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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cambodia PM rejects wider Khmer Rouge trials

By Ek Madra


PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned Tuesday that putting more Khmer Rouge cadres on trial for crimes committed during Pol Pot's 1975-79 reign of terror could plunge the country back into civil war.

"I would prefer to see this tribunal fail instead of seeing war return to my country," Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge commander, said a day after the joint U.N.-Cambodian court resumed its trial of Pol Pot's chief torturer.

Duch, former head of the S-21 prison where more than 14,000 "enemies" of the ultra-Maoist revolution died, is the first of five aging senior cadres to face trial 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia.

Human rights groups have used this week's trial to push for investigations of more suspects, arguing that would ensure justice is delivered to millions of victims and survivors.

But Hun Sen, speaking at the opening of an industrial zone in the port of Sihanoukville, said the trials should not go beyond the five charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"If as many as 20 Khmer Rouge are indicted to stand trial and war returns to Cambodia, who will be responsible for that?," he told the audience.

After Duch, the others awaiting trial are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, the regime's ex-president Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister, and his wife.

They have denied any wrongdoing. Duch has expressed remorse for his victims, but said he was following orders.

The court admitted in January that a bid to go after more suspects was brushed aside by the Cambodian co-prosecutor, who argued it would not be good for national reconciliation.

A final ruling on the additional cases -- details of which the court has not disclosed but the number of which has been put at six in media reports -- is still pending.

"The issue regarding the jurisdiction of the court and whether or not to have further suspects is complicated," said Helen Jarvis, an Australian working for the tribunal.

The government has denied meddling in the court, but rights activists have long suspected Hun Sen does not want it to dig too deep for fear it will unearth secrets about senior Khmer Rouge figures inside his administration.

Hun Sen, 58, joined the Khmer Rouge during their 1970-75 guerilla war against the U.S.-backed government of General Lon Nol. He rose to be a junior commander and lost an eye in fighting just before the rebels took the capital, Phnom Penh.

He has said he defected to Vietnam in mid-1977 and played no part in Pol Pot's bloody agrarian revolution, in which an estimated 1.7 million people, or a third of the population, died.

Vietnamese troops invaded in late 1978 and installed a communist government made up mostly of former Khmer Rouge cadres including Hun Sen, who became premier in 1985.

Analysts said Hun Sen's opposition to expanding the tribunal's work may reflect his concerns former Khmer Rouge commanders will flee back to the jungle and fight any move to arrest them.
Pol Pot's death in 1998 was followed by a formal Khmer Rouge surrender that helped usher in a decade of peace and stability, threatened now by the global economic downturn.
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Cambodia: 1997 Grenade Attack on Opposition Still Unpunished

Suspects in Attack Have Been Promoted Instead of Prosecuted

(New York) - Twelve years after a grenade attack on an opposition party rally that killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100, the Cambodian government has still taken no steps to bring the perpetrators to justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch criticized the recent promotions of officials suspected of involvement in that attack.

On March 30, 1997, about 200 supporters of the opposition politician Sam Rainsy gathered in a park across the street from the National Assembly in Phnom Penh to denounce the judiciary's lack of independence and judicial corruption. In a well-planned attack, four grenades were thrown into the crowd, killing protesters and bystanders, including children, and blowing limbs off street vendors. An FBI investigation concluded that Cambodian government officials were responsible for the attack.

"The attack on Sam Rainsy and his supporters remains an open wound in Cambodia, but neither the government nor Cambodia's donors are doing anything to hold those responsible to account," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The perpetual failure to address this crime has made March 30 ‘Impunity Day' in Cambodia. This anniversary, on the day the Khmer Rouge trials is beginning, shows how far Cambodia has to go toward holding human rights abusers accountable."

On the day of the grenade attack, Prime Minister Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit, Brigade 70, was, for the first time, deployed at a demonstration. The elite military unit, in full riot gear, not only failed to prevent the attack, but was seen by numerous witnesses opening up its lines to allow the grenade-throwers to escape and threatening to shoot people trying to pursuing the attackers.

Rather than punishing the people who ordered and carried out the grenade attack, the government has handed out high-level promotions to several known human rights abusers in Cambodia's armed forces and national police - including at least two linked to the 1997 attack.

The commander of Brigade 70 at the time, Huy Piseth, who ordered the deployment of Brigade 70 forces to the scene that day, is now undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Defense. Hing Bunheang, who was deputy commander of Brigade 70 at the time and who threatened to kill journalists investigating the case, was promoted to deputy military commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in January 2009.

"Handing out promotions to people implicated in massacring peaceful demonstrators is a slap in the face for the victims," said Adams. "This seems to be an intentional message from Hun Sen - that those who do his bidding will be promoted, no matter how egregious their acts."

Six other deputy military commanders face serious allegations of human rights abuses and were also promoted in January. These include Military Intelligence Chief Mol Roeup and Military Police Commander Sao Sokha. Like the commanders of Brigade 70, these men are close confidants of Hun Sen who have been implicated in abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
The failure to pursue those responsible for the 1997 attack is part of a widespread pattern of well-connected perpetrators evading justice. Some examples include:

On September 4, 2008, Mean Sokchea, a RCAF major working in Brigade 70, shot dead 21-year-old waitress Put Samphors at a restaurant in Kandal province. Mean Sokchea, in a drunken stupor, fired his gun and apparently mistakenly hit Put Samphors in the stomach. She was taken to a hospital but later died of her wounds. Mean Sokchea was detained by the police overnight but was then released, allegedly after intervention by Hing Bun Heang. Put Samphor's family received US$2,700 from Mean Sokchea, and the police told them that their daughter was shot while authorities were chasing robbers.


On the night of January 16, 2003, a street youth named Prak Sitha was beaten to death at the Ministry of Interior (MOI) headquarters after he was arrested and detained by off-duty MOI officers on suspicion of theft. His body - bearing numerous injuries to the head, torso, arms, and legs - was dumped at a Phnom Penh pagoda the following morning by ministry officers, in violation of police regulations regarding deaths in custody. No criminal charges were filed in connection with this death. In December 2004, the case was cited by the UN secretary-general's special representative for human rights in Cambodia - who stated that Prak Sitha died at the ministry "following beatings by a known police officer" - as an example of a "consistent and continuing pattern of impunity" in Cambodia.

On December 5, 1999, Tat Marina, age 16, was severely disfigured in an acid attack in Phnom Penh. The attack was allegedly committed by Khun Sophal, the wife of a senior government official, Svay Sitha, because she was angry her husband had a sexual relationship with Tat Marina. Neither Khun Sophal nor those suspected of being her accomplices in the attack were brought to justice. Intense media publicity compelled the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Khun Sophal for attempted murder, but the police claimed that they could not locate her, although journalists reported that she was living at home as usual.

While the Cambodian police and courts regularly allow well-connected or financially able criminal suspects to escape prosecution, the justice system is also routinely used by the government to lock up its political opponents who have committed no crimes. For example, on March 20, 2009, Tuot Saron - former Sam Rainsy Party commune chief in Kompong Thom - was convicted on charges of kidnapping and illegal confinement, although no credible evidence was put forward by the prosecution (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/03/22/cambodia-opposition-officials-arrested-sway-elections). On February 19, the Appeal Court upheld the murder conviction of Thach Saveth, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for the 2004 murder of a trade union official, Ros Sovannareth, despite the government's failure to produce any credible evidence against Thach Saveth.

Human Rights Watch said that the Cambodian judiciary's lack of independence will impact its ability to provide fair and impartial justice in the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, being carried out with a mix of Cambodian and international judges.

"The political control of Cambodia's courts is the main reason so many Cambodians and observers are concerned that the trials of Khmer Rouge leaders will lack credibility," said Adams. "In this way, Cambodia's tragic history and troubled present are deeply connected."


