851g.01/8–648

The Consul General at Saigon (Abbott) to the Secretary of State

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No. 134

Sir: I have the honor to report that His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk returned to Indochina from his visit to France on June 30. At an informal press conference at the Saigon airport the King stated that he was convinced that the Baie d’Along agreement would shortly be ratified and that this ratification would have an effect on the relations between Cambodia and France. The King explained that President Auriol had assured him that Cambodia would receive the same treatment as the Vietnam and, after the ratification of the Baie d’Along agreement, conferences would take place between representatives of Cambodia and the High Commissioner in Indochina to reconsider certain clauses of the present agreement.

It will be recalled that the relations between Cambodia and France are governed by the modus vivendi signed on January 7, 1946, with the annex of July 26, 1946, and the financial convention of May 27, 1946*. In a conversation with M. Royere, former Diplomatic Councillor to the High Commissioner, on June 7, 1948, he said that the negotiation of a permanent treaty to replace the modus vivendi of January 7, 1946, had been delayed until a settlement of the Vietnam problem could be reached because naturally Cambodia would be granted any concessions made to the future Vietnam state.

In the Echo du Vietnam of August 2, 1948, Nguyen Bhan Long, influential Vietnamese journalist, in a bitter, sarcastic article commented on the King of Cambodia’s announcement. Long stated that since the general French policy is to treat their dependent peoples as school children, President Auriol’s promise would seem to be out of [Page 37]line with usual school practice. The normal thing is to reward the good children and to punish the bad ones. Since the Cambodians have since the war been held up as an example of good children and the Vietnamese as the opposite, the Cambodians should get more than the Vietnamese rather than only the same. Long then sarcastically suggests that the Cambodians be given complete independence while the Vietnamese be given an imitation entitled “Independence Within the French Union.” The Cambodians could also be rewarded by giving them certain Cochinchinese provinces which they claim or even all of Cochin-china as an ancient Cambodian province. (There has recently been some extremely bitter comment in the local Vietnam press regarding Cambodian irredentism, indicating that the old Annamite imperialism is by no means dead.)

Long closes his article in a pessimistic vein, feeling that there is little chance of the present French Government ratifying the Baie d’Along agreement in the near future since Prime Minister Marie is faced with serious internal and international problems which make its future uncertain. Moreover, with the prospects of a new atomic war, it is perhaps lucky for Indochina that she is an obscure pawn which may hope to be forgotten in the coming destruction.

Respectfully yours,

George M. Abbott
  1. For texts see Notes Documentaires et Etudes, No. 554 (Série France d’Outre-Mer-XX3 of February 22, 1947, published by Services Français d’Information (Ministère de la Jeunesse, des Arts et des Lettres, 14–16, rue Lord-Byron, Paris (8e).[ Footnote in the original.]