220. Telegram From the Embassy in Cambodia to the Department of State 1
6113. For the Secretary from Ambassador Dean. Subject: Ambassador’s Meeting with Acting President Saukham Khoy Regarding Appeal to Sihanouk. Ref: White House msg 102345Z Apr 75.2
- Accompanied by DCM, I met with Acting President Saukham Khoy 9:30 a.m. April 11. Prime Minister Long Boret also attended the meeting. Prior to discussion of substance of your telegram with the Acting President, he told me that he had talked yesterday with Long Boret, who had agreed in principle to step aside. Long Boret had asked to consult with the Steering Committee of the Socio-Republican Party before giving definitive reply.
- In addition to talking to Long Boret, Saukham Khoy met last night with other Khmer political luminaries, and also with Chief of Staff Sak Sutsakhan. The Acting President pointed out to them that it was a question of hours, not days, and it was necessary to inject a new factor in the equation if a blood bath is to be avoided. He said students are clamoring for rapid change in Khmer leadership. Saukham Khoy told the assembled Socio-Republican leaders last night that the “individual personalities must sacrifice themselves to obtain a ceasefire and to avoid a blood bath.” Some of the leaders present, for example Pan Sothi (Minister of Education), agreed that party politics have been overtaken by events and that rapid action is needed. Pan Sothi agreed to resign, as did the Minister of Finance, Khy Taing Lim.
- After hearing out President Saukham Khoy I explained to him and Long Boret gist of your message (reftel). He clearly understood the message and appeared to be much more sympathetic to this scenario than did Long Boret. I stressed throughout the conversation that decisions of this nature must be made by the Khmers themselves, and that the signal from Sihanouk was tentative at best and we had no repeat no assurances that scenario discussed would be acceptable to Prince.
- Saukham Khoy is taking the following actions during the next three to four hours: (a) calling a Cabinet meeting at which Long Boret and his group will resign; (b) appointing Chan Sau as the new Prime Minister; (c) unless Saukham Khoy changes his mind or is prevented by others from acting he intends to make public statement to international [Page 790]press and radio in Khmer and French later in the afternoon inviting Prince Sihanouk to return to Phnom Penh to arrange an end to the war in a humanitarian manner. He will also call for a ceasefire to become effective as of a certain hour and date. He would also assure the safety of the Prince and his party in the name of the Phnom Penh authorities. He would point out willingness of all Khmer personalities to step aside in the higher interest of the Cambodian nation. Finally, he would make his appeal in the name of the suffering Khmer people to put an end to their suffering. Before making this declaration he plans to check it out with the Khmer civilian leadership as well as selected military leadership. This latter suggestion was adopted by Saukham Khoy as a result of Long Boret’s suggestion, so that the military would not fall apart following this declaration inviting Sihanouk to return.
- Saukham Khoy told me he will send his son to my office or to my residence to keep me informed of these developments, which I expect to occur in the next five hours.
- Before leaving Acting President and Long Boret, I said that in the event this last minute effort should fail and the current Khmer leadership has to depart the country, I had plans to take a limited number with us if and when we have to depart Phnom Penh. I stressed with them again that I did not wish to play God and determine who under these circumstances should have access to our aircraft in order to gain safety abroad. I told them they should continue to send to my residence each morning at 6:30 a.m. one of their trusted aides who would hand carry a note from me back to them. If we had to leave, the Khmers would have no more than 2 hours to come to this Embassy to be processed for boarding our aircraft. They, Saukham Khoy and Long Boret, would have to make the decisions as to who should go with us in the event the worst happens. Both men understood my explanation fully.
- Finally, Saukham Khoy stated that he is convinced the people of Phnom Penh have confidence in him personally and will accept whatever steps he takes to try to end the conflict, including specifically the appeal to Sihanouk to return here.
- Comment: Should Saukham Khoy make a public declaration today inviting Sihanouk to return to Phnom Penh, the Prince is likely to get the word first from the AFP representative in Peking, as has been the case in the past with other declarations emanating from the GKR, for example Marshal Lon Nol’s offer of unconditional negotiations of last July 9. We would hope that the Prince would not follow his usual practice of shooting from the hip without any reflection and issuing a statement of response instantaneously. Anything Ambassador Bush could do to preclude an immediate emotional outburst by the Prince would of course be helpful.