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Monday, March 30, 2009

Vietnam, Cambodia boost cooperation in information and communications

Vietnam wants to strengthen cooperation with Cambodia, particularly in the field of the media, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung while receiving Cambodian Minister of Information, Khieu Kanharith, in Hanoi on March 30.


PM Dung stressed that the two countries should pay more attention to personnel training and investment in infrastructure to promote the dissemination of information, helping to boost bilateral cooperation and refute hostile forces’ slanderous allegations.

He spoke highly of the effective cooperation between Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications and Cambodia’s Information Ministry, saying this has made practical contributions to tightening bilateral ties.

He also conveyed his best regards to Cambodia’s Prime Minister and other senior leaders.

Minister Khieu Kanharith thanked Vietnam for its valuable assistance to Cambodia. He pledged to work closely with Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications to promote the exchange of delegations, the building of information institutions, staff training and infrastructure development for broadcasting activities in order to strengthen mutual understanding for the sake of stability, peace and development in both countries.

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Global Challenges | Cambodian Government Plans To Use Drivers License Tests To Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness

In an effort to increase HIV/AIDS awareness among drivers -- particularly professional truck drivers, many of whom visit commercial sex workers while on the road -- the Cambodian government plans to add questions about the disease to the driver's license exam administered by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Phnom Penh Post reports. The test later this year will include approximately 12 questions about HIV/AIDS. The ministry receives about 2,000 applications for licenses monthly, Keo Savin of the Land Transport Department said, adding that there are 1.14 million registered cars and motorbikes and 405,00 registered drivers in Cambodia. The project is receiving support from the Asian Development Bank.

According to Ung Chun Hour, the ministry's director-general of transport, the ministry is collaborating with the National AIDS Authority at the Ministry of Health to finalize the questions. Chun Hour said, "It is important that drivers -- particularly professional drivers -- know about HIV/AIDS. Professional truck drivers live far from home and are more likely to use sex partners."

Teng Kunthy, secretary-general of the National Aids Authority, said plans to include questions about HIV/AIDS on driving tests come in light of the fact that Cambodia's roads are improving, resulting in more truck drivers traveling within Cambodia and to other neighboring countries, the Post reports. He said, "We are worried that when they stop along their route, they often look for sex partners -- that's why we want to educate them during their driving test, so they know to take care of themselves." According to Kunthy, the next stage is to raise awareness among people who live on the busiest trucking routes (Channyda/Kunthear, Phnom Penh Post, 3/27). Read more!

Q+A: Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Pol Pot's chief torturer took the stand on Monday, charged with crimes against humanity in the first trial of a top Khmer Rouge cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia.

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity while chief of the S-21 torture center, where more than 14,000 died during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge era.

Below are some questions and answers about the tribunal:

WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG FOR THE TRIALS TO START?

Cambodia asked the United Nations and the international community to help set up a tribunal more than a decade ago, but the government sought to retain control of the court. The plan languished for years, with draft laws flying back and forth.

The U.N. gave the go-ahead for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the joint tribunal is known, in 2005.

The trial, originally expected to cost around $20 million a year over three years, was delayed by bail hearings, appeals and pre-trial machinations. The tribunal has asked donors for a $143 million budget to run until 2010, and raised about $100 million so far.

HOW DOES THE JOINT TRIBUNAL WORK?

Conducted under a modified form of Cambodia's French-based judicial system, Cambodian and foreign judges and prosecutors will work together and try to reach unanimous decisions. If they cannot all agree, then a decision requires a "super-majority."

The Trial Chamber of three Cambodian and two foreign judges requires four to agree on a verdict. The seven-judge Supreme Court Chamber -- comprising four Cambodians and three foreigners handling appeals -- must have five judges in agreement.

Sentences can range from a minimum five years to a maximum of life in prison. There is no death penalty in Cambodia. The court can also seize money or property acquired unlawfully.

Advocates hope the tribunal will serve as a model of professionalism for the country's judiciary. But critics say its integrity is already threatened by allegations of corruption and political interference, which the government has denied.

WHO HAS BEEN CHARGED SO FAR?

Duch is among five aging and infirm senior cadres facing various charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A verdict in his trial is expected in September.

Trial dates have not been set for ex-president Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, and "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea.

Pol Pot died in 1998 and there are fears that his surviving allies will die of old age before they face trial.

WILL ANYONE ELSE BE INVESTIGATED?

Cambodia's prosecutor opposed a bid by her foreign counterpart to go after six more suspects, citing the need for national reconciliation. Critics saw a political move to stop the court from digging too deep and perhaps unearthing secrets about some former Khmer Rouge figures in the government.

The government denies meddling and Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, has said he supports the tribunal. There is no evidence linking him to any atrocities.
More broadly, some critics say the role of the United States and China in supporting Pol Pot's regime should also be probed.

The court says it can only try individuals for crimes committed in Cambodia between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979, and cannot try countries or organizations.

HOW WILL IT AFFECT CAMBODIANS?

Survivors and other civil parties will be allowed to ask questions and file motions through their lawyers.

Survivors hope the trials will bring closure to their grief, and mark a new era of peace and justice. They also hope it will educate young Cambodians about an era they know little about.

More than half the country's 14 million people were born after Pol Pot was ousted in 1979.

Despite an education campaign, a pre-trial survey found 85 percent of respondents "had little or no knowledge" of the tribunal, although court officials disputed its findings.

(Reporting by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Alan Raybould and Sugita Katyal)
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

2 dead following Big Lake shooting, police chase

I-94 near St. Cloud was shut down for several hours after a Big Lake man killed his girlfriend's son and then himself.

By ABBY SIMONS and RANDY FURST, Star Tribune


Racing down Interstate 94 near St. Cloud in the early morning hours, his injured girlfriend held hostage in the car, Peter Tek made a final phone call.

He told his ex-wife that he had killed his girlfriend’s son and implied to his son, Phath Bauer, that he was going to kill himself. “Boy, boy, I’m very sorry,” he said to his son. “I won’t be there to see you and your sister grow up, and for that I’m very sorry.”

Less than two hours later, still sitting in the Lincoln Navigator parked alongside the barricaded freeway, Tek released his girlfriend, shot himself in the head and died.

Authorities said that Tek killed Savang Sath, 27, at the family’s home at 1010 Eagle Lake Rd. in Big Lake. He shot himself near where Stearns County Rd. 6 crosses I-94 at about
5:40 a.m.

A 2-mile stretch of the freeway near the standoff scene was closed and traffic detoured for about two hours, police reported.

His girlfriend suffered head injuries and is hospitalized, but is expected to recover, police said. According to Tek’s brother, Cheth Tek, Peter Tek was divorced and had been living with his girlfriend and her son for four years in Big Lake.

Big Lake police chief Sean Rifenberick said there had been previous domestic violence calls to the house, but he was not sure whether they involved Peter Tek. Rifenberick said there had been a social services complaint involving children being removed from the home but said he did not know the details.

According to Cheth Tek, Peter Tek and his girlfriend attended a party and got home at about 2 a.m. on Saturday. Authorities said there was an argument between Tek and two adult females at the residence around 2:45 a.m. An argument ensued between Tek and Sath and Tek shot Sath twice. He held two females in the house hostage for 20 minutes, then left with Sath’s mother.

Police were called at 3:08 a.m.; deputies found Sath’s body and were told Tek was in a Lincoln Navigator.

At 3:22 a.m., Wright County deputies spotted him pumping gas at a Holiday station in Monticello. When he saw the deputies approach, he got into the Lincoln, and headed toward I-94 in Monticello with the deputies chasing him.

Phath said he didn’t realize until after the cell phone call that his father was indicating that he planned to kill himself. “He expressed his love for me, my sister and my mom. I told him, 'I love you, too, dad.’”

Phath said that his father told his mother that the incident began with an argument between his father and girlfriend, there was a physical confrontation, and then his girlfriend’s son began to beat him. Phath said he did not know where the gun came from but did not believe it was his father’s because his father didn’t like guns and despised hunting.

