751H.00/9–1753: Telegram

The Chargé at Phnom Penh (Montllor) to the Department of State


35. Sent niact Saigon 61 repeated information Department 35, Paris 30. Prime Minister Penn Nouth yesterday released declaration dated [Page 808] September 14 purporting to explain his message of September 10.1 Cites three reasons for inviting Viet Minh to leave country. (1) Viet Minh never identified itself as Communist but rather as pro-independence, and therefore Royal Government wished to expose Communist’s fraudulent claims; (2) Cambodia had to show “neutral countries” that she was not fighting Viet Minh as “slave of imperialists” but because Communists were invading Cambodian soil; (3) by setting deadline for Viet Minh departure from Cambodia, Royal Government would be justified in opening attacks on Viet Minh after that date (October 1).

Penn Nouth declaration then attacks France and US for “unwarranted” reaction to his message of September 10. Basing his argument on AP dispatch from Phnom Penh which stated American Embassy Phnom Penh had warned that military and economic aid might be cut off and similar report that France would abandon Cambodia, Prime Minister asks whether there is justice on earth and whether it is normal that small countries be condemned to die because they refuse to buy their lives at shameful price of abdication as free people.

Declaration reiterates refusal to fight Viet Minh outside of frontiers for four reasons: (1) Not yet having its own military command, Cambodia cannot declare war on Viet Minh; (2) Cambodia reciprocates Vietnam’s wish not to have Vietnamese soldiers on Cambodian soil; (3) in absence assistance pacts with France and US, Cambodia cannot conceive of making war on Viet Minh since she is not sure of the help she will get; (4) Cambodian troops cannot operate in Vietnam in absence of agreement between two states.

Penn Nouth expresses concern over fact that Cambodia is not given right to consider Communists as anything but mortal enemy. Also accuses “allies” of forcing little countries to fight communism to death while these powers can sign armistices with Communists.

Embassy comment: Declaration was prepared before visit Senator Knowland to Phnom Penh and release was held up until Senator’s position was made clear. Apparently Senator’s firm stand on necessity for unselfish common effort against Communists had effect to irritate further Penn Nouth and King. Declaration being given widest publicity since yesterday. Internal effect sought is to rally remaining Issarak rebels to government but there is no indication that Sonngoc Thanh ready to abandon dissidence by October 1. If main rebels have not rallied by that date, Royal Government will be in difficult position of having called everybody Cambodia’s enemy. New government may [Page 809] conceivably emerge from the present crisis. Foreign Minister confided that he has already asked King to be relieved of Cabinet post.

  1. A summary translation of the statement of Sept. 14 was transmitted to Washington in telegram 465 from Saigon, Sept. 17, not printed. (751H.00/9–1753) For the full text, see Livre Jaune, II, p. 62. For a summary translation of the Prime Minister’s statement of Sept. 10, see footnote 1, p. 798.