Cable said Hun Sen had no claims to any Thai land
Share this on

Cable said Hun Sen had no claims to any Thai land

Or so says a headline in the Bangkok Post. The article has some more details:

A WikiLeaks cable has quoted Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen as saying his country has no overlapping land areas with Thailand.

In the 95PHNOMPENH152 cable, issued by the US embassy in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen is quoted as saying the only overlapping territory between the two countries is “in the sea”, and that it should be divvied up in a grid pattern.

The cable described a meeting between Hun Sen and a group of US corporate leaders led by US-Asean Business Council president Matt Daley on May 1-3, 2008.

Hun Sen’s comment was in response to Mr Daley’s message that then-Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama did not oppose the inscription of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, but wanted Thailand and Cambodia to adopt a joint management plan for an “overlapping claims area”.

Hun Sen was also quoted as saying that he wanted the overlapping claims area in the Gulf of Thailand to be considered separately from the Preah Vihear question – “an approach that Thailand accepted years ago”, he said.

BP: Wow, was BP’s first impression. Wasn’t Cambodia claiming the overlapping 4.6 sq km? Was Hun Sen really stating he did think Cambodians had a claim over the land?  So went looking for 95PHNOMPENH152. Big problem is that this is not the right cable. 95PHNOMPENH152  is a cable from January 1995 (google 95PHNOMPENH152 and you will see the cable at the Wikileaks site). In fact the “95” prefix gave it away that it was the wrong cable….

After looking around, BP found the correct cable, 08PHNOMPENH372 with subject “SUBJECT: CAMBODIA:  INVESTMENT, TEMPLE CONTROVERSY, DEBT, AND OVERLAPPING CLAIMS HEADLINE BUSINESS DELEGATION MEETINGS” . Key excerpt from that cable:

(SBU)  SUMMARY:  Riding on a wave of increased U.S. investor interest in Cambodia, 17 corporate leaders representing nine major companies visited Cambodia May 1-3 as part of a U.S.-ASEAN Business Council delegation.  Prime Minister Hun Sen used his two-hour-long meeting with the group to press for progress on two high-priority foreign policy issues:  the pending inscription of the Preah Vihear temple on the UNESCO World Heritage list and Cambodia’s bilateral debt with the U.S.  Delegation members and the embassy believe that successful resolution of the Preah Vihear issue could open the door to a resolution of the overlapping claims area in the Gulf of Thailand.  End Summary.

As an aside, Daley mentioned that the business delegation had just come from meetings in Thailand and relayed a message from Thai Foreign Minister Noppadoh Pattama that Thailand does not/not oppose the inscription of the Preah Vihear temple on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but would like a joint Thai-Cambodian management plan for a 4.7 square kilometer area adjacent to the main temple.  Daley mentioned that the US-ABC took no position on the dispute.

3.  (SBU) Focusing his attention on Preah Vihear, the PM asserted that “In Preah Vihear, there are no overlapping claims areas–only in the sea.”  (Comment:  Clearly, to the Cambodians, the 1962 ICJ decision awarded the 4.7 square kilometer area to Cambodia and Cambodia currently occupies this territory.  Therefore, it is “not overlapping” and a joint management plan is not politically or legally feasible. End Comment.)  The Thais are “going one step forward and two steps back” on the Preah Vihear issue, Hun Sen said.  He recalled that he and Thai PM Samak had discussed Preah Vihear in a side meeting during the March Greater Mekong Summit in Laos.  Hun Sen said he had emphasized that the proposed inscription covered the main temple site (the area awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice)–implying that because the proposal covers only Cambodian territory, there is no need for a joint management plan.

PM’s “Checkerboard” Proposal for Overlapping Maritime Claims
——————————————— —————

7.  (SBU) Speaking about the overlapping claims area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand, the PM wanted to consider this issue separately from the contentious Preah Vihear question–an approach that Thailand accepted years ago, he said.  The Thais wanted to divide the OCA into strips running north to south with Cambodia and Thailand sharing different percentages of petroleum revenues in each strip.  Hun Sen suggested instead that the area be divided into a checkerboard pattern with each country having sole control of its assigned blocks.  (Comment:  The PM asserted that his plan would be simpler than the shared profits and decisionmaking suggested by Thailand, but we suspect that his real motivation is to present a system likely to be closer to a 50-50 split of petroleum revenues than other proposals being discussed.  End Comment.)

10.  (SBU) The meetings also served as a reality check that intense political debates lie behind some key economic issues.  On the Preah Vihear issue, it seems likely that–despite Thai and Cambodian statements to the contrary–the inscription of the temple is linked to resolving the maritime claims dispute, at least in the minds of senior Thai and Cambodian government leaders.  Both sides are looking at the issues from political, cultural, and economic perspectives.  It is in the interest of both countries to find a way to settle these differences; the challenge for the USG is to find a way to push both countries towards an acceptable solution.  Post agrees with the observation by US-ABC reps Daley and Zwenig that inscribing Preah Vihear on the UNESCO World Heritage list, if handled correctly, actually could open opportunities for the two countries to work more closely both on cultural issues and the more lucrative issue of the overlapping claims in the Gulf of Thailand.  Perhaps the upcoming visit to Phnom Penh by Thai MFA official Weerasak Futrakal to discuss Preah Vihear will allow the two parties to find a way to move ahead on this issue.

BP: As is clear from the cable – and in BP’s opinion was not clear from the Bangkok Post article – is that Hun Sen sees no overlapping land claims as he views all the land is Cambodian!

btw, unsurprisingly from the the few Wikileaks cables on Cambodia, they do not paint Hun Sen in a good light – see KI Media for some of the juicy details.