Nonetheless, Phath said his father told his mother that he pointed the gun at Sath and shot him. He said he told his mother, “I didn’t know it was loaded.”

Besides Phath, Peter is survived by a 15-year-old daughter and his parents.

Cheth Tek said that the Tek family had come from Cambodia in the early 1980s.

Peter Tek’s parents and Cheth live in Savage. “My mom cried,” Cheth Tek said. He said that his older brother had gone through war that engulfed Cambodia in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s before they fled to Thailand in 1976 and lived in a refugee camp. He had visited Cambodia a month ago on a church mission, according to Cheth.

Peter Tek was a press operator who had worked for 20 years at Vertis Communications in Shakopee, a printing company, according to a co-worker who asked not to be identified because he did not know whether he was authorized by the company to speak. Tek had been on vacation and was expected to return next week.

“He was a really good guy,” the co-worker said. “Everybody liked him.”

asimons@startribune.com 612-673-4921
rfurst@startribune.com 612-673-7382
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Cambodia's KRouge prison chief to address court

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal this week resumes the trial of the Khmer Rouge's former prison chief, who is expected to admit his role in the "Killing Fields" horrors three decades ago.

When proceedings began last month, lawyers for Kaing Guek Eav -- better known as Duch -- said he would use the court to publicly ask forgiveness for his role in the 1975 to 1979 regime which killed up to two million people.

"It is an enormously important moment in the history of Cambodia," said tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis. "People have been waiting for a long time, and the process will unfold over the next couple of months."

Former maths teacher Duch, 66, is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders who have been detained by the court and judges on Monday will read his charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and pre-meditated murder.

The court plans to invite Duch to personally address allegations he oversaw the torture and extermination of more than 15,000 men, women and children when he headed Phnom Penh's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, known as S-21.

"It's unique that we will spend months hearing evidence and testing it at a trial for charges that he has admitted to," said Richard Rogers, head of the Khmer Rouge tribunal's defence office.

Duch, a born-again Christian, has consistently admitted personal responsibility at Tuol Sleng since he was arrested in 1999, although maintains he did not personally torture or murder prisoners.

Most welcome the idea that Duch will at least partially confess in the court, which is seen as the last hope to deal with Khmer Rouge crimes.

"A confession is a good thing for Duch to do. If Duch pleads guilty, I will be eased in my heart," said Vann Nath, who is one of the handful who survived Tuol Sleng because his skills as an artist were deemed useful for the regime.

"We will get a kind of justice -- not compensation -- but justice that can heal our mind when the court convicts Duch and he receives the punishment," Vann Nath added.

Duch faces a maximum term of life in prison by the tribunal, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

The defence appears to hope that testimony by Duch will earn him a reduced prison sentence.

"The question is: What is the appropriate punishment for a man who's confessed to terrible crimes, assisted the process of justice and asked for forgiveness?" Rogers said.

The Khmer Rouge, led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, emptied Cambodia's cities during its time in power, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to take society back to "Year Zero" and forge a Marxist utopia.

Pol Pot died in 1998.

But the Khmer Rouge court, established in 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between the government and UN, has faced controversy over allegations of corruption and political interference.

Amid claims that Cambodian staff paid kickbacks for their jobs, donors have shied from funding parts of the court.

It was only able to pay salaries for Cambodian staff this month after Japan provided an emergency 200,000-dollar donation.

Japan remains the tribunal's biggest donor, pledging 21 million dollars early this year after the tribunal's operating costs ballooned from the original budget of 56.3 million dollars over three years.

The tribunal has been further dogged by allegations of interference by Prime Minister Hun Sen's administration after the Cambodian co-prosecutor opposed pursuing more suspects on the grounds that it could destabilise the country.

The other Khmer Rouge members awaiting trial are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was the minister of social affairs.

Many here hope the tribunal will help Cambodians understand how the Khmer Rouge came to kill its own people.

"We -- the victims -- need to understand (Duch's) brutality and how he treated and executed the prisoners like animals," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which collects evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Across space and time

Cultural crossovers: The Angkor Wat shares many features with Pallava and Chola temples.




PREMA KASTURI AND S. SURESH


Centuries of cultural and commercial interaction between South Indian kingdoms and Cambodia led to a fascinating mutual enrichment that can be seen in the motifs and architectural styles of temples that flowed freely across the ocean.

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When Kulottunga I, the Chola king, was constructing or enlarging the famous Shiva Temple at Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu), Suryavarman II, the king of Cambodia and the builder of Angkor Wat, offered to send, all the way from Cambodia, a block of stone as a gift for the new construction.

The very name “Cambodia”, brings forth visions of the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat with its huge pavilions, towering spires and larger-than-life sculptures. Angkor Wat and the scores of other spectacular temples surrounding it were bu ilt by the local Cambodian or Khmer kings between the ninth and the 14th centuries A.D. The UNESCO has now included these monuments in its “World Heritage” list. Each day, thousands of visitors enjoy these monuments, many of which are in picturesque ruins. Most of the visitors are, however, simply unaware that Cambodian art and culture have a lot of Indian, particularly South Indian, elements.

The remote origin of the intimate links between India and Cambodia forms the subject of innumerable legends. Many legends mention a young and handsome South Indian prince travelling to Cambodia, marrying a beautiful Cambodian princess and eventually becoming the ruler of that land. According to one popular legend, around the time of Christ or slightly earlier, Kaundinya, a Brahmin from India, sailed to the kingdom of Funan in Cambodia that was then ruled by a princess named Soma of the Naga dynasty. Using a divine weapon, Kaundinya defeated her in war, married her and became the king of Funan. Towards the beginning of the fifth century, another Brahmin, bearing the same name, inspired by a supernatural power, came to Cambodia where the local people welcomed him and elected him as the king of Funan. He and his successors introduced many Indian customs and laws in Cambodia. In the year 802, a powerful ruler named Jayavarman II founded the Khmer kingdom that had its capital in or around Angkor in Central Cambodia. The capture of Angkor by Thailand (Siam) in 1431 forced the Khmer rulers to shift their capital further south in the vicinity of Phnom Penh.

The cultural and commercial interaction between South India and Cambodia, in fact, dates back to a few centuries before Christ. South Indian merchants and artists regularly came to Cambodia through diverse land and sea routes. Located on the great maritime highway between India and China, Cambodia, from early times, emerged as a major commercial hub in the long distance trade network that linked China, South East Asia, Sri Lanka, India, Africa and Rome. Spices and gemstones from South East Asia reached the ports on the east coast of India (Andhra Pradesh-Tamil Nadu), from where they were shipped to the Red Sea ports of Africa and from there sent to Rome through the North African port of Alexandria. Not surprisingly, archaeologists have discovered ancient Roman objects including intaglios, coins, ceramics and lamps in the Thailand-Cambodia region. These Roman materials should doubtless have reached South East Asia through Mahabalipuram, Arikamedu, Kaveripattinam or any of the other ancient ports of Southeastern India. Interestingly, similar Roman objects have been recurrently discovered in many of these port sites.

Significant influence

Both Hinduism and Buddhism reached parts of South East Asia from India during the early centuries of the Christian era. The South Indian influence on Cambodian art and culture was, however, most vigorous and prolific during the rule of the Pallavas (third to ninth centuries) and Cholas (ninth to 13th centuries) in South India. It is well known that the use of the honorific title Varman — very common amongst the Pallava kings — was borrowed by the kings of Cambodia. The first Cambodian king to have this suffix appended to his name was Bhadravarman who lived in the fourth century and thus, was a contemporary of one of the early Pallava rulers of Kanchipuram. Significantly, Bhadravarman was a renowned scholar, well-versed in all the four Vedas and the author of several inscriptions in Sanskrit. He invited learned Brahmins from India to settle in his kingdom.

