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Thursday, July 19, 2007

U.S. supports Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear Temple as world heritage site

PHNOM PENH, July 19 (Xinhua) -- The United States has expressed support for Cambodia's bid to officially register the Preah VihearTemple as world heritage site and will provide aid for its development and management plans, local media reported on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador Joseph A. Mussomeli here on Wednesday told Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An that the temple has to be officially registered as world heritage site even if there is opposition from the third side, press official for the Council of Ministers Phan Sithan was quoted by English-language newspaper Cambodian Daily as saying.

The United States will send a group of experts to Cambodia to help organize the development and management plans for the temple's official registration as world heritage site and also provide grant aid to support the plans, he said.

Recently, Long Visalo, deputy minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, told reporters that the world heritage committee of the United Nation's Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) asked Cambodia to organize the development and management plans for the Preah Vihear Temple after receiving the kingdom's request to list it as world heritage site.

The committee promised to decide whether the temple can be registered as world heritage site in early 2008.

The Preah Vihear Temple was built from the 11th to the 12th century on top of the Dorng Rek Mountain in the northern part of Cambodia next to Thailand. Cambodia secured its ownership of the temple in 1962, out of fierce competition with Thailand.
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Local family returns from eye-opening trip to Cambodia

Julie Kirkwood

Between 1975 and 1979, Khmer Rouge guerillas in Cambodia set out to relocate the entire population into agricultural labor camps. In less than four years, roughly 30 percent of the nation's population was killed, either through starvation, torture or execution.

An entire generation of teachers, police officers and doctors was wiped out -- targeted along with foreigners, Christians and Muslims, and anybody who resisted.

Andover doctors Tom and Rebecca Hoerner knew this history when they arrived in Cambodia last month on a medical volunteer trip.

But it didn't hit home until they spent time in Phnom Penh hospitals.

"You don't see any 45-year-old doctors," said Tom Hoerner, an orthopedic surgeon with Essex Orthopaedics in Andover. "They don't have a core of mid-life experienced physicians to educate anybody else."

Rebecca Hoerner, a pathologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Cambridge Health Alliance, said she noticed the same thing.

"There are very few people my age in the hospital," she said.

The couple used two weeks of vacation time to travel to Cambodia through an organization called Health Volunteers Overseas, just returning this month.

Tom Hoerner spent his days doing rounds and operating on broken arms and legs at a free charity hospital in Phnom Penh and at a nearby state-run hospital. His wife visited hospital laboratories and gave the local doctors much needed advice on safety and techniques. Unlike the automated, highly efficient laboratories in the United States, these laboratories are operating at the level of an American lab in the 1950s, with a lot of the tests done by hand, she said.

"There are only five pathologists in the country for a population of 13 million people," she said. "They're starting from scratch. ... Their equipment is quite old. A lot of it is borrowed and donated."

The Hoerners brought their youngest daughter, 17-year-old Hannah. She volunteered at a nearby school, helping a class of third grade students practice English. She also helped her mother inventory laboratory materials and toured a pediatric hospital with her father.

Hannah said she found the Cambodian children to be curious, welcoming and giddy over small pleasures, such as blowing bubbles and singing songs.

She also found the medical conditions sobering, especially in the pediatric hospital where young children were fighting cases of dengue fever and HIV/AIDS.

"I didn't know what to expect going into it," Hannah said. "I'd never been to Asia, let alone to a developing country. ... It just impressed me how gracious the people were. They welcomed me so much."

Cambodia has been politically stable for nine years now, and it shows, Tom Hoerner said. Though the health care system is rebuilding from virtually nothing, he said he left with a great sense of hope and a feeling that he had seen a nation on the path to recovery.

"I think the Cambodians are going to be OK," he said.

Rebecca Hoerner said she went to Cambodia not sure if there would be anything for a pathologist to do, so it was eye-opening to realize how much the people in her profession could contribute.

She said it also made her appreciate her life at home.

"We take a lot for granted in this country," Rebecca said.

And though he was exhausted when he got back, he said the trip was rewarding, just like his trip three years ago with Health Volunteers Overseas to Vietnam.

"Any time you're not doing your usual job, it's reinvigorating," Hoerner said.
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Former Khmer Rouge leader denies role in genocide

PAILIN, Cambodia: The highest-ranking former Khmer Rouge leader still alive denied on Thursday that he was responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians during the party's brutal 1975-79 rule, adding that he was ready to face an international tribunal.

Prosecutors in the tribunal examining the deaths submitted a confidential list Wednesday of five former top Khmer Rouge leaders that they believed should be tried, along with the evidence to back the charges. Judges will decide whether to proceed with indictments.

"They didn't specify the names of the people, but I know I'm included," the former chief Khmer Rouge ideologue, Nuon Chea, said in an interview at his home in northwest Cambodia.

Cambodian and international prosecutors submitted evidence including thousands of pages of documentation and the locations of more than 40 mass graves.

"I will go to the court and don't care if people believe me not," Nuon Chea said. "It happened 30 years ago and it's very difficult to remember. Some of them" - tribunal members - "never experienced that. They weren't there, how could they know what was going on?"

Seeming unperturbed, Nuon Chea sat clutching a walking stick, the legacy of a stroke, and complained of pain in his right leg as he spoke, while his wife served homemade iced fruit juice.

He said there were more police officers than usual stationed near his house since the announcement Wednesday evening of the legal moves in Phnom Penh, and he added that he had to be careful about what he said.

Now an ailing 82-year-old, the former "Brother Number Two" in the Khmer Rouge has consistently denied any responsibility for the mass brutality that engulfed Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge held power.

"I was president of the National Assembly and had nothing to do with the operation of the government. Sometimes I didn't know what they were doing because I was in the assembly," he said. "I had no intention to kill my people.'

Marcel Lemonde, a tribunal's co-investigating judge who is a native of France, declined to discuss when names of the suspects will be made public and when they might be arrested, though he indicated it could be soon.

A statement from the tribunal said the prosecutors - a joint Cambodian-foreign team - submitted 25 cases to the judges involving "murder, torture, forcible transfer, unlawful detention, forced labor and religious, political and ethnic persecution." All five suspects were senior leaders, it said.

Pol Pot, the late Khmer Rouge leader, died in 1998 and his former military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006. In addition to Nuon Chea, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and the former head of state, Khieu Samphan, live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health. Kaing Khek Iev, who headed the Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture center, is the only former senior official in government custody.

Cambodia first sought help of the United Nations in 1997 to set up a tribunal, but it took years of tough negotiations before the two parties signed a pact in 2003 agreeing to hold trials.
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