrade that the Abhisit

government initiated. We expect Hun Sen will now shift

largely from an offensive to a defensive position. He is of

course hopeful that the Thai will refrain from taking

precipitous actions, but he is prepared to match any Thai

action with a Cambodian reaction. In that context, Hun Sen

will likely be both confident and relaxed during the upcoming

Singapore meetings, amenable to suggestions that a

de-escalation of rhetoric and a re-engagement between

Cambodia and Thailand is in the best interests of the region

as well as the parties. End summary.

 

2. (C) In raising this issue during a meeting previously

scheduled to discuss a broad range of other issues (septel),

the Ambassador reaffirmed that both Cambodia and Thailand

should work to reduce political tensions and to refrain from

acts that could be considered provocative. Hun Sen replied

that military cooperation was proceeding very well at the

border ) \”there is no chaos,\” he explained, and \”things

remain very quiet.\” He also said there is no need \”to keep

so much force there\” and confirmed press reports that he had

ordered the 911 Brigade paratrooper unit be recalled to Phnom

Penh and that he would do his best to ensure that Thai and

Cambodian commanders continued to cooperate and avoid any

military confrontation. If the situation remained calm, Hun

Sen added he would also recall Division 1, which would reduce

the Cambodian military presence at the border to normal,

pre-July 2008, levels. Hun Sen reiterated that he wanted to

\”build up mutual trust between the armies,\” and that he hoped

that Thai military commanders would continue to cooperate and

work to \”reduce tensions.

 

3. (C) Hun Sen underscored that Thaksin would travel to

Cambodia from \”another ASEAN country,\” but that \”the Thai

don\’t care\” about the purported double standard that has led

the Thai government to criticize Hun Sen so publicly while

ignoring Thaksin\’s presence elsewhere in the region. (Note:

Hun Sen did not cite the name of the country where Thaksin

was reportedly currently residing. End Note.). \”Whether

Thaksin comes or not,\” Hun Sen explained, it remains the

\”business of Cambodia\” to engage him as an economic adviser

during the current economic downturn. Hun Sen confirmed what

he has said publicly: that the RGC would not \”accept\” any

extradition request from Thailand as this case was \”purely

political\” and the Thai-Cambodian extradition agreement was

based on customary international law that clearly allowed

extraditions to be rejected based on political context. And

although he said he expected the Thai government to deliver a

\”letter of extradition,\” he said that the RGC had already

prepared a reply rejecting the request.

 

4. (C) Because military relations at the border remained

cooperative, Hun Sen said that the principal conflict with

Thailand was diplomatic and that the public pronouncements

from various Thai officials to downgrade diplomatic relations

between Thailand and Cambodia reflected \”internal confusion\”

within the Thai government. After Thaksin\’s arrival, Hun

Sen said he would simply monitor the Thai reaction day by

day. \”There are many in the Thai government who are not

acting under orders of the Thai Prime Minister,\” Hun Sen

stated, pointing to the example of the Thai army, which \”had

to obstruct the yellow shirt protesters\” sent from Bangkok

from reaching Preah Vihear on September 19. In fact, Hun Sen

averred that the Thai business interests in Sisaket Province

were \”already complaining\” and would suffer most if Thailand

prolonged and exacerbated the diplomatic dispute by closing

the border with Cambodia in a \”frenzied reaction\” to

Thaksin\’s visit. He added that the RGC had already sent a

message to Bangkok that it was indeed the right of Thailand

to close the border but, unlike in 2003 when the Thais

 

PHNOM PENH 00000832 002 OF 003

 

allowed goods to continue to cross, he would respond by

directing that Thai goods would also be barred from crossing

into Cambodia if Thailand did so.

 

5. (C) Again referring to perceived dissension among key

leaders of the current Thai government, Hun Sen claimed that

\”not everyone is on good terms\” and that Deputy Prime

Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Minister of National Defense

General Prawit Wongsuwan did not agree with Prime Minister

Abhisit and Foreign Minister Kasit on this issue. \”I met

with them here,\” Hun Sen noted, and \”spent three hours with

them in Hua Hin\” on October 23, where their lack of support

for the direction of the current Thai government was clear.

Moreover, Hun Sen said that he had been contacted by

unspecified Thai Senators and other members of the government

to begin the work of diplomatic \”remediation.\”

 

6. (C) As previewed by the Prime Minister, Thaksin\’s private

commercial charter arrived at the military side of Phnom

Penh\’s airport at about 9:30 a.m. on November 10, originating

from Mumbai. Although local and international press viewed

the arrival from a distance, Ministry spokespersons were

guarded in their comments about the visit. Thaksin\’s car

entered a motorcade secured by Hun Sen\’s bodyguard unit and

departed for a lunch at Hun Sen\’s residence in Takhmao, south

of the capital. At the end of the day, MFA spokesman Koy

Kuong told reporters that no Thai request for extradition had

yet been officially received, although others report that an

extradition request from the Thai government has been already

transmitted. Thaksin is reported to be staying in a villa

close to the Cambodian Peoples Party headquarters not far

from the Royal Thai embassy. Unconfirmed reports indicated

that Thaksin is scheduled to depart Cambodia on November 13.

Separately, in response to the Ambassador\’s inquiry during a

meeting November 10, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh commented

that he was very familiar with the popularity polls recently

conducted in Thailand and did not think they were the least

bit credible. He added that he thought nothing Thaksin did

or said in Cambodia would have much effect on the domestic

situation in Thailand.

 

7. (C) Comment: Hun Sen remained thoughtful and calm

throughout his discussion with the Ambassador, and there was

no hint of the provocative rhetoric that he sometimes

displays in public or private. In the weeks since Hun Sen\’s

October 23 announcement that he would appoint Thaksin as an

adviser, he has been most concerned about increases in border

military activity; he now seemed pleased with the extent of

military cooperation and believes that his decision to reduce

the number of troops will contribute to continued

cooperation. With that in place, Hun Sen has now turned his

attention to the diplomatic front and seemed focused

predominantly on how much and how quickly the Thai would

erode diplomatic relations in what he believes is an effort

to attract public support for a regime that can command long

term support of neither the military nor a majority of the

people. While it remains to be seen whether he has

miscalculated in that assessment, it is apparent that he has

received indications from some Thai officials that he has

not. But, more importantly, none of that seems to matter

much to the Prime Minister. Hun Sen has clearly calculated

that whatever diplomatic downgrades are initiated by the

Abhisit government do not outweigh the benefits that Hun

Sen\’s friendship and support to Thaksin could provide to

Cambodia both now and in the future. He seemed similarly

uninterested in ASEAN or international reaction to the spat

and did not directly respond to the Ambassador\’s inquiry

about the message he intended to send to ASEAN or the

international community about his actions.

 

8. (C) As much of the press and other reporting has

suggested, Hun Sen\’s motivations are best described as

personal political moves designed to attract perceived

benefits to himself and Cambodia and to disarm his foes in

the current Thai government. As this continues to play out,

we expect Hun Sen will shift largely from an offensive to a

defensive position. He is of course hopeful that the Thai

will refrain from taking precipitous actions, but he is

prepared to match any Thai action with a Cambodian reaction

every step of the way, as he has done with the reciprocal

recall of Ambassadors. In the meantime, we expect the U.S.

and others will find a confident and relaxed Hun Sen during

 

PHNOM PENH 00000832 003 OF 003

 

the upcoming Singapore meetings amenable to suggestions that

a de-escalation of rhetoric and a re-engagement between

Cambodia and Thailand is in the best interests of the region

as well as the parties themselves. End Comment.

RODLEY

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Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:16 am

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