While Sanskrit language and literature spread to Cambodia from different parts of India including South India, the ornate Grantha (also called Pallava Grantha) script travelled to Cambodia exclusively from the Pallava kingdom. According to scholars, some of the birudas (titles) of the Pallava kings including Mahendravarman I appear to be in the Khmer language — the language of Cambodia. Further, Nandivarman Pallavamalla, one of the later Pallava rulers, is believed to have lived in Cambodia for some years before he travelled to Kanchi to ascend the Pallava throne. The most enduring contribution of the Pallavas to Cambodia is the cult of Ashtabhuja Vishnu (eight-armed Vishnu). In India, this form of Vishnu first originated around the Mathura region in North India, and slowly spread to Nagarjunakonda (Andhra) and from there, permeated further south to Kanchipuram. Many of the Pallava temples in and around Kanchi house sculptures of this form of Vishnu, with one temple (Ashtabhuja Perumal Temple) having the deity enshrined within the main sanctum. Initially, the Angkor Wat was a Hindu shrine dedicated to this form of Vishnu installed within the sanctum in the uppermost tier of the temple. This huge majestic monolithic image, recently restored and now kept at the entrance of Angkor Wat, is almost identical, in stylistic features, to the image within the sanctum of the Ashtabhuja Perumal Temple of Kanchi.

The Pallavas of Kanchi were contemporaries and rivals of the Chalukyas of Badami (Vatapi) in present-day Karnataka. But political differences and rivalries did not stand in the way of the exchange of art styles and ideas between these two kingdoms. Thus, we can observe Chalukyan influence in the art of Kanchi and Pallava imprints in the art of Badami and Pattadakkal in Karnataka. Again, not surprisingly, there are unmistakable parallels between the art of Pattadakkal and Angkor Wat. The most important and famous bas-relief sculpture in Angkor Wat is the one portraying the scene of the Churning of the Cosmic Ocean by the Gods and demons (samudramanthan). Miniature representations of the same scene occur on the pillars within the Angkor Wat. Sculptures exhibiting this theme occur in many other Angkor temples including the Bayon. Although the story has always been very popular in India, its representation in art has been very rare in this country. The Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakkal, however, features this scene on the face of a column. Stylistically, this sculpture is remarkably similar to the representation of the same scene in the pillars in Angkor Wat.

Again, in Angkor Wat, the bas-relief showing the Mahabharata war prominently features Bishma lying on the bed of arrows. Such a representation of Bishma is uncommon in South Indian art. A few late medieval temple wall paintings in Kerala, however, feature this theme.

Free exchange of ideas

Architecturally, the Angkor Wat shares many common features with both Pallava and Chola temples. Like the Vaikunta Perumal Temple (Kanchi) and the Sundara Varada Perumal Temple (Uttaramerur) of the Pallavas, the Angkor Wat consists of three levels or tiers, each of the upper tiers slightly smaller than the one below it, giving the structure the look of a pyramid. Again, like the Chola Brhadisvara Temple of Thanjavur, Angkor Wat too was conceived to represent the sacred mount Meru in the Himalayas. Damodara Pandita, a Brahmin scholar from Madhyadesa (Karnataka-Orissa region) in India was the chief priest of Suryavarman II, the builder of the Angkor Wat. It is believed that the king built this temple as per the guidelines provided by the Indian priest.

The friendly relation between the Chola kings and Cambodia is attested by a significant but little-known incident. When Kulottunga I, the Chola king, was constructing or enlarging the famous Shiva Temple at Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu), Suryavarman II, the king of Cambodia and the builder of Angkor Wat, offered to send, all the way from Cambodia, a block of stone as a gift for the new construction. Kulottunga gratefully accepted the unusual gift, installed it in the temple and engraved an inscription informing that the stone was from Cambodia.

The beautiful temple of Banteay Srei, around 30km from Angkor Wat, has many intricately carved Hindu sculptures betraying South Indian influence. Here, one can see the dancing Shiva (Nataraja) above the main doorway leading to the central sanctum. Close to him, there is a small, frail female figure that has been identified as Karaikal Ammaiar, the well-known Tamil saint.

The inscriptions on the walls of the temples in Cambodia frequently refer to Indian scholars and priests settling in Cambodia, often on invitation from the king. Some of these scholars were the direct disciples of Adi Sankara in South India.

Any serious visitor to the monuments in Angkor will indeed be astounded by the sweep of the South Indian elements that have engulfed Cambodian culture during different periods of history. To the students of South Indian history and art, Cambodia is a revelation, an eye-opener to the spread of our unique culture to distant lands.

(Dr. Suresh’s field research in Cambodia has been sponsored by Ramu Endowments, Chennai)

Evidences of interactions, the eight arm Siva God is worshiped by majority in Cambodia

There have been several little-known finds of authentic South Indian objects in the Thailand-Cambodia region. Archaeological digs at Khuan Luk Pat on the west coast of Southern Thailand have revealed a Sangam Chola coin with the figure of the tiger — the Chola dynastic emblem — on it (first century B.C.). The region has also yielded a very rare bronze figure betraying features of the Amaravati school of art (first-second centuries A.D.).
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Ex-Khmer Rouge still dominate regions of Cambodia

By DENIS D. GRAY


ANLONG VENG, Cambodia (AP) — Just as the chief Khmer Rouge torturer takes the stand before a United Nations-backed genocide tribunal, a mausoleum fit for a king will be unveiled for another murderous leader from the same regime.

The entombed Ta Mok, known to his victims as "The Butcher," remains a revered figure in Anlong Veng because practically everyone here — from the district chief to the tourism promoter, from the wealthiest businessmen to dirt-poor farmers — was once Khmer Rouge.

This remote, rough-and-ready town is no aberration. Thirty years after the fall of their Maoist regime, former Khmer Rouge officials still run extensive enclaves across northwestern and northern Cambodia. After Anlong Veng, their last holdout, fell in 1998, Khmer Rouge officials abandoned their savage policies and took posts in the new power structure.

They appear unlikely to face justice for alleged crimes during a brutal 1975-1979 reign of terror under which some 2 million died.

"We were the former Khmer Rouge commanders so we knew the area and the people, so after we surrendered we were confident we would get similar positions — in the government, police, the military," explains Pery Saroen, 55, Anlong Veng's deputy district chief, whose superior is also a one-star army general. "When we handed over ourselves, our territory, we became part of the government. We had an agreement with the government and we knew they would forgive us."

An equivalent scenario would have been known Nazi officials and military commanders, some with blood on their hands, serving in 1975 as West Germany's mayors and ministers amid war crimes trials for their leaders.

Only five are expected to face trial. The first, Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Comrade Duch — headed Phnom Penh's notorious S-21 torture center. He is scheduled to testify at the end of the month before a joint international and Cambodian tribunal.

"It's clear that not every Khmer Rouge cadre who carried out killings and crimes is going to come before the tribunal. We don't believe it should stop at the top five most notorious figures. We could do more to bring justice to Cambodians," says Sara Colm of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, echoing criticism of many Cambodians and foreign prosecutors.

Nhem Sarath, with the non-governmental Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, says villagers outside Khmer Rouge areas often ask why the court doesn't try the many Khmer Rouge suspected of atrocities.

"They also ask us why the powerful leaders now running the country are also not arrested," he says.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin were all Khmer Rouge commanders or officials, and now are unchallenged in their power. Other top positions are filled by their one-time comrades, including Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong and deputy prime ministers Men Sam On and Keat Chhun, who also holds the finance and economy portfolio.

Although no evidence has come to light implicating Hun Sen, a division commander, in Khmer Rouge crimes, he has sought to narrowly restrict those brought to justice because a number in his government and party are hiding skeletons in their closets.

Among the most notorious is Meah Mut, an ex-Khmer Rouge military official, who is on a prosecution "hit list" of at least five others they want to try. A brigadier general and adviser to the Defense Ministry, he lives in a lovely house amid a fruit orchard in Samlot, about 125 miles from Anlong Veng, in the northwest.

