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09PHNOMPENH811 EAP/MLS DEPUTY DIRECTOR PALMER SEES UP CLOSE CAMBODIA’S PROGRESS, CHALLENGES

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“232166″,”10/30/2009 5:59″,”09PHNOMPENH811″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1316

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04

PHNOM PENH 000811

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, IO, DRL, S/WCI

USUN FOR M. SIMONOFF

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KJUS, PHUM, EAID, CB

SUBJECT: EAP/MLS DEPUTY DIRECTOR PALMER SEES UP CLOSE

CAMBODIA\’S PROGRESS, CHALLENGES

 

REF: A. STATE 108210

B. PHNOM PENH 765

C. PHNOM PENH 746

D. PHNOM PENH 745

E. PHNOM PENH 652

F. PHNOM PENH 62

 

Classified By: DCM Theodore Allegra for reasons 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: EAP/MLS Deputy Director Matthew Palmer

visited Cambodia October 20-26 to take part in a Conference

on the Lower Mekong Initiative (septel), meet key

counterparts in the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC),

address human rights issues, visit bilateral assistance

program sites, and observe the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT).

While progress was palpable at the KRT, with the first case

soon coming to a close, the complications to be faced in the

second case against four Khmer Rouge leaders were evident. A

visit to a resettlement site west of Phnom Penh showed some

progress being made to handle land issues. Human rights

leaders indicated that, while progress had been made in the

2008 national election, the restriction of political space

since that time remained a major issue. Cambodia\’s bilateral

border dispute with Thailand was painted by Senior Minister

Var Kim Hong as solvable under international law, but

Cambodia is waiting for Thai action in Thailand\’s parliament.

Palmer also briefed Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary of

State Ouch Borith on the latest plans for the Lower Mekong

Initiative and outlined the new U.S. approach towards Burma.

END SUMMARY.

 

Khmer Rouge Tribunal

——————–

 

2. (SBU) KRT Public Affairs Section chief Reach Sambath led

a brief tour of the KRT courtroom facilities, noting the

large auditorium had hosted more than 27,000 Cambodian

observers at the seven-month-long trial (Case 001) of S-21

torture center head Kaing Guek Eav (aka Duch) and that the

advanced audiovisual equipment allowed for live feeds,

including live telecasts of the trial by the popular CTN TV

network. In a subsequent joint briefing by the ECCC\’s

national director Tony Kranh and UN deputy Knut Rosandhaug,

Kranh remarked on the success of Case 001, which could make

the ECCC a model for hybrid tribunals undertaken with the UN

but hosted by the nation in which international crimes had

been committed. He underscored that such a \”mixed court\”

also posed challenges in meeting international standards as

well as in attracting needed financial support. Although the

KRT administration was comprised of one court with two

components, Kranh said that the UN and the Cambodian sides

had very good relations. The closing arguments in the Duch

case in mid-November were expected to be a big event in

Cambodia and would attract much international attention, he

concluded.

 

3. (SBU) Deputy Director Rosandhaug said the KRT faced the

prospect of massive enhancements to its pace and process in

2010 to meet the requirements of Case 002 against four Khmer

Rouge leaders — Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng

Thirith. He glossed over the budget for 2010-2011 (which

others have reported as approximately $64 million for the

international side and $19 million for the national side),

but noted positive developments in the appointment of Clint

Williamson as a Special Advisor to the UN Office of the Legal

Advisor (UN/OLA), who is expected to focus on the KRT. When

asked about implementing the mechanism to prevent corruption

(Ref B), Rosandhaug said that although some in the court did

not easily understand this ombudsman-type mechanism, its

start-up was underway. But more importantly, all of the

evidence suggested that corruption at the court had ceased

and was no longer a problem.

