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Sunday, March 11, 2007

CAMBODIA: JUDICIAL COMMITTEE MEETS TO DISCUSS KHMER ROUGE TRIALS: UN SPOKESPERSON

press released UN-news centre

In a further effort to resolve differences that have stalled the long-awaited trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, accused of mass killings and other horrific crimes during the 1970s in Cambodia, a judicial review committee is again meeting this week and next in the capital Phnom Penh, a United Nations spokesperson said today.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Review Committee, which is made up of both international and national judges, is discussing various outstanding issues that have so far held up adoption of the Internal Rules for the conduct of the trials, spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.

This meeting is scheduled to conclude on 16 March at which time it is hoped a date for the official adoption of the internal rules can be announced, Ms. Montas added. This latest session of the Review Committee follows an earlier one in January. The UN is funding most of the $56.3 million three-year budget for the Khmer Rouge trials.

Judges and prosecutors for the trials were sworn in last July. Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the trial court and a Supreme Court within the Cambodian legal system will investigate those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.


The UN will pay $43 million of the $56.3 million budget for the trials, with the Government of Cambodia providing $13.3 million.At a pledging conference in 2005 to support the UN assistance to the trials, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the crimes committed under Khmer Rouge rule "were of a character and scale that it was still almost impossible to comprehend," adding that "the victims of those horrific crimes had waited too long for justice."

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Spanish psychologist evaluates Cambodia's 'jungle woman'

Ker Munthit news associate

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A Spanish psychologist met with Cambodia's "jungle woman" on Tuesday, hoping to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the woman who emerged from the forest, naked and unable to speak, after possibly 18 years in the wild.

Hector Rifa, a doctor of psychology from Spain's University of Oviedo, said his priority was to ensure the woman was receiving proper treatment for whatever traumatic experience she has undergone.

But it is also possible he may find clues to the woman's true identity - whether she is indeed a local girl who disappeared in 1988, as claimed by the family in northeastern Cambodia who has taken her in as their long-lost daughter.

Rifa said he plans to spend several days at the home of village policeman Sal Lou, who claims the woman is his daughter Rochom P'ngieng, who disappeared while tending water buffalo when she was eight.

Sal Lou's family, members of Cambodia's Pnong ethnic minority, say they are certain the woman is Rochom P'ngieng because of a childhood scar on her right arm.

With no other evidence supporting their claim, however, others have speculated that the woman may have a history of mental troubles and had simply become lost in the jungle much more recently.

In any case, her inability to communicate and evident attempts to escape from Sal Lou's family indicate she is in a difficult psychological situation.

Rifa has been working with indigenous people in Rattanakiri province over the past four years for the Spain-based group Psychology Without Borders.

In an interview earlier Tuesday, he told The Associated Press he thinks the woman's behaviour showed she was having difficulty adapting to normal life, as would be expected if she had been lost in the jungle for an extended period of time.

"It is not extraordinary . . . or anything coming from another world," he said, referring to concerns by superstitious villagers that the woman may be possessed by a jungle spirit.

"From the point of view of psychology, I suspect that this is like for us, if we have stayed one week in the forest and came back to the world, you are a little out of it. So if we have stayed 18 years out of the office or of the world, when we come back we need some time" to readjust, he said.

On Monday, two Cambodian human rights groups expressed concern that the woman may be suffering due to the spotlight cast on her since she emerged from the wild, and offered to provide medical and psychiatric treatment.

Curious villagers and journalists have flocked to see the woman, who was found Jan. 13 walking bent over rather than upright. She pats her stomach when hungry and uses animal-like grunts to communicate.

"The important thing is to try to help the family, if they don't know how to manage (her)," Rifa said.

Mao San, the Oyadao district police chief, said Tuesday the investigation into the woman's case has "hit a dead end" because she cannot communicate.

"Only when she starts speaking can we ask her where she might have been or whom she might have been with the whole time," he said, stressing the need to do DNA tests to confirm she is the child of Sal Lou. Sal Lou has said he is willing to undergo DNA testing "to clear any doubts that she is my child."
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