It was to this region that the Khmer Rouge leaders and thousands of followers fled when a Vietnamese invasion force toppled their regime in 1979. While Khmer Rouge in other areas of the country sought to quietly merge back into society, those in the northwest melted into the jungles and mountains to wage guerrilla war until the guns fell silent through an amnesty in 1998, the year Anlong Veng fell, and their leader, Pol Pot, died. All ex-Khmer Rouge in the region express loyalty to Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party.

David Chandler, a leading Cambodia historian due to appear as an expert witness at the tribunal, says the deal has proved a "standoff, a trade-off that suits both sides."

"They are not going into dissidence or to secede. They have to behave to a certain extent but Hun Sen is not going to mess with them too much," he says. "I don't think these are dedicated left-wing thinkers or performers. I think they abandoned that and got into the money and the patronage situation and are perfectly happy."

Many of the former Khmer Rouge claim to support the trial of their one-time leaders.

"To be honest, when ex-Khmer Rouge heard that the top five leaders would be tried, they said, 'We don't mind. Let's do it,'" said Nhem En, another district deputy head who was S-21's chief photographer and, like most former Khmer Rouge, points a finger at the leaders while denying any wrongdoing himself.

Ta Mok, who died a prisoner in 2006, is still much admired in Anlong Veng. His mausoleum, copied from ancient Angkorian temples by his rich grandson, will be completed almost to the day that Duch testifies.

"We regarded Ta Mok like a father who takes care of his children. He imposed restrictions and discipline but he gave us food, clothing, places to live," recalls Chat Chay, a poor laborer and former Khmer Rouge soldier. He noted how Ta Mok, whose cruelty was legendary, built roads, a hospital, a bridge and a high school building.

The town's 3,000 schoolchildren are taught nothing about their country's Khmer Rouge past, and only a few posters about the trial have been put around school grounds, says elementary school Vice Principal Reak Smey. He is one of a sizable influx of non-Khmer Rouge from other parts of the country, drawn by the possibility of acquiring land in the sparsely populated area and earning income from a lucrative cross-border trade with nearby Thailand.

"When I first arrived I was worried about having to adapt to life with former Khmer Rouge, but after a few months I discovered their honesty and kindness. The more I lived with them, the better I felt," he says, recalling that the revolutionaries had tried to instill rigid morality, albeit at the point of a gun, during their years in power. Now, he says, their virtues are being eroded by the influence of the newcomers.

Khieu Dum is a wealthy 36-year-old who owns a gas station and money exchange business. He is also the son of Khieu Samphan, who faces charges of crimes against humanity during his time as the Khmer Rouge president. An expensive Lexus sports utility vehicle sits in the son's garage at the dusty crossroads of this district of about 20,000, where the new settlers have had to be friendly because they are the powerless outsiders.

"This is a small and simple place. People just go about their business. The old (Khmer Rouge) people and the newcomers live together amiably. I have never had trouble because of my father," says Khieu Dum.

The Khmer Rouge leaders were off to a head start when the amnesty came, having amassed mini-fortunes during their days as guerrillas through smuggling of timber, gems and antiques to Thailand. Now, the upper echelons own some of the poshest houses and cars in the provinces of Pailin, Preah Vihear, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meancheay — Cambodia's Khmer Rouge country.

Some have sunk into gross corruption and engage in activities, like gambling, which would have earned them summary execution in the old days. And they have certainly ditched their ideal of a classless society.

In Anlong Veng, a two-class system appears to have emerged: the rich businessmen and government officials living in town and former low-ranking soldiers who barely survive on arid land they don't own in the surrounding countryside. Thus the town witnessed both the final military defeat of the Khmer Rouge and the death of its ideals.

Chat Chay says he joined the movement as a 14-year-old after the Khmer Rouge persuaded him they would liberate the country and create a utopia of neither rich nor poor. Now, he breaks up stones at construction sites, able to use only his right hand since a head wound paralyzed his left side. He earns less than one dollar a day for his family of seven.

"The Khmer Rouge didn't do what they promised. They changed their policies," says the 51-year-old man. "I was wounded but the Khmer Rouge gave me nothing and I have also received nothing from this government."

Associated Press writer Sopheng Cheang contributed to this report.


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Focus on Cambodia's Human Trafficking is Misleading

By Alan Perry


Rory Byrne's March 23rd article "Human Trafficking On the Rise in Cambodia" from VOA News is misleading and uninformed. The first glaring error is of course the misspelling of the Capitol City of Phnom Penh in the article. Let us hope that this is a simple editorial mistake and not an indication of how well he understood his subject matter. Unfortunately I think it may be the latter.

The real problem with the article is that it lacks perspective or any other viewpoint on the Human Trafficking issue. There is no dissenting voice or opinions reported. Cambodia has become for lack of a better word the worlds favorite sex "obsession". With daily breathless reportage on Human trafficking and child sex convictions one is left with the mistaken impression that Cambodia is a place where one can simply walk down the street and pick out your favorite 13 year-old girl or boy for an hours pleasure. This is simply not the case.

I first came to Cambodia 15 years ago and now have lived here for 2 years and own a business. In all that time I have never witnessed any such activity nor could I direct anyone to any place which deals in such a thing. I have traveled widely here and employ a number of Cambodians and in conversation with them I cannot find a single person that knows about the "sex slave" trade. I do however know that it is often the families of these girls and boys who send them away or sell them into "jobs" in prostitution. Many boys are sold into the military so their family can get the stipend the government gives out for that and many escape. Most of the girls, if the truth be known, are sent into this trade by their families, not lured there by strangers. Most are free to come and go as they please because having been sent there by the parents they often will stay out of respect and fear of the parents. The parents receive a payment, the girl is expected to work for a period of time.

This is not slavery, at worst it is indentured servitude. There is a very important difference. Of course no one wants to see children sent into the sex trade by anyone, let alone their parents, but I believe the notion that there are thousands of girls chained in basements being used as sex slaves defies logic. Most of Cambodia is a crowded and busy place especially the cities. Keeping something like this from the police would be very difficult here, to say nothing of the fact that I have never seen or heard of a house here with a basement. While many of the police are corrupt not all of them are by any means and there are many levels of police in a given area. This makes it especially difficult to keep slaves locked in your "basement" without your neighbors and the police finding out and reporting on you.

The article does not at any time cite one single credible study of this problem and for good reason...none exists. Some organizations such as World Vision raise millions of dollars in the U. S., Britain and Australia beating the child sex and human trafficking drum. Only a trickle of those funds are ever spent here in Cambodia actually doing anything about the problem. A problem that I would argue is no worse than in London, Honolulu or Des Moines.

The article goes on to cite how there were girls rescued from this business by the organization named in the article, one I have never heard of previously. It is written in such a way as to leave the impression that all these girls were "sex slaves". I would defy the writer or the organization cited to bring forth one credible person with that story. It seems clear to me that what is most likely is that there was financial incentive for these girls to leave or that they felt they had no other place to go if they left on their own. Many families wont take a girl back who has shamed them by working in this industry and many continue in the business for the very good financial rewards. Consider that the average wage of most Cambodians is often cited at less than one US dollar a day. A girl or boy working in the sex trade can make 10, 20 or 100 times this in a single day. With this they buy cell phones, motorcycles, nice clothes and send money home to the family. This scenario is the real story of the sex trade in Cambodia.

Many do it as a sideline, some go to school, and others do work in brothels. some come to escape the poverty and closeness of village life. Some of the young people that turn to this trade do it because they have lost a good job in a factory due to layoffs. Consider this the next time some well meaning organization asks you to help stamp out child labor in Cambodia, Thailand or where ever: If these young people lose their jobs often the next stop is to turn to prostitution to make sure they eat everyday. This is the real story of the sex trade.

