176. Telegram From the Embassy in Cambodia to the Department of State 1
Phnom Penh, February 24, 1975, 0920Z.
3361. Subject : Cambodian Negotiations. Ref: State 40612.2
- At the end of my February 23 meeting with the Marshal I informed him that we are approaching the Indonesians and Japanese very privately, to exchange views on how the common objective of an early compromise settlement might be advanced. I also mentioned, without going into detail, the Secretary’s efforts with the PRC which came to naught, the abortive French efforts to open up a dialogue with Sihanouk, and our own efforts to establish direct contact with the Prince which so far have led to no results. The Marshal listened silently.
- After a moment of reflection, the Marshal launched into a long analysis of Sihanouk’s relationship with the KC and with the population on the GKR controlled side. It was the frankest conversation I have ever had with the Marshal on this subject. Lon Nol said that Sihanouk is probably no longer a free agent and that the real power behind the Khmers on the other side is North Vietnam. He agreed with my view that Sihanouk is not Communist, but held him responsible for steering Cambodia into Chinese arms prior to 1970. According to the Marshal, only about 5 percent of the population on the GKR side presently support Sihanouk. In reply to a question, Lon Nol qualified this assessment, saying that if Sihanouk’s return to Cambodia meant an end to the war, he would undoubtedly be well received by the population on the GKR side.
- According to the Marshal, Sihanouk’s main attribute is his prestige in the non-aligned world. He is a diplomatic asset for the KC. Domestically, however, the KC are not building up Sihanouk in their own zone and Lon Nol cited some examples of how the KC denigrate Sihanouk when some of the farmers talk with reverence about the former Chief of State.
- At no time during this 40 minute conversation did the Marshal use offensive language about the Prince. He just did not think that Sihanouk had the power at the present time to do very much to bring the conflict to an end. In reply to a question as to whether the KC would be a more appropriate interlocutor, Lon Nol opined that the answer really lies in Hanoi.
- Towards the end of our conversation the Marshal said that he did not see how a political settlement could be achieved in Cambodia. He reiterated that at no time would he be an obstacle in a solution. However, he did not see anything the GKR could do by itself to move toward peace. Lon Nol said that on this side, the only ones who might find a solution are the Americans. I replied that we are searching for a way, but in the meantime the GKR and FANK must do their bit so that a better atmosphere is created which in turn will facilitate the effort to reach a political denouement to the conflict.