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06PHNOMPENH1050 2006-06-02 10:54:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Phnom Penh
Cable title:  

CAMBODIA'S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TO ANNOUNCE FORMATION

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PREL CB 
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1. (SBU) Summary. Recent meetings with members of the
National Assembly's Commission on Foreign Affairs suggests
the Cambodian body is prepared to announce in early September
the formation of a Burma Caucus comprised of MPs from the
ruling CPP, FUNCINPEC and opposition Sam Rainsy Party. As a
result of meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen and NA
President Heng Samrin, SRP lawmaker (and head of the
Commission on Foreign Affairs) Son Chhay will travel to
Jakarta June 18-19 to discuss the launching of the Cambodian
NA's Burma Caucus with the ASEAN Inter-Parliament Myanmar
Caucus (AIPMC). Son Chhay would like to expand the
inauguration of the Caucus with a one-day conference on
Burma, and is seeking donor support for this initiative.
Cambodia is the last of the six ASEAN member states of AIPMC
to launch a Caucus, and the Cambodian legislature's first
endeavor at addressing a non-domestic issue. We have worked
hard to encourage Cambodian activism on human rights and
democracy in Burma -- including during recent high-level
State Department visits -- and believe support for the
conference -- if needed -- is worthy of our consideration.
End Summary.

Prime Minister, CPP Support National Assembly Burma Caucus


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2. (C) Recent meetings with SRP parliamentarian Son Chhay,
who is head of the National Assembly's Commission on Foreign
Affairs, and the Commission's Vice Chairman, Un Ning (a CPP
representative), indicate that there is RGC agreement from
both the Prime Minister as well as National Assembly
President Heng Samrin that the National Assembly form a Burma
Caucus comprised of MPs from the three political parties
(CPP, FUNCINPEC, SRP) represented in the NA. The
inauguration date is tentatively scheduled for early
September. Son Chhay met with Prime Minister Hun Sen on May
23 when the PM visited the National Assembly during the vote
for the new Labor Minister. In discussing the proposed Burma
Caucus, the PM reportedly mentioned that EAP DAS Eric John
had met with the PM and urged Cambodia to play a stronger
role in pushing for democratic reform in Burma. The PM added
that he might include a stop in Rangoon during an upcoming
visit to India. Son Chhay also related that the PM indicated
that Cambodia needs time to consider how best to deal with
Burma, but that a National Assembly role is a good start.
The PM gave his full support for the formation of the Burma
Caucus through the Commission on Foreign Affairs. He further
agreed to meet with ASEAN parliamentarians who come to Phnom
Penh for the launch of the Caucus in September. According to
Son Chhay, the PM wants Son Chhay to promote within AIPMC the
PM's suggestion that the ASEAN Troika visit Rangoon.



3. (SBU) When asked how many people might come from around
the region for the inauguration of the Caucus, Son Chhay said
it would depend on the budget. He plans to visit AIPMC
headquarters in Jakarta June 18-19 to discuss Cambodia's
plans to launch a Burma Caucus, see what budgetary support
AIPMC might offer, as well as programming suggestions. The
SRP legislator anticipates that FUNCINPEC MP Than Sina and
CPP MP (and Commission Vice Chair) Un Ning are likely to
accompany him, but funding is an issue. National Assembly
President Heng Samrin has approved NA budget funds to support
the Caucus launch, but sending the three MPs to AIPMC in
Malaysia may not be possible, and only Son Chhay may go.



4. (C) In a separate meeting with Un Ning, the CPP MP told
A/DCM that the idea of a Burma Caucus is completely new to
the National Assembly and the CPP. Burma has never been
raised within the NA nor within the CPP, he noted. Un Ning
said that he personally supported democracy in Burma and the
release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but up until recently, Cambodia
has joined with Laos and Vietnam to protect Burma. In the
past, the CPP and Prince Ranariddh did not allow their MPs to
go to Kuala Lumpur for AIPMC meetings, even though Cambodia
was a member. The Prime Minister's recent interest in Burma
has been the key to the change in policy, which Un Ning
welcomes. Un Ning added that some CPP lawmakers are
reluctant to support democracy in Burma as they feel it will
lead to instability. A/DCM assured Un Ning that the USG
supports a peaceful democratic reform program in Burma. Un
Ning noted that it has been difficult for Cambodia to break
old ties with its former communist allies in Laos and
Vietnam. He concluded that Cambodia moves further away from
both countries as it moves closer to the United States.



5. (C) In discussing his meeting with Un Ning and NA
President Heng Samrin following A/DCM's meeting with Un Ning,
Son Chhay noted that both CPP officials worried about

PHNOM PENH 00001050 002 OF 002


Cambodia's image and the reaction by others in ASEAN when
Cambodia makes the announcement regarding the Caucus. He
said that assured both men that within AIPMC, Cambodia is the
last country to establish its own national Caucus within its
parliamentary body, and Cambodia will adhere to policy
positions regarding Burma already staked out by ASEAN.
Nevertheless, Heng Samrin noted that Cambodia has not taken
positions regarding ASEAN members' internal affairs not has
the National Assembly pursued an issue outside Cambodia's
domestic politics. Son Chhay said that the establishment of
the Caucus is a very new concept to old line CPP members, as
is the idea of working across party lines with the SRP. The
SRP MP believes that the Caucus will provide a useful working
model for CPP-SRP cooperation within the National Assembly,
noting that Un Ning was surprised about the amount of
latitude Sam Rainsy provides to Son Chhay to make decisions
on such issues.



6. (SBU) Son Chhay asked if the Embassy might be able to
help provide support to a one-day conference on Burma
following the inauguration of the Burma Caucus in September.
There is no budget yet as Son Chhay is uncertain how much he
might be able to get from the National Assembly as well as
AIPMC. He met with the German Ambassador earlier in the
week, and the German diplomat reportedly expressed interest
in the proposed conference. Son Chhay said he would also
appreciate any suggestions the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon might
have regarding invitees from the Burmese government, the
exile community, and specialists on Burma currently working
in the country.

Comment


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7. (C) At this stage, it is too early to assess if USG
funding/support will be requested or needed. USG assistance
to a conference on Burma would lessen the impact of an
ASEAN-driven initiative, and our preference would be that
other means be found to assist the Cambodians in this
endeavor. However, once we have a clear idea that this
proposal is moving forward -- and the National Assembly
requests outside financial support and assistance -- we might
consider indirect ways to help should a lack of financing
lead to the proposed conference not taking place. We will
confer with our German colleagues regarding potential funding
from the EU, and note that in 2005, the European Institute
for Asian Studies organized a three-day meeting involving
Members of European Parliament and AIPMC members. We welcome
any suggestions Embassy Rangoon has related to Son Chhay's
request in para. 6. End Comment.

STORELLA