People often fall into this trap when writing or reporting on Cambodia. With little or no knowledge of the country and it's people they rely instead on those with an axe to grind, an issue to promote or in the case of some organizations, money to be raised by keeping this issue on the front burner and sounding as horrible as possible. It would be nice to have a reporter ask some hard probing questions, explore the logic and interview others with a different viewpoint. Unfortunately Mr Byrne seemingly did none of that.

Alan Perry is a resident of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and is with DevaRaja Villa and Bungalows, Intimate Stylish Personal Attentive. Reach him at mailto:aarthurperry@gmail.com .

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Visions of Cuba and Cambodia

By By Anne-Marie Smolski, Townsman Staff

Wellesley - When Nancy Carbonaro hung her photography exhibit in the Wellesley Free Library lobby at the beginning of the month it should have taken her two hours. Instead, because people were so interested in the images, it took five.

“CUBA/CAMBODIA/CARBONARO,” an exhibit of 19 photographs, is still attracting lots of attention. Carbonaro said each time she stops by the library, she has to bring more cards about the show and business cards for her photography studio on Crest Road, since they’ve been flying off the small table in front of the exhibit. As of last week, she had sold 10 photos (they are in editions of 25 per image). Proceeds from the sales will go to nonprofit foundations helping the children of Cambodia.

As the owner of Carbonaro Photography in Wellesley for the past seven years, she has specialized in creating natural, spontaneous portraits of children and families.

What is it that drives her to the slums of Phnom Penh?
“It’s the connection to the people. I use the camera to connect with people and learn who they are,” while always being careful to be respectful, Carbonaro said. That connection builds trust, she said.

In 2005, she had the opportunity to attend a private photography workshop taught by Ernesto Bazan in Cuba. When she was studying with Bazan, who has won international awards for his documentary work, she used the wide-angle lens of 28 mm, to be as close as possible to her subjects. “We had to be in our subjects’ world,” she explained.

For the workshop, she had to shoot in black and white. (The photos in the exhibit are in color. She used a Canon 20-D in Cuba and a Canon 5-D in Cambodia). Part of the workshop involved documenting various elements of life in Cuba, specifically in Vinealas and Havana. Carbonaro visited homes, tobacco farms, and even attended a cock fight. The class visited a tobacco farm, where Bazan had been documenting the family for years. “They’d raise the pig, they’d slaughter the pig. The next day they’d serve it for lunch,” Carbonaro said.

She loves learning about the customs of other countries, she said. For instance, there was the time when she was photographing a young girl who was receiving a scholarship in Cambodia. Carbonaro wanted to photograph the girl with her parents, but was told they wanted to include another person because they believed it was not good to have odd numbers of people in photos. In Cuba, she found when visiting poor families in their homes they would offer her group anything they had. “If it’s offered, it’s like a gift,” she said. How do you turn down a gift?” And although she doesn’t consider herself a “political person,” she finds that once she gets into these countries, she feels compelled to find out what’s going on there.

Inspired by her trip to Cuba, Carbonaro visited Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006. The experience was memorable in more ways than one — a member of the workshop in which she was participating got run over by a bull. “She was a real trouper,” Carbonaro said. The woman was a little scuffed up, but OK.

In 2007, she had the time and the money to visit Cambodia, where the average family earns $400 a year.

“What I’d like to do is to get back to these countries. I’d really like to set up a project where I could be there for an extended period of time and really get to know the people,” Carbonaro said.
In the meantime, she is thinking of going to Brazil in September, and would really like to go to Appalachia. “They’re the poorest of the Americans,” she said.

Called a humanitarian photographer by Word Press, Carbonaro sees her work as “shedding light on those that live in darkness. These are the people of the world that don’t have a voice. It is her vision to give them a voice, a place to be seen and be heard.

From butter to photos
Born on wheels in an ambulance, Carbonaro is from Minneapolis. She went to college in Wisconsin, at UW-Stout.

She came to Boston when she was 30. She said she thought, “I’ll get a camera and document life in Boston.” She took continuing education classes at Mass. College of Art and New England School of Photography, and recalled that she “really started to fall in love with [photography].”

At the time she was working for Land O’Lakes in consumer product sales. “I sold butter,” she said. She continued working for Land O’Lakes for seven more years, and left as a district sales manager before starting her own photography business.

As for the work she does in Wellesley and nearby towns, she said, it’s a happy job. “I give a product to my clients that they love. It’s going to bring back, hopefully, really good memories. That’s the joy, that it makes people happy.”

Married and living in Newton, she spends her free time renovating her house. She also takes courses, and likes adventure sports, such as hiking, skiing and go-cart racing. She said she enjoys “anything that is on the edge,” anything that pushes her out of her comfort zone.


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About the exhibit

CUBA/CAMBODIA/CARBONARO is on view at the Wellesley Free Library, 530 Washington St., through March 31. In April, the exhibit moves to Boston University, at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 940 Commonwealth Ave. In May, she’ll be showing at Coldwell Banker Hunneman in Jamaica Plain, and in September, the show will go up at the Center for Adult Education in Cambridge. Framed 16x20 prints are available for $295, with profits from the sale going to foundations that help the children of Cambodia. For more information, call 781-237-5990; www.carbonarophotography.com.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

ASIA: Fighting the spread of Artemisinin-resistant malaria

BANGKOK, 26 March 2009 (IRIN) - Scientists and health workers are racing to contain a malaria strain along the Thai-Cambodia border that is becoming increasingly resistant to Artemisinin, the best drug available to fight it, experts say.

[See also: CAMBODIA: Malaria gaining tolerance to some treatments]

Artemisinin, normally used in a combination therapy (ACT), has given hope in recent years that malaria can be eradicated worldwide.

But a key trial in western Cambodia in 2007 and other evidence has shown a tolerance to Artemisinin in the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which causes the most deadly form of malaria.

“To prevent the spread of this [parasite], we need to be fast,” said Eva-Maria Christophel, a medical officer specialising in malaria and other vector-borne diseases with the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) regional office for the Western Pacific.

These efforts received a boost recently with a US$22.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the WHO.

“A big containment effort will now start … and maybe to try to eradicate malaria from western Cambodia to get rid of the problem,” said Arjen Dondorp, deputy director of the Wellcome Trust-Mahidol University-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok.

“It’s sort of a timebomb, so you never know when the parasite is going to escape from western Cambodia and spread to the rest of the world,” he said.

ACT effectiveness

Experts are monitoring if ACT is becoming less effective in other areas, such as the Thai-Myanmar border.

MORU, with a global consortium of scientists, is also trying to find out how and why the falciparum parasite is becoming tolerant to Artemisinin.

Tolerance has been connected to the consumption of suboptimal doses of the drug, which do not kill the parasite. This can be due to counterfeit medicines or patients not fully following treatment regimes.

Artemisinin monotherapy, where the drug is taken alone - allowing parasites to more easily adapt to it - is also a significant factor.

ACTs are still extremely effective. However, evidence shows that Artemisinin as part of a combination therapy is starting to work later than normal, taking more than a benchmark three days to get rid of parasites.

“We are trying to find out the biological basis for that resistance,” said Dondorp.

Prevention methods

Health authorities and NGOs in Cambodia and Thailand are now trying to contain the parasite by treating all malaria cases and preventing its spread.

A major challenge is working with mobile and migrant populations, which could spread the Artemisinin-tolerant parasites.

These populations in the border area include settlers, Cambodians who work in plantations and orchards in Thailand, and loggers who spend extended periods in Cambodia’s forests.

“There are really a lot of different people who need different intervention channels,” said Christophel. “They need access to early diagnosis, appropriate treatment and then prevention measures … but how to do this is quite a challenge.”

In Thailand, which has a long-established malaria control programme, the government has created a national task-force to contain the parasite.

“We started in January to set the meeting of the national task-force for containment, and after the national task-force has met, we will launch the project,” Wichai Satimai, director of the Bureau of Vector Borne Diseases at Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, told IRIN.

“The pattern of resistance is mostly from the east next to Cambodia, to the west, next to Myanmar. And we are quite worried about the control measures in nearby countries,” he added, citing previous experiences of emerging resistance to other anti-malaria drugs.