 

4. (SBU) Rosandhaug speculated on the timetable for the

conduct of the three cases before the court — Cases 001 and

002 against the five detained suspects, and Case 003 for a

sealed indictment against five additional unnamed suspects

who remain under investigation. Rosandhaug said that the

timetable and resulting budget were \”much more credible\” as

the result of budget planning by former Special Advisor to

UN/OLA David Tolbert. A rough sketch of that timeline

follows:

 

Case 001

Closing arguments Nov. 2009

 

PHNOM PENH 00000811 002.3 OF 004

 

Judges\’ Decision March 2010

Appeal conclusion End of 2010

 

Case 002

Co-investigation by judges ends End of 2009

Closing Order (CO) Sept. 2010

Appeals of CO Dec. 2010

Trial ends Mid- 2012

Judges\’ Decision Dec. 2012

Appeal conclusion End of 2013

 

Case 003

Co-investigation by judges ends July 2011

Closing Order Apr. 2012

Appeals of CO Aug. 2012

Trial ends Early 2014

Judges\’ Decision Mid- 2014

Appeal conclusion Mid- 2015

 

5. (SBU) Stating his belief that Cambodia did not intend to

violate international standards at the KRT, Rosandhaug

nonetheless cautioned that some in the RGC did not understand

the concept of separation of powers, such as between the

legislature and the judiciary. Although he gave no

indication of any interference to date, Rosandhaug appealed

for the United States to remain engaged in the ECCC as both a

donor and as a moral leader to communicate the international

community\’s expectations for credible justice. He also

praised the work of the Documentation Center of Cambodia

(DC-CAM) as \”invaluable\” to the ECCC\’s mission.

 

6. (SBU) ECCC acting international Co-Prosecutor William

Smith gave Palmer a brief assessment of judicial progress,

stating that the prosecutor may seek to begin courtroom

proceedings in Case 002 as early as November 2010. He gave

assurances that the KRT cases were \”tuned and narrow,\” and

wer not too broad or complicated. Thus, although he

acknowledged the potential for \”political\” interference, he

speculated that the cases could proceed well as a result.

The other \”real issues\” facing the court were the

three-languages requirement and the ages of the four main

accused in Case 002, he said. Smith, an Australian national,

made clear his view that the Pre-Trial Chamber must sit

full-time in order to accomplish its work in a timely fashion

to keep Case 002 moving. On cooperation with the Cambodian

co-prosecutor, he said that the two sides had agreed to

disagree on the Case 003 submissions (NOTE: the Cambodian

co-prosecutor was opposed and the Pre-Trial Chamber ruled in

favor of prosecuting. END NOTE), but that they had very, very

good cooperation on the work of their office.

 

The Long View on Human Rights

—————————–

 

7. (SBU) At a lunch hosted by the DCM, the four most

influential human rights leaders in Cambodia gave their views

on the current status of human rights in the country. Kek

Pung of activist group LICADHO gave the most emotional and

pessimistic assessment, noting the unsolved killing of

journalists over the years (the last in 2008), and claiming

that Koh Kong residents along a river that was being dredged

for sand (in violation of an order by Prime Minister Hun Sen)

had lost their livelihoods. All of the HR leaders agreed

that the political space in Cambodia was now narrower as a

result of a spate of defamation cases in 2009 (Ref D), and

expressed unspecified concerns for the new Penal Code\’s

potential effect on freedom of expression. They had

similarly non-specific anxiety about the potential for a

proposed draft \”NGO Law\” to curtail their organizations\’

activities. ADHOC Leader Thun Saray explained the pressure

put on ADHOC land issues advocate Pen Bonnar in Ratanakiri by

a local judge, and ADHOC\’s decision to remove their rights

advocate from that area. Ou Virak of the Cambodian Center

for Human Rights presented an overall positive view of

Cambodia\’s human rights development and noted that the

judge\’s numerous improprieties had come to the attention of

the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, which would likely

investigate the judge. (NOTE: We later confirmed that the

RGC was actively investigating the judge for corruption

related to Ratanakiri land cases. END NOTE.)

