322. Telegram From the Embassy in Cambodia to the Department of State1
1176. Joint State–Defense message.
- As the deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Cambodia approaches, it appears well to begin serious consideration of situation which we will be facing following that date and what should and can be done about it. This is, of course, based on the presumption that the situation in Cambodia and elsewhere in Indo-China will not see an early resolution.
- The situation as we see it after June 30 will be as follows:
- US troops pull out of Cambodia;
- Partial ARVN pullout;
- GOC will not control area east of Mekong or north of Prey Veng Province except for perhaps small area east of Kompong Cham town and near Mimot, but even these will depend on presence or assurance of SVN help. Exception may be small GOC forces in Rattanakiri which will survive only if continued help supplied by US/ARVN efforts.
- Area west of Mekong north of line between Kompong Cham and Tonle Sap Lake may also be largely in NVNA/VC hands.
- Prospect in southern border provinces can be tolerable if ARVN either leaves troops in area or is willing to provide assistance, if and as needed. However, NVNA/VC will probably continue harassment operations in area as they do presently.
- Western and southwestern areas of Cambodia also run risk of increased disturbances in view of reported infiltration to west by NVNA/VC forces pushed from sanctuary areas near coast.
- The FANK will just have begun process of formation and training with limited arms and equipment and almost no organization.
- The economy is already at an almost complete standstill. Not only are exports and imports down, but internal commerce and thereby the flow of money has come to an almost complete halt. This has been caused and will continue as a result of NVNA/VC occupation of territory and of the cutting of communications facilities, as well as such necessary measures as restrictions on movements, curfews, and the restriction of urban night life. All of the above result in such disruption that private business is almost non-existent and government revenues have virtually dried up. Taxes, for example, can no longer even be collected in large part of Cambodia. The result can only be the eventual disappearance of foreign reserves and a desperate situation internally as concerns the essential payment of troops, government employees and government services. For the Nonce, the GOC can continue thanks to a largely agricultural economy, larger foreign exchange holdings than many underdeveloped nations and the possibility, according to most local banks, of being able to issue some 2 billion riels without damaging the value of the local currency.
- Although top level GOC leadership does not appear fully aware of the need to extend itself to rally the population, there is no reason to believe that it will not continue to enjoy the support of the population in areas it controls.
- There are encouraging signs that local officials continue to make individual efforts to explain events to the population. This can be expected to continue, as well as better selected efforts against the NVNA/VC as contrasted with earlier broadsides which gave rise to serious, non-specific anti-Vietnamese feelings.
- In areas reoccupied by Cambodia or freed by US/ARVN actions, the GOC has begun to reinstall administrative officials. This can be expected to continue as long as security can be guaranteed.
- There are increasing reports of Cambodian peasant disillusionment with Sihanouk and that Communist efforts to establish FUNK is meeting with extremely limited success. However, after June 30 GOC efforts in this field must become more urgent, both from the point of view of propaganda and counter-insurgency.
- Whether republic is proclaimed or not after June 30, it is virtually already in being. Evidence indicates that political groupings beginning to form within parliament and that Sangkum party no longer viewed as the ultimate political vehicle. Political developments outside of Phnom Penh difficult to assess for purposes gauging present political power centers. As noted in L above, Communists probably not succeeding in filling gap left by Sihanouk.
- There is a good possibility that US, SVN, and Thai will have been able to contain the NVNA/VC advances in most areas, although the northeast and north will have been lost temporarily as enemy establishes redoubt extending into Laos and incorporating half the area alongside the SVN frontier.
- Assuming that the GOC can hold on
until June 30 thanks to the aid of its friends, we believe that
situation will be beginning to be clarified to some extent. There may
possibly be a delineation of “fronts” in specific regions. In any case,
the United States’ effort to assist Cambodia will be well launched but
the serious need will be to continue it along its present limited path
with a few variations. Equally if not more vital will be the moves of
the other nations in the political, economic and military fields. The
Undersecretary’s statement to a recent visitor that the ultimate
solution to the Cambodian crisis lies in the diplomatic field is quite
correct. Nevertheless, if other immediate assistance in the military and
economic/financial field is not forth-coming, there will remain nothing
for diplomacy to deal with. Therefore, we would raise various
suggestions, both precise and general, to be considered for the period
after June 30, 1970. Some of these concern the USG, others concern other actual or potential aid donors.
