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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cambodia Town is now on the map

A stretch of Anaheim Street in Long Beach has the new designation, and its immigrant merchants are happy for the historic recognition.

By Anna Gorman, Times Staff Writer
July 18, 2007

Sithea San fled the killing fields in Cambodia as a teenager and found refuge in Long Beach, where she attended college, got married and bought a house.

Now, more than a quarter-century later, San finally has a place that she and thousands of other native Cambodians say they can call home.

A strip of Anaheim Street was officially named the nation's first "Cambodia Town" earlier this month — the most recent cultural designation in a county that is home to Little India, Little Tokyo and Historic Filipinotown.

City and community leaders say the designation not only will recognize the contributions of Cambodians, but also will help revitalize the neighborhood by attracting more businesses, visitors and tourists to the area. San and others are making plans to put up Cambodia Town signs and set up a business improvement district and are considering building a community center and a memorial to those who died under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

"Now we have the name," said San, chairwoman of Cambodia Town Inc. "Now we have to make it happen. We have the responsibility to make the place nice."

Long Beach, known as the Cambodian capital of the United States, is believed to have the largest concentration of Cambodians outside of the home country. Some of the first Cambodians in the United States were students who attended Cal State Long Beach in the 1960s as part of an exchange program. Waves of refugees followed in the 1970s as they escaped the Khmer Rouge regime, which took the lives of more than 1 million people. According to 2000 census figures, about 20,000 Cambodians live in Long Beach, but community leaders estimate a larger population.

Cambodia Town runs along the Anaheim corridor, from Junipero Avenue to Atlantic Avenue. There are already scores of Cambodian-run businesses on the street, including jewelry stores, restaurants, travel agencies and fabric shops.

At Monorom restaurant Tuesday, a lunchtime crowd ate Cambodian noodle soup while Khmer-language music videos played on a television. Owner Sopha Nhoung, who came to the area more than 20 years ago, said he was proud to finally be recognized.

"They have Chinatown, Koreatown, Thai Town," Nhoung said. "We've been living here for a long time. We deserved this."

Down the street at Angkorwat Art, Sopheap Samrieth said he signed a petition that supported the designation. But his main reason was to draw customers.

"It will bring more people here," said Samrieth, as he pointed out paintings depicting the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. "It will generate more business."

The drive to get a Cambodia Town began in 2001, when a few community members began meeting to talk about the possibility.

The leaders brought the issue to the City Council last year. Some critics expressed concerns that the designation could lure more gangs to the area and that it would exclude Latinos and African Americans.

But Cambodian leaders argued that the title would help the entire city by making the street safer and cleaner and by developing the neighborhood into a regional destination.

Naming the area Cambodia Town would also highlight immigrants' cultural heritage and encourage youths to get involved helping their community, San said. In June, the city of Long Beach commissioned a survey that showed wide support for the cultural designation. On July 3, the City Council voted 8-1 in favor of naming the stretch Cambodia Town.

Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, who voted for the designation, said the new name is a welcome mat for Cambodians, as well as for others who want to experience something different in Long Beach.

"We are leveraging a very unique destination," she said. "What makes Anaheim [Street] different is this collection of shops, stores and businesses that happen to be mostly Cambodian American owned."

Not all of the businesses on Anaheim Street are Cambodian. Manny Caldera, manager of La Bodega Market, said the name wasn't important to him.

"As long as the business is good, it doesn't matter," said Caldera. His store caters to Latinos. "They can name it Cambodia Town or any other."

Veasna Kiet, 40, who runs Phnom Penh Express travel agency, said the new name makes him proud. "We live far away from our country," he said. "Now we have a hometown here."
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5 defendants proposed in mass killings in Cambodia

BANGKOK: Prosecutors in Cambodia announced Wednesday that they had submitted to a special tribunal a list of five potential defendants in a long-delayed trial for the mass killings by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

Although the five names were not made public, the submission was one of the most significant leaps forward in a case involving crimes committed more than 20 years ago. It has been delayed by legal and political disputes for a decade.

Under the tribunal's rules, the evidence will now be studied by investigating judges who will then decide on any formal indictments.

