Uptick in Embassy’s Military Talk, Cables Show

A third of all diplomatic cables emanating from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh last year touched upon military matters, according to data released by the website WikiLeaks.

Though the data are most probably incomplete, they nevertheless document an increasing concern with military matters that coincides with the US military’s growing relations with RCAF.

In its progressive release of selected cables from among a quarter million allegedly leaked earlier this year by a US intelligence analyst in Iraq, WikiLeaks had by yesterday yet to provide the text of any of the 777 leaked cables generated by the US Embassy since 1992.

However, a computer analysis of the labeling information associated with each cable that was published Monday on the Internet by The Guardian newspaper does reveal the frequency with which certain general topics appear in the embassy cables.

Among the 301 leaked embassy cables dated last year, the label denoting “Military Operations” appears 96 times, followed closely by “Military Assistance and Sales” and “Military and Defense Arrangements” at 89 each. (Each cable bears more than one label.)

The same labels appear in the WikiLeaks data fewer than 20 times each in records for 2008 and only a handful of times in 2007 and 2006. Only 42 leaked cables date from 2010.

Such a rise in the use of military labeling may in part result from the fact that much of the WikiLeaks cable trove was apparently downloaded from SIPRNet, a classified US military Internet system to which US embassies were progressively connected after the terrorist attacks of 2001. In the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures, US embassies have temporarily been disconnected from SIPRNet, according to Time Magazine.

However no other subject matter in the leaked cables experienced a similar increase in frequency, according to the WikiLeaks data.

US embassies are required to report to Washington by cable on the outcome of efforts to vet foreign military personnel slated to receive US military training and assistance.

The rise in military assistance to Cambodia since 2005, largely training and the supply of non-lethal equipment, has drawn sharp criticism from human rights workers, who say Cambodian military units with records of human rights abuses have received US aid in apparent violation of US law.

However the US Embassy here has defended its vetting as thorough and fair.

State Department officials have declined to comment on the contents of individual cables.

Thun Saray, president of the human rights organization Adhoc, said yesterday that the US should show equal vigor in promoting both human rights in Cambodia and US strategic interests.

“The US stopped to provide military over the Uighurs,” he said, referring to the cancellation of a shipment of US military trucks in response to the government’s deportation of asylum seekers to China in December.

“We also need to see this link with the other human rights conditions, such as land-grabbing.”


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