 

8. (SBU) Thun Saray observed that a free market economy could

not exist in the absence of a pluralistic democracy, and vice

versa. He and the other human rights leaders urged the U.S.

 

PHNOM PENH 00000811 003 OF 004

 

to press the RGC on this point, while helping to reaffirm the

dynamic and hopeful character of the Cambodian people.

Christophe Peschoux noted that the UN Office of the High

Commissioner for Human Rights was making progress in

Cambodia, especially with the Ministry of Interior on some

aspects of due process, but that many challenges to the rule

of law remained, including corruption. Although most agreed

that the national election in 2008 was the most peaceful and

best-regulated to date, reactions were mixed about the

actions of the elected parliament controlled by the CPP (with

90 of 123 seats) and with internal rules that allow for

little participation by the opposition other than 20 minutes

of debate time allotted to a \”group of 10.\” Issues regarding

land claims were considered a central problem by all four

human rights advocates.

 

9. (SBU) Palmer visited Damnak Trayoeung, a resettlement site

occupied by former residents of the Dey Krahorm community who

were forcibly evicted in January after a long-running land

dispute in central Phnom Penh (Ref F). The site, while

vastly improved since January with access to electricity,

water, and schools, nevertheless highlighted some of the

humanitarian issues related to evictions and resettlement in

Cambodia. Former Dey Krahorm land-owners had received brick

apartments in Damnak Trayoeung, but former renters, who under

Cambodian law were not eligible for compensation, continue to

live under tarps or other makeshift structures at the site

and rely on NGOs for basic humanitarian support. A renter

community representative told Palmer that the government

planned to move them again to neighboring Kandal Province.

 

Land Border Dispute Stuck in Thai Parliament

——————————————–

 

10. (SBU) At the RGC Council of Ministers, Var Kim Hong,

Senior Minister and Chairman of the RGC Border Committees

briefed Palmer on UNESCO\’s 2008 inscription of the Preah

Vihear Temple World Heritage Site and the subsequent dispute

with Thailand over 4.6 square kilometers adjacent to the

site. Var Kim Hong reasserted that Cambodia stood by the

judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962,

that a French-Siam survey in 1904-07 and the map it produced

(and used by the ICJ) were a sound basis for border

demarcation negotiations with Thailand, and that Cambodia was

ready to resolve the issue peacefully based on a 2000 MOU

with Thailand and related Terms of Reference. Var Kim Hong

praised the professionalism of his Thai counterpart on the

Joint Border Commission (JBC), but lamented that the JBC

could not meet because the Thai parliament had yet to approve

3 joint Cambodian-Thai communiqus already initialed in prior

meetings over the last 18 months. Var Kim Hong mentioned

that agreed border resolution mechanisms were poised to move

just as soon as the Thai parliament took a decision on the

joint communiqus. These mechanisms would include further

negotiations within the main JBC as well as the convening of

a joint legal committee and a joint border demarcation team

supplemented by joint de-mining activities in agreed areas

along the border areas. (NOTE: Tens of thousands of mines

were laid along the Thai-Cambodian border during Cambodia\’s

multiple conflicts during the period 1969 to 1998. It was

only in late 1998 when the Khmer Rouge finally laid down its

weapons that locations such as the Preah Vihear Temple

reverted to Cambodian government control, and many areas

immediately adjacent to the 805-kilometer border have not

been de-mined. END NOTE.) Var Kim Hong also remarked on the

need to implement a Cambodian-Thai agreement to re-deploy

troops now in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple.

 

Mekong River Initiative

———————–

 

11. (SBU) At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palmer October

22 briefed Secretary of State Ouch Borith on the Lower Mekong

Initiative (LMI), noting that the Deputy Chiefs of Mission

from the four Lower Mekong countries and senior USAID

personnel had met in Phnom Penh to discuss next steps. We

wanted to follow up the commitments from the Phuket

ministerial and set the stage for what we hoped would be a

similarly successful ministerial in Hanoi. The LMI had

strong support in Washington and from the Lower Mekong

countries themselves. We were interested in RGC ideas to

refine the initiative and further strengthen cooperation in

the areas agreed to in Phuket, including health, environment,

and education.

