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

No. 172

Sir: With reference to my despatches No. 134 of August 6 and No. 144 of August 19, 1948, I have the honor to report that High Commissioner Bollaert visited Phnom Penh on September 26 to take leave of the King and the Cambodian Government. Certain interesting remarks were buried in the flood of oratory which marked the day’s ceremonies.

In his speech at the reception given for him by the Cambodian Cabinet, M. Bollaert paid tribute to Cambodia as the first member of the French Union. He admitted that the Union is still in the process of development but foresaw a great future for it as a new conception in history of the relations between associated states. The High Commissioner repeated the promise that Cambodia would receive the same status as the Vietnam and gave assurance that the necessary measures were being taken to put down the disturbances now prevailing in many sections of the country.

In his reply, outspoken Premier Penn Nouth expressed his gratitude to M. Bollaert for all he had done for Cambodia during his term of office and regretted particularly that the High Commissioner was leaving just at the moment when certain projects were about to be realized. The Premier also praised highly the former Commissioner of the Republic, M. Pignon.

Penn Nouth expressed the hope that through its membership in the French Union, Cambodia would be able to retain the status of a modern state enjoying full and entire internal sovereignty. He referred to the state of insecurity within the Kingdom and expressed the hope that this situation would be promptly corrected.

There has been a continuation of the anti-Cambodia propaganda in the Saigon native press, referred to in my despatch No. 134 of August 6, and this has become particularly sharp in recent days following the announcement of new measures requiring permits for Annamites wishing to enter Cambodia. The most violent outburst was in the Saigon daily Vietnam of September 23. This paper pointed out that the Vietnam is by far the most important state in Indochina and controls the access of Cambodia and Laos to the sea. Thus, it is to the interests of the latter states to maintain good relations with the Vietnam. Nevertheless, for unknown reasons, Cambodia continues to seek trouble with the Vietnam and mistreat the latter’s nationals in Cambodia. “If the day comes when trouble breaks out between the Viets and Cambodians and force is necessary to solve it, who will bear the responsibility?”

[Page 51]

There would thus appear to be some substance to the French argument that their presence in Indochina is necessary to protect Cambodia from renewed Annamite aggression.

Respectfully yours,

George M. Abbott