The United States proposed sending Khmer Rouge leaders including Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Ta Mok to China to prevent their return to power, according to a 1989 diplomatic cable found in the trove of more than 250,000 dispatches released last week by WikiLeaks.
The full cache of cables that WikiLeaks began releasing last November – as part of the largest leak in diplomatic history – is now available online without redactions.
Of the 251,287 US diplomatic cables WikiLeaks claimed in its possession, just 777 were posted from diplomats in Phnom Penh. Those were made public in July, yet a total of 2,447 dispatches from the US State Department and embassies around the world catalogue developments related to Cambodia.
A confidential cable from the office of then-US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger in September, 1989, laid out US policy toward Cambodia as peace talks stalled and the Vietnamese began their withdrawal after a decade in the Kingdom.
Eagleburger took a harsh view of the Vietnam-backed Hun Sen regime: “The main obstacle to progress, of course, was the totally intransigent attitude which Hanoi and the Phnom Penh regime adopted” regarding a proposed interim government headed by King Father Norodom Sihanouk.
In talking points for countries involved in the peace negotiat-ions, Eagleburger instructed diplomats to ask China to “restrict the movement of arms to the Khmer Rouge” and make way for their political asylum.
“The continued presence in Cambodia of senior Khmer Rouge leaders like Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Ta Mok is particularly troublesome. It would be helpful to efforts to find a solution to this conflict, if your government would strongly encourage these unacceptable Khmer Rouge leaders to relocate to China,” the cable states.
A more recent cable details Chinese reaction to US criticism of Cambodia’s deportation of 20 Uighur asylum-seekers on December 19, 2009.
Zheng Zeguang, director general of the North American and Oceania affairs department in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reportedly told Robert Goldberg, charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Beijing, on December 23 that the US had “chosen to stand on the wrong side of history” on the issue.
The day before the deportat-ion, a representative from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Beijing reportedly said in a different cable from the Beijing embassy she was “concerned” the Cambodians would cave in to Chinese pressure during the visit of Vice President Xi Jinping “as he would almost certainly bring up the Uighurs”.
Xi Jinping announced US$1.2 billion in loans and grants to Cambodia two days after police raided a Phnom Penh safe house and deported the asylum-seekers.
The oldest dispatch that mentions Cambodia at length is an unclassified report from the embassy in Bangkok on a trip by Prime Minister Hun Sen – then premier of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea – in January, 1989, to discuss peace negotiations with his Thai counterparts.
Hun Sen’s “22-member entourage” included his wife, Bun Rany, as well as a number of members of the current government who held prominent roles in the PRK: Defence Minister Tea Banh (then a general), Supreme Court President Dith Munty (then minister of foreign affairs) and Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh (then deputy prime minister).
The US embassy has declined to comment on the cables released by WikiLeaks.