 

PHNOM PENH 00000811 004 OF 004

 

12. (SBU) Ouch Borith said that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong

had been highly receptive to the LMI and was eager to know

when an experts group could meet. For Cambodia, among the

most significant concerns were climate change and protecting

the environment of the Mekong River. The RGC looked forward

to more information on the LMI and intended to cooperate

fully in the effort, he concluded.

 

13. (SBU) Palmer raised Cambodia\’s recent spate of

defamation cases (Ref D) as a problem that affected USG

perceptions of Cambodia. Ouch Borith replied that he has had

frank discussions with the EU on the same subject, but noted

that Cambodia had been acting in accordance with an

UN-drafted law from the UNTAC era in order to defend the

credibility and honor of RGC leaders. Acknowledging that the

right balance had to be struck between defending honor and

allowing freedom of expression, Ouch Borith urged more

officials from the U.S. to visit Cambodia in order to see the

scope of freedom of expression that is evident throughout

Cambodian society.

 

Burma

—–

 

14. (C) Palmer then briefed Ouch Borith on the U.S. Burma

policy review and current plans for U.S. engagement with

Burmese officials (Ref A). Noting that sanctions had not

worked in Burma, Ouch Borith said that Cambodia welcomed the

new Burma policy. Referring to gas and oil pipelines the

Burmese junta was developing jointly with Thailand, Ouch

Borith said that business as usual continued with the Burmese

despite the sanctions. If the world pushes too hard with

sanctions, Burma will \”go to India and China,\” he cautioned.

When Senator Webb met with Prime Minster Hun Sen in August

(Ref E), the Prime Minister noted his support for the

democratization of Burma, his concern about Aung San Suu Kyi,

and his support for elections in 2010. In the meantime,

Cambodia would wait to see what happens with A/S Campbell\’s

visit to Burma in November. Ouch Borith took on board the

USG request that other ASEAN nations — including Cambodia –

underscore to the Burmese leadership they have a new opening

to improve their standing in the international community if

they moved forward now to address the world\’s concerns.

 

TIP Challenges

————–

 

15. (SBU) In meetings with anti-trafficking NGOs in Siem

Reap, Palmer heard of the many challenges facing Cambodia in

the fight against trafficking and child sex tourism. Rong

Ratana from Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), noted he receives

good cooperation from the national police, which he believes

is committed to the issue, but that he faces obstacles with

the court, which is corrupt, focuses on hard evidence, and

often ignores victim testimony. Rong admitted that APLE

focuses on Western sex tourists because they are easier to

spot and often approach or groom the child directly. Asians

tend to be more careful and use middlemen to solicit

children. Although procuring prostitution is illegal,

middlemen such as tuk-tuk drivers or guest house operators

are typically not targeted or prosecuted by law enforcement

and the courts. Rong also noted the lack of capacity within

law enforcement and Cambodia as a whole in the area of

information technology as being a major obstacle to

successful forensic child pornography investigations.

 

16. (SBU) Sao Chhoeurth, National Coordinator for NGO AFESIP

which also provides victims assistance, affirmed that the

government is committed, but that it lacked capacity,

sufficient policies, and clear plans. Chhoeurth indicated

that the TIP Report is a \”powerful tool\” for promoting

change, and has prompted increased action and understanding

of the problem of human trafficking in Cambodia. According

to Chhoerth, noteworthy recent government advancements

include the creation of TIP working groups and increased

consultation with NGOs.

 

17. (SBU) EAP/MLS Deputy Director Matthew Palmer cleared

this cable.

RODLEY

 

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:09 am

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