"This is the moment the victims have been waiting for," said Youk Chhang, who directs a documentation center that has collected some of the strongest evidence. "This is a turning point toward justice."

The radical communist Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when 1.7 million people were killed by torture, disease, overwork and starvation.

The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998, and his military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006, but a number of elderly former leaders are living quietly in Cambodia. Only one is in custody.

No Khmer Rouge leader has ever been brought into court to face charges for crimes that resulted in the deaths of as many as one-fourth of the population and left the country in ruin and trauma.

The announcement Wednesday said the prosecutors had submitted for investigation 25 "distinct factual situations of murder, torture, forcible transfer, unlawful detention, forced labor and religious, political and ethnic persecution."

It listed allegations that it said constitute crimes against humanity, genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, homicide, torture and religious persecution.

While names were not disclosed Wednesday, a half-dozen former leaders have often been mentioned as the most likely defendants.

They include Nuon Chea, the movement's chief ideologue; Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, and Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister, all of whom were members of the Khmer Rouge central committee.

Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch, the commandant of the main torture house, Tuol Sleng, is the only major figure in custody, but not under the jurisdiction of the special tribunal.

The mandate of the tribunal is to prosecute senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement as well as those "most responsible" for the crimes. There is no limit to the number of cases that can be brought.

The prosecutors' announcement described the Khmer Rouge atrocities as a criminal enterprise with far-reaching political aims.

"These crimes were committed as part of a common criminal plan constituting a systematic and unlawful denial of basic rights," they said. "The purported motive of this common criminal plan was to effect a radical change of Cambodian society along ideological lines."

In support of their submissions, the prosecutors said they had transmitted more than 1,000 documents totaling more than 14,000 pages of evidence. Large troves of files have been uncovered over the years, some with meticulous records of tortures and killings.

The documents include the statements of more than 350 witnesses, a list of 40 other potential witnesses, thousands of pages of Khmer Rouge government documents and the locations of more than 40 undisturbed mass graves, the statement said.

The tribunal, set up jointly by the United Nations and the Cambodian government, is a complex balancing act between Cambodian and foreign judges and lawyers, and between Cambodian and international standards of justice.

It has been criticized by some human rights groups for falling below those international standards and leaving room for political manipulation by the Cambodian leader, Prime Minster Hun Sen.

Cambodian and foreign judges have teamed together at all levels of the process, with decisions carefully calibrated by a supermajority system intended to resolve disputes between the two camps.

The submission Wednesday was made by two co-prosecutors, a Canadian and a Cambodian, and is now in the hands of co-investigating judges.

The cultures and legal systems clashed earlier this year in a stalemate between Cambodian and foreign judges over procedural rules, and the atmosphere between the two camps was described by participants as acrimonious.

The dispute, which involved national pride as well as legal standards, was the latest of many delays since Cambodia formally sought the help of the United Nations in 1997 to set up an international tribunal.

Because of delays, one year has already passed since the tribunal was inaugurated and only two years remain on its mandate, budgeted at $53 million. Experts said that could be extended if progress was being made.

Earlier on Wednesday, the tribunal announced another step forward - the inauguration of a small, red-roofed detention building, ready to receive any defendants once they are indicted.
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Happy Football to bring Cambodia's homeless teenagers to world arena

The non-governmental Happy Football Project has selected a team to represent Cambodia in the Homeless World Cup in Melbourne in 2008, which is organized by the European Football Federation, local media said on Wednesday.

"It is about small steps toward big dreams," Paraic Crogan, co- founder of the project, was quoted by English-language newspaper the Cambodian Daily as saying.

Khun Sokhrin, 37, coach of the group of homeless, orphaned, or otherwise disadvantaged children said he is not expecting immediate miracles from all the teams under the project.

Coaches from Inter Milan, current Italian football Serie A champions, have also committed to coming to Cambodia to give workshops to the Happy Football players sometime next year, said Sokhrin.

The Happy Football Project is one of a growing number of projects aimed at building a network of football talents in Cambodia, while providing opportunities to disadvantaged children.

Source: Xinhua.
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