As part of control efforts, Thailand has established 500 malaria clinics. It also has 460 malaria posts with support from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, where villagers are trained to detect the disease and provide treatment, Wichai said.

In Cambodia, a ban on Artemisinin monotherapy will be enforced by mid-year.

Meanwhile, authorities are stepping up efforts to fight counterfeit drugs, Christophel said. There are also plans for all villages in affected areas to have a malaria volunteer equipped with diagnostics and the right treatment.

“The thing is to now accelerate and speed things up, that’s clear,” said Christophel.
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VOA Khmer Launches New TV Program in Cambodia

Washington, D.C., March 25, 2009 - VOA Khmer Discovering, a new daily Voice of America (VOA) television product showcasing news features, begins airing across Cambodia on Monday, March 30, 2009.

(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington, D.C., March 25, 2009 - VOA Khmer Discovering, a new daily Voice of America ( VOA ) television product showcasing news features, begins airing across Cambodia on Monday, March 30, 2009.

VOA's first regular television segment in Khmer will be broadcast by National Television Kampuchea ( TVK ) on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m. ( Cambodia time ), and at 8:00 a.m. Monday and Tuesday.

News feature programs on VOA Khmer Discovering will include feature stories in several areas, such as health, science, travel and life in America. The first show looks at jobs in the United States and space exploration, among other topics.

Information from the VOA Khmer Service ( www.VOANews.com/Khmer ), on radio and the Internet, has long been widely used in Cambodia, reprinted by blogs and other sites. VOA's weekly audience share of more than 29 percent makes it the largest international broadcaster in Cambodia.

"Television will allow us to expand our audience even more," said Chris Decherd, VOA's Khmer Service Chief.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at ( 202 ) 203-4959, or e-mail askvoa@voanews.com.

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VIETNAM, CAMBODIA & BANGKOK-Day 7

Elizabeth A. Yarosz-Ash


At 8am we are climbing the steps on Marble Mountain (called thusly because they are) to a (you guessed it) another Buddhist temple and shrine. Women with black teeth are selling large sticks of incense at the midpoint. “You are beautiful!” is what I say to her as a compliment instead of buying some of her incense. I bought a bunch of sticks my first day in Bangkok and carry it around in my backpack. Around the back of the temple is a cave, cool and dark. Gee, sounds good as I am just a tad damp. We enter through a long, close passageway and are treated to a gigantic Buddha surrounded by humidity, spicy aroma, smoky air and moss. Sunlight plays peek-a-boo through the openings in the rock above.

Climbing further up, monks serve up another pagoda on a pavilion of mosaic tile. Witchy, Jaupon trees are budding and over the stone wall are heavy, atmospheric views of the South China Sea and China Beach. We are taken to the beach where everyone doffs their shoes (except me who gets a wave up to the knees of my jeans) and Judy flies her kite. Teeny little jellyfish-like critters dot the sand and old women in conical straw hats scrutinize the shoreline for mystery finds.

Our bus takes us to Hue (Hway), once the Imperial Capital of Vietnam. The drive takes a few hours and we pass through the mountains and the longest tunnel in southeast Asia. We see round fishing boats with people catching cuttlefish (they look like big squid). We are doled out snacks on the bus, for fear that we might waste away. They do not let you starve on this tour or go thirsty.

Here is a typical lunch menu:

Phoenix appetizer

Shrimp

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Cambodia Tribunal Web Site to Host Video Footage of Trials

Website also provides latest news, information and commentary about the trials

CHICAGO, March 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The Cambodia Tribunal Monitor web site - http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/ - will host ongoing video footage from the long-awaited Khmer Rouge trials, which are scheduled to begin Monday, March 30. On trial will be senior officials of the Khmer Rouge regime for atrocity crimes.

Launched in September 2007 in anticipation of the trials, the Chicago-based Cambodia Tribunal Monitor web site is considered the primary source for information on these historic proceedings. In addition to hosting tape-delayed video footage of the trials, the site will also provide the latest news updates, official documents regarding the trials and regular commentary from leading international experts on the court proceedings as well as on topics such as the recent history of Cambodia, politics, human rights and international law.

From April 1975 to January 1979, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodian citizens died under the Khmer Rouge regime. After nearly 10 years of negotiations, a special war crimes tribunal has commenced near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The first to face prosecution is Kaing Geuk Eav, also known as "Duch", who allegedly oversaw mass torture and execution in prison camps, including Cambodia's notorious Tuol Sleng, or S-21, camp. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the special Cambodian court is formally known, will oversee the proceedings and is a joint partnership of the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia. The trials for additional senior Khmer Rouge officials have not yet been set.

The Cambodia Tribunal Monitor was developed by a consortium of academic, philanthropic and non-profit organizations committed to providing public access to the tribunal and ensuring open discussions throughout the judicial process. The site sponsors include Northwestern University School of Law's Center for International Human Rights, the Documentation Center of Cambodia and the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

The Web site concept was conceived by Illinois State Senator Jeff Schoenberg, a Chicago-area legislator who also advises the Pritzker family on its philanthropy.

For more information on the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor web site or to interview internationally renowned legal experts, please call Patrick O'Connor at 312.573.5510 or 512.659.0858.
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CAMBODIA: The high price of jealousy

PHNOM PENH, Sreygao is house-bound, her life destroyed after a jealous wife doused her face and neck with acid. It burned into her skin and blinded her.

“Everything has been taken from me because someone was very jealous,” she told IRIN.

Before the attack, Sreygao worked as a hostess at a karaoke parlor. Every night over beer, she flirted with and sometimes solicited sex to wealthy men, prompting an angry wife to take revenge on the 19-year-old.

“I have no face, no job, and I will suffer forever,” she said.

Deeper than scars

Acid throwing is a common form of retribution in Cambodia, usually perpetrated by jealous lovers, said William Grut, a surgeon at Vancouver-based Rose Charities, which provides free treatment.

“Whether male or female, jealousy is jealousy,” he told IRIN. “It's not a question so much for gender discussions but rather why it's so prevalent and how it can be reduced.”

Cambodia's pattern of gender blindness marks it out from Pakistan, India, and Malaysia, where it is usually the men who use acid on women for punishment or reasons of honour.

Between 1999 and 2002, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) documented 44 cases in local newspapers – the most thorough research to date, as no government body or NGO compiles data on acid attacks.

An attack occurs every 25 days, the group said in its report. But Jason Barber, a human rights consultant for LICADHO, told a radio station that the real number of attacks remained unknown since many went unreported.

Grut said the numbers available correlated with more populated areas, such as the capital, Phnom Penh, and smaller cities in Kandal and Kampong Cham.

Manifestation


I have no face, no job, and I will suffer forever.

The widespread availability of acid to replenish old batteries, weak law enforcement mechanisms, and what Grut calls “tertiary conflict injury”, have all popularised acid-throwing.

Tertiary conflict injury is a mindset in war-torn countries that problems can only be solved with violence, with beatings and acid attacks commonplace.

For decades, Cambodia has experienced coups, civil wars and a genocide in 1975-1979 that killed two million people.

“Cambodian history has regularly been very stressful for the [ordinary] person,” he told IRIN.

“This is not the same as PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], though arguably it may be a sort of long-term manifestation of it,” he said.

Repairing the damage

Corrective surgery is out of reach for most Cambodians, with 35 percent of the population living on less than US$1 a day, according to government statistics, so most sufferers must rely on emergency services from NGOs.

“Clearly in Cambodia, facilities are far more limited than in western countries, where one would have a long series of repetitive operations gradually working things back, reconstructing, and grafting,” Grut explained. “It would all be accompanied by very close counselling and peer assistance.”

But first, more attention needs to be paid to acid attacks as they are usually not a priority for local NGOs and government agencies, he added.