Some are specific, others are general in nature:
- Continued diplomatic efforts by Djakarta group and others as well.
- ARVN troops should either remain in some parts of Cambodia or should be stationed near enough to the border on an alert basis so as to be able to intervene when needed by Cambodians. Arrangements should also be made to base appropriate SVN aircraft at Phnom Penh airfield to provide emergency air support or troop lift for Cambodian forces since weather during monsoon season is usually better at Phnom Penh than at Saigon or other SVN airfields which may be used support operations in Cambodia.
- Training of Cambodian forces either in SVN, Thailand or Indonesia, or in Cambodia itself by foreign advisors, should be urgently initiated if not already underway before end of June. Training might be effected in both camps or through use of mixed forces, as discussed already by Cambodians with Thais and South Vietnamese. Despite optimistic opinion of Cambodian troops in some quarters, most are presently a pretty miserable lot, perhaps with the necessary will but without training, organization or experience. Cambodians themselves prefer training in SVN training camps near SVN/Cambodian border where troops can be trained, armed, and equipped simultaneously.
- Air support should be available at all times and urgent fulfilling of communications needs.
- Some sort of transportation facility should be organized. Perhaps an ARVN helicopter group could be placed at the disposition of the FANK when needed.
- Serious consideration should be given to the removal from Phnom Penh of A–1 aircraft which are out of commission but do not appear to require too much work to be put back into shape. These could either be repaired for Cambodian use or, if needed elsewhere, could be purchased from the GOC.
- Meanwhile, T–28s should urgently be turned over to the GOC in place of inoperable ones presently in Phnom Penh. This should start before June 30 but should continue thereafter. Serious consideration should also be given to providing support (parts and maintenance assistance) for the 11 C–47 aircraft in the inventory. Numbers of cargo aircraft should also be increased, possibly by loan, to provide greater air resupply capability to counter further lack of ground security.
- In the medical area, too, aid is needed. Probably sufficient help forthcoming from Japan, ROK and others with regard medical supplies but organization help required. Here, ICRS and others such as Austria, Sweden, etc., might provide medical teams, equipment (FANK possesses only 8 ambulances), etc.
- As regards military equipment, re-supply will be major factor support of Khmer Krom and 65,000 Khmer troops set as limit FY 70 USG effort. We tend toward limiting equipment effort there and letting others do rest, perhaps with indirect USG assistance in some cases.
- In naval field we support idea of modest program involving supply of spare parts, clothing, ammunitions and communications plus small number of PBRs and some vessels such as LCTs, LCMs and one or two LCUs which useful and necessary transport men and supplies year around and which can also supply modest fire support.
- Economic factor alluded to above is that of future financial plight of GOC, whether or not war drags on. Here, we believe main burden should be that of others such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, either through cash grants or loans or through such programs as a commodity import one to generate funds for GOC use. Eventually, and perhaps sooner, USG should begin consideration of an aid program but one not requiring an AID mission.
- In conclusion, we wish stress again our belief in support for Cambodia as nation desirous helping itself and whose policy of neutrality USG supports. Regretably, Cambodia completely unprepared defend self, having untrained and poorly-equipped military establishment. Nation has will but not ability to fight war and needs time for organization, training, etc. USG, SVN and Thailand currently buying time through their efforts. However, more is needed especially in economic/financial fields in order avoid future collapse on other front.
This is where others should be pushed assist. The USG should continue its proposed program, including the decision not to install MAAG or other missions in Cambodia. While this means more work for both Saigon and Bangkok, they are equipped handle it and thereby enable USG, for what is probably first time, to really implement what I have long felt was generally successful Communist method of assistance: that is, aid to a country through money and matériel in multi-national efforts but not troops or large missions which become too directly involved. In Cambodia I believe we have exceptionally good opportunity make this work in that issue not merely “communism” vs “democracy” (which always hard to explain and of little concern in new nations) but one of unified Khmer race against foreign enemy who trying impose communism.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER. Top Secret; Nodis; Khmer; Immediate. Repeated to Bangkok, Canberra, Saigon, COMUSMACV, COMUSMACTHAI, and CINCPAC.↩