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Thursday, May 17, 2007

OU Int'l Week speaker recalls Cambodia's killing fields

By Meghan Montgomery
Athens NEWS Campus Reporter

The keynote speaker for Ohio University's 2007 International Week recounted his survival from one of history's worst genocides Tuesday night at Baker Center.

"I never gave up, and I promised in my heart over time that I would never stop talking when I survived," said Dith Pran, whose story was told in the award-winning film, "The Killing Fields." "This story needed to be told, so you can save lives for the future generations, because this could happen again and again."

Dith Pran survived the Cambodian genocide committed by the Communist Khmer Rouge regime, explained a representative from OU's Cambodian Student Association during Pran's introduction.

In the late 1970s, Pran covered the Cambodian civil war for The New York Times, but was not permitted to leave the country when other foreign correspondents evacuated. According to the Cambodian student representative, Pran endured four years of torture and starvation in labor camps, while the Khmer Rouge killed nearly a quarter of the population, including 50 of Pran's relatives.

Now, as the founder of the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, Pran speaks about the Cambodian holocaust to promote awareness and prevent future genocides. "I'm not a hero, I am a messenger," said Pran.

In the beginning of his speech, Pran explained how the Communist regime was allowed to take power partly because of negative American public opinion after the Vietnam War. "People ignored Cambodia because American voters at the time said 'don't go back to Southeast Asia...enough is enough,'" said Pran. "I know why America did not look back, because they said 'we lost so many people already.' That's why during the time no one paid attention."

Pran said that when the Khmer Rouge came to power, they thought communism was the best way to change the world. "Communism to them meant you work together, you sleep together, you eat together, and you are supposed to be one person," said Pran. "But this is not how it works, because they have another rule... a jungle rule that we suffer."

Pran said that when the Khmer Rouge took the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, in 1975, he made the mistake of staying behind. "That's why we lost so many people, because we never believed the Khmer Rouge would do such horrible things to people, such as killing children and killing priests," said Pran.

According to Pran, when the Communist regime came to power, their first initiative was to rebuild Phnom Penh and empty the city by moving the urban population to the countryside. He said the Khmer Rouge destroyed everything because they believed in starting from zero.

"They wanted to kill all of the generation who knew anything 'American,' and who felt what lies in the city is better than the countryside," said Pran. "They wanted to get rid of the city people and promote the country people, because they believed they could turn the people in the countryside into robots who would not question and who would just do what they want."

Pran said that although the Khmer Rouge wanted to supposedly rebuild the country, they killed the engineer who could build irrigation; they killed the doctor who could save lives; and they stopped educating the children who were supposed to be the future generation. Pran said they didn't have hospitals because the Khmer Rouge closed them, so they made untrained teenagers their nurses and doctors. "They killed by allowing people to starve to death, by killing doctors, and by confiscating medicine," recalled Pran.

In order to survive, Pran said he would eat crickets, or anything he could. "Cambodians don't eat wolf, but when you have no choice and you are sent to a jungle with plenty of wolf... you learn how to make a trap," he said.

Pran stated the importance of keeping hope in order to survive the genocide. "Losing hope happened to many people. Some people gave up hope, but I never gave up hope," said Pran. "I believed that the evil never could stay forever, but I pretended to be stupid. That's how I survived; you have to know how to play games with the enemy in order to survive."

At the end of his speech, Pran affirmed the importance of speaking out in situations like these, in order to minimize the killings. "We cannot stop it completely, but we must learn how to do something instead of saying we can't do it," he said.

Pran's story and message is depicted in "The Killing Fields" and in his book, "Children of the Killing Fields." He testified before the House of Representatives about the Cambodian genocide, and today receives recognition for his struggle and his mission.

Tuesday night, Thomas Hodson, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at OU, awarded Pran the school's Carr Van Anda Award for his contributions to journalism.

"I suffered tremendously, but I have people here who care, and who won't let this happen again. I hope together we can make a change," said Pran.
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Cities of Cambodia, Estonia sign agreement to improve investment, cooperation ties

Cambodia's major seaport city and travel destination Sihanoukville has signed an agreement with Estonia's tourism city Maardu to seek for mutual investment and cooperation, local media said on Thursday.

"This agreement will help improve the investment and development cooperation between the two cities," Cambodian daily newspaper the Koh Sonthephea quoted Say Hak, governor of Sihanoukville, as saying.

Details of the agreement was not disclosed.

While signing the agreement on Wednesday, Georgy Bystrov, mayor of Maardu, highly appreciated the achievements of Sihanoukville, said the paper.

During his trip to Sihanoukville, Bystrov visited the industrial, commercial, tourism and cultural areas of the city as well as the seaport, the paper added.

Source: Xinhua
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U.S. donates bird flu equipment for Cambodian officers to make money off the poors

Cambodian government officials on Thursday had welcomed a big load of brand new avian influenza equipment from the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In the big load of equipment has everything in a complete set for influenza emergency outbreak.

The U.S. government donated 65, 000 U.S. dollars worth of avian influenza equipment to the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on Thursday.

These equipments are free gift to Cambodian officials or they will become tools for Cambodian officials to make money off the poors. It is an other chance of luck that will help them make extra money from the long history of corruption in the Hun Sen's society.

The U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has donated 4,500 sets of personal protection equipment and 50 decontamination kits to the Cambodian side, these items will assist the Cambodian government in its efforts to fight avian influenza and other potential pandemic diseases.

The equipment includes protective suits, respirators, goggles and gloves, Joseph Mussomeli, the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, said while addressing the handover ceremony. But will these equipments help the poors or getting more pain?

In Cambodia, every hospital and clinic are not for poor Cambodians to walk in for a free health check up event Donors and the UN had funded hundred millions of dollars. All hospitals, especially in Phnom Penh must be paid from $5 to $10 under the table to get check up. If there is no fee, there is no free check up or you will be waiting all days.

But we just hope that thing will get better in the future and we just hope that these equipment won't be sold to private clinic or be stolen. In the past, a lot of equipments from high tech hospital equipment to school Lab equipments were stolen or sold for deep pockets.

This equipment will be distributed to the front-line workers who come in direct contact with infected poultry, and will be used during the collection of samples and the culling of diseased flocks, he said, adding that the decontamination kits will limit the risk of animal-to-animal and animal-to-human infection during an outbreak response by reducing the presence of the virus in the affected community.

Since 2004, Cambodia has experienced 22 bird flu outbreaks that killed 7 people, according to official statistics. And all children that died in the Hospital were from poor family.
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