“There's not enough recognition at the NGO level, but at the street level there is,” he said. “People tend to know about acid attacks as the word goes around.”
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UNOG: Council Appoints Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia and Elects Four Members of Advisory Committee

The Human Rights Council at a midday meeting today held a general debate on technical assistance and capacity-building, after which it appointed the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya Prasad Subedi (Nepal). The Council then elected four members of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, namely Halima Embarek Warzazi (Morocco), Shiqiu Chen (China), Miguel Alfonso Martinez (Cuba), and Jean Ziegler (Switzerland).

Speaking in the context of the general debate, speakers said, among other things, that one of the crucial roles of the Council was to offer technical assistance and capacity-building to States as one of the most efficient means of promoting and protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The mandate to provide cooperation lay, on the one hand, in the Council’s primary objective of offering an open and balanced forum for dialogue and, on the other hand, in each State’s sovereignty to request for international cooperation. In countries where technical assistance was leading to better respect for human rights, perhaps close monitoring and increasing the resources devoted to technical assistance was more efficient. Alternatively, where technical assistance was failing, perhaps the balance needed to be shifted towards monitoring and implementation through the special mechanisms of the Council. It was necessary to have a comprehensive plan and technical assistance had to be based on a principal objective which should be based on moving the promotion and protection of human rights from the text to implementation.

Speaking this afternoon in the general debate were the representatives of the Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union, Brazil, Kuwait, United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also speaking were the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar, Union of Arab Jurists, Arab Commission of Human Rights, United Nations Watch, North-South XXI, and Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine.

Speaking in right of reply were Sri Lanka and Iraq.

Speaking following the appointment of the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia were Cambodia and Japan.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 5 p.m. this afternoon when it will begin to take action on draft resolutions and decisions before the Council.

General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building

ZUZANA STIBOROVA (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that human rights applied worldwide. They were the same for everyone, even though not all people and cultures were the same. For those fundamental rights to go beyond a mere global vision and become a part of everyday life, however, they had to be implemented by every single State. Every country had its own different situation and political conditions, which were not always favourable to the full implementation of human rights. Therefore, the European Union believed that one of the crucial roles of the Council was to offer technical assistance and capacity-building to States as one of the most efficient means of promoting and protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In that respect, the European Union highly regarded the work carried out by the Special Procedures; in assisting States, they played a crucial interface between the international human rights machinery and the needs of the State at the national level.

The European Union also wished to acknowledge the importance of the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in building national capacities in the field of human rights through an expanding network of field presences and increased activities. The European Union and its Member States contributed extensively to technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights, and support for transparent election processes had become a key component of the European Union's external relations policy. Burundi, Cambodia, Haiti and Somalia were all examples where international cooperation could play an important role in supporting national efforts in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights. The European Union also considered that the Council should improve its support to technical assistance and capacity-building activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by, inter alia, establishing a mandate of an Independent Expert dedicated to the situation in that country.

MARIA NAZARETH FARANI AZEVEDO (Brazil) said that the Human Rights Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights were given a specific mandate to provide technical cooperation in the field of capacity building in human rights. The mandate to provide cooperation lay, on the one hand, in the Council’s primary objective of offering an open and balanced forum for dialogue and, on the other hand, in each State’s sovereignty to request for international cooperation. The progress achieved in the institutional building of the Council was undeniable. The Council should make sure that its co-operational dimension was also strengthened. Technical assistance and capacity building was too often perceived negatively in the Council, which did not come as a surprise.

Under the technical assistance and capacity building agenda item, the Special Rapporteurs were created. Special Rapporteurs should be seen positively and, even more so, when they were able not only to spot the problem, but to show the way and shed a constructive, helpful and practical light into the possible solutions to the problem. In addition, Brazil firmly believed that cooperation could play a central role in the actual task of promoting and protecting human rights on the ground and eventually strengthening the Council and its mechanisms.

NAWAL NAMAN (Kuwait) said that Kuwait welcomed the positive developments that resulted from the peace process in Djibouti. The Somali people had suffered from a number of crises and Kuwait had made every effort to assist the Somali people through loans and aid. Somalia faced a number of humanitarian challenges and each of them required the assistance of the Council. Kuwait voiced its support for the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert. The right to health required special attention and urgent intervention. Kuwait called on the international community to support the Somali authorities to enable them to discharge their duties.

LARRY RICHTER (United States) said the United Nations' mission to promote full respect for all human rights was not solely one of advocacy and reporting, though these were critical. To truly achieve the shared goal, the United Nations must also work to assist Governments to identify areas of concern and assist in the design and implementation of human rights protections. The High Commissioner's technical assistance and capacity-building programmes were crucial to this effort. The United States strongly supported the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' fieldwork, and was encouraged that the High Commissioner intended to expand its regional offices. Governments should view these arrangements with the High Commissioner's Office as a demonstration of their proactive commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights. In this regard, the United States regretted that Sri Lanka continued to decline an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights presence, and that a number of other countries had been unwilling to host regional Office presences. The High Commissioner's good work in the field and around the world was central to the common efforts to achieve the vision of an era of implementation of human rights.

SEBASTIEN MUTOMB MUJING (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said technical assistance was a necessary tool for the promotion of human rights by the country which required such assistance or requested it. However, it usually raised the problem of inadequate mobilization of human and financial resources. This constituted a major handicap for the projects, and the expected results had difficulty in taking shape. Despite the advent of human rights, and innovation introduced with the mechanism of Universal Periodic Review, the Democratic Republic of the Congo still continued to be bound by the requirements on item 10 on technical assistance, which was decided on it by the former Commission on Human Rights. A resolution was adopted calling on the Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the international community to provide technical assistance consistent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But all those resolutions had gone unheeded. The most recent resolutions included resolution 7/20 of 27 March 2008 and S 8/1, of 1 December 2008. This had occurred despite frequent reminders from the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who continued to express its good will to cooperate with the Council. Thus the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteurs should be in the form of technical assistance.

SALEM ALMURAIKHI, of the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar, wanted to shed some light on capacity building. The Council had a number of competencies and priority had been given to the inclusion of the national human rights institutions in the Universal Periodic Review but there was no body for the inclusion of the national human rights institutions. All the executive and judicial authorities would benefit as well as the media. It was necessary to have a comprehensive plan and technical assistance had to be based on a principal objective which should be based on moving the promotion and protection of human rights from the text to implementation. The National Human Rights Committee of Qatar was ready to train human rights defenders in Somalia in order to take this country out of the situation it was in after several years of war and tribal conflict.

ASMA TOUNAKI, of Union of Arab Jurists, said the mission of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia should contribute to support the process of peace and security in the country, which had suffered from a series of wars. The Council and all United Nations bodies should take all the necessary measures to resolve the pressing problems facing Somalia. It was the duty of the international community to assist the people of Somalia to resolve their problems by themselves and to support the establishment of effective institutions to contribute to the stability of the country and the maintenance of security. Foreign interventions were the major factor of the tragedy of Somalia, and this was in contradiction with the principles of the United Nations and was incompatible with the basic human rights standards.

ABDEL WAHAB HANI, of Arab Commission of Human Rights, welcomed the remarkable work accomplished by the Board of Trustees of the Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights. They saluted the innovation by the Board of Trustees. The Arab Commission also wished to endorse the role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in building cooperation between the Board of Trustees and people working in the field. The Arab Commission recommended that the Board of Trustees give priority to ensure training programmes for members of civil society in this regard; and in partnership with field teams that the debates be web cast in host countries as well in host countries languages so that people working in the field as well other relevant stakeholders were able to hear the debates.

HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said that exactly one year ago in March 2008 this Council’s Independent Expert on the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported massive abuses in that country. How did the Council respond? It eliminated his position. What had happened since? The report of the Secretary-General presented this morning described the situation in the country as a cause of serious concern. Unfortunately, the list of abuses was long and heartbreaking. According the United Nations reports, approximately 2 million people were internