84. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Cambodia 0

709. Information from [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] (Unger’s memcon May 22)1 tends confirm recent [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reports indicating stepped-up activities by organized Cambodian dissidents in SVN and Thailand with aim removing Sihanouk.

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For Bangkok. Embassy requested approach RTG soonest and at whatever level necessary to ensure maximum impact.2 Inform RTG that we have for several months been receiving reports from many different sources that dissident Cambodians being armed and trained on Thai and Vietnamese soil for return to Cambodia. Reports indicate that GVN and RTG not only tolerating but may be encouraging this activity. Recent information indicates that movement of dissidents into Cambodia may be imminent. In view of these persistent reports and our concern for security of area as evidenced by presence US forces it no longer possible for us ignore this matter.

Department considers these plans unrealistic and dangerous to Free World interests, particularly to Thai and GVN interests. Unlikely that such action will attract any significant support in Cambodia where Sihanouk’s popular hold firm. Despite difficulties arising from age-old enmities between Cambodians and neighbors and from Sihanouk’s personality, we consider that Sihanouk can and will hold Cambodia to an acceptable neutrality hence keep country non-Communist. However Sihanouk has made clear he intends call on Communists for help in case of aggression by neighbors, and little doubt activation of these plans by dissidents will be seen by Sihanouk as aggression.

RTG should be asked forthrightly if these reports true and informed that in existing inflammable situation in SEA it is unthinkable that our allies should encourage or allow actions which might create new and serious dangers in area, implications of which are obvious and grave for Thai and Vietnamese security and for our ability contribute thereto. Stakes completely transcend importance of their difficulties with Sihanouk. In view of contribution which US making to Thai and Vietnamese security, we have right expect they will refrain from and prevent any activities on their soil which might greatly weaken Free World military and moral position in SEA. You should seek assurances that RTG will take steps necessary to ensure that activities of expatriate Cambodian groups are kept under firm control and prevented from threatening Cambodian security.

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For Saigon. In view recent date your approach to GVN FonMin re dissidents (Saigon’s 1442),3 leave to you level appointment for this purpose. However suggest that at earliest opportunity you mention [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] information to appropriate official (protect source), recall your previous discussion, inquire whether [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] remarks based on outdated information, and make points similar those being made at Bangkok.4

For Phnom Penh. [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] We run risk similar alienation of RKG at this time, especially since likely dissident movement penetrated by RKG (Saigon’s 753),5 which incidentally may in part explain Depeche editorial May 25 (Phnom Penh’s 713).6 It thus might be desirable at some point inform RKG in confidence of reports we have heard that dissidents about to be active in Cambodia with indication our disapproval any such moves. However, must be kept in mind that despite confidential nature of such approach RKG might make public mention of it. Your comments requested.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751H.00/6–162. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Arzac and Wright on May 31; cleared by Koren, Cleveland, Cottrell, and Heavner of the Vietnam Task Force; sent for information to Ainsworth of EA; and approved by Rice. Also sent to Saigon and Bangkok and repeated to CINCPAC POLAD.
  2. Not found. Leonard Unger was Counselor of the Embassy in Bangkok.
  3. In telegram 1952 from Bangkok, June 8, the Embassy reported that it was approaching the Government of Thailand [text not declassified] so as to prepare Young for a high-level démarche. (Department of State, Central Files, 751H.00/6–862)
  4. In telegram 1442 from Saigon, May 8, Ambassador Nolting reported that he had met with Mau to convince South Vietnam to improve relations with Cambodia. Nolting reported that he told Mau that the United States had heard reports that South Vietnam and Thailand were supporting Cambodian dissidents. The United States was strongly opposed to such adventures if these reports were true. Mau denied the reports and stated that South Vietnam was seeking to improve relations with Cambodia. (Ibid., 651H.51K/5–1362)
  5. In telegram 1569 from Saigon, June 6, Nolting reported that he had seen both Foreign Minister Mau and President Diem on separate occasions. Both categorically denied aiding or abetting any attempt by Khmer dissidents or anyone else to overthrow Sihanouk, invade Cambodia, or even “make trouble for RKG.” Nolting stated that he believed them. (Ibid., 651H.51K/6–662)
  6. Dated December 3, 1961. (Ibid., 751K.00/12–361)
  7. In telegram 713, May 25, the Embassy reported that the Depeche’s editorial charged that plans were underway in South Vietnam for a Khmer Serei attack on Cambodia with “underhand support” of the South Vietnamese armed forces. (Ibid., 651H.51K/5–2562)