122. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

942. After most useful talk with Trimble 21st,2 seems clear if we are not lose ground gained from SihanoukDiem Saigon meeting and if we want prevent possible serious deterioration relations and Cambodian swing to left I should see Diem soonest. Under instructions I should tell him how serious situation can become for whole free [Page 336] world position SEA unless he as statesman joins us in overcoming Sihanouk growing belief Sam Sary, with possible GVN connivance, carried out palace bombing. Apart from his taking positive steps to quell this belief he should be [garble] take positive steps to follow through on Saigon meeting to create better RKGGVN relations.

We have tried in past accomplish this but except for helping bring about Saigon meeting we have not been successful in stopping such stupid moves as Dap Chhuon plot despite several strong warnings and practically telling Diem and Nhu we knew exactly what was going on. I am of firm belief “clever” Nhu has convinced Diem they can go ahead with their stupidities no matter what we say because we “need” Vietnam and would not dare take any drastic step to hurt them. With Lao situation as it is we cannot further cut military aid and D.S. aid is going to be cut considerably because of lack of funds to point where threat of further cut would be counterproductive because we would hurt our interests more in present situation and GVN knows that.

Given these “facts of life” how can we effectively induce Diem to come to his senses about Cambodia? After considerable thought I believe we must use his sensitivities to outside criticism and his deep apprehension Lao situation in effort shock him into reality. It very evident he was very shocked and hurt by Colegrove articles and fact Congress took them seriously.3 On other hand he apparently now relieved Williams, Gardiner, and I “saved the day” by putting up strong defense of regime and aid program. Diem and Nhu have been told Colegrove and other correspondents have unpublished information which may be damning to regime. We have reiterated this in connection with possible adverse reactions if GVN refuses seat assembly opposition members.

Therefore, believe I should be instructed tell Diem strong terms:

While we hope we successful quelling Colegrove allegations many Congressmen and correspondents will raise serious questions re Diem regime and its reputed anti-Communist attitude, if Sihanouk puts out white paper on Dap Chhuon plot and bombing incident which implicates GVN deeply in these affairs.
I should reiterate we now have concrete evidence GVN deeply implicated in Dap Chhuon affair which confirms information Sihanouk apparently has.
I should state we have [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] compelling reasons believe Free Khmer Radio located in VN and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] be glad to help find it so GVN could put it out of business, RKG also convinced it in Vietnam. [Page 337] Since this Radio is still broadcasting, despite our suggestion, and it has not denied any connection with perpetrators of the bombing incident, this further arouses Sihanouk’s suspicions.
Anti-Sihanouk forces have been permitted to operate training camps in Vietnam and Cambodian exile groups have received support from VN. Furthermore, firm evidence available to us indicates several Free Khmer armed military cadre recently arrested in Cambodia who confessed they trained in VN. Whether those recently arrested actually trained here beside point, Sihanouk seems convinced they were.
RKG has recently arrested Vietnamese, who was friend of Hieu and who has been identified by maid who received bomb package, as person who delivered it to her. Whether this right or wrong, this adds to RKG suspicions.
Despite all this, since Saigon meeting which Sihanouk initiated, latter has taken definite steps against left-wing Cambodian papers, denounced Communists in his newspaper Nationalist and shown he now deeply concerned Communist activities Cambodia.
It therefore interest all he continue this attitude but if he becomes firmly convinced GVN at least encouraged bombing, is sending Free Khmers Cambodia, is permitting radio continue function and does not desire follow through on tentative agreements reached Saigon meeting, GVN’s and free world interests can be seriously hurt, when all should be working form solid front in view Communist aggression Laos.
Therefore, if as we understand, Sihanouk thinking of presenting his proposed white paper to UNGA, excellent GVN anti-Communist reputation in free world would be immeasurably hurt, because only Communists would gain from such “expose”, which would be based on certain incriminating known facts.
In view compelling information available to us and others, it would be most difficult for friends Vietnam defend it against white paper charges which would give impression GVN not interested building solid front SEA against Communists who are now trying take over Laos. In this event the US would have to make it publicly clear that we have for many months urged GVN to take measures which would allay RKG suspicions and actively improve relations between two countries.
Unless Sihanouk, by positive GVN action, is convinced his suspicions unfounded, he will drop current anti-Communist action and move even further to left. If this should take place GVN would not only have worry about Communist threat on Lao frontier but along entire western frontier and such development would greatly jeopardize [garble] Lao situation.

Therefore, I instructed urge Diem in strongest terms: [Page 338]

Take effective steps locate and eliminate radio. We, hereby, formally offer assist GVN in this respect.
Make formal offer assist RKG every way apprehend perpetrators bombing.
Make public GVN announcement or send formal note to RKG stating that no groups whatsoever will be permitted conduct anti-RKG activities on or from GVN soil. If Sam Sary is or can be found in Vietnam, arrest and deport him for his anti-Sihanouk activities, advising RKG of this step. If he is not here, assure RKG he will not be permitted enter. GVN could make it clear it does not know whether Sam Sary involved bombing, but GVN taking above action against him for his publicly known attacks on Sihanouk in order to maintain improved climate relations between two countries following Diem-Sihanouk meeting.
Take effective steps implement various suggestions at Saigon meeting mutually to work out problems.
If Diem does these we will use our best influence to see that they are reciprocated by RKG, and will continue defend GVN as a stout free world bulwark as we have done in the past.
If he does not we will not be in position to defend GVN actions with correspondents and Congressmen nor will we be able to defend Vietnam in any UNGA discussions based on a possible RKG white paper. Such a development would have most serious repercussions for Vietnam’s future and probably would lessen Vietnam’s good name among Asian powers as well.

If the Department agrees with this general approach consideration might be given to have same line taken in talks with Thuan in Department.

Trimble and I agreed when he next sees Sihanouk former should state he had had frank talk with me and that we here have no evidence indicating GVN implicated in any way bombing. Furthermore in regard allegation arrested Free Khmers said they trained in Can Tho, we doubt it would have been possible to train Free Khmers there without it being known to considerable number of Americans living there. Therefore, strong possibility exists alleged Free Khmer actually Vietcong trying embroil RKGGVN relations.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 651G.51H/9–2259. Secret; Limit Distribution. Also sent to Phnom Penh and CINCPAC for POLAD and repeated to Bangkok and Paris.
  2. No record of the TrimbleDurbrow conversation has been found. In telegram 377 from Phnom Penh, September 24, Ambassador Trimble fully agreed with the course of action proposed by Durbrow. (Ibid., 651G.51H/9–2459)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. i, p. 220, footnote 2.
  4. In telegram 566 to Saigon, also sent to Phnom Penh, September 23, the Department instructed Durbrow to inform Diem of U.S. concern about Vietnamese actions that might damage relations with Cambodia and to strongly suggest that South Vietnam stop Cambodian dissident activities on its soil and cooperate in apprehending the dissidents. (Department of State, Central Files, 651G.51H/9–2259; included in the microfiche supplement)

    In telegram 983 from Saigon, September 25, Durbrow reported that he had met with Diem and made the points as instructed. Diem responded that South Vietnam had made an effort to improve relations but received little encouragement from Sihanouk. Durbrow then detailed U.S. knowledge of various Vietnamese anti-Cambodian activities, which Diem did not attempt to deny or refute. (Department of State, Central Files, 651G.51H/9–2559; included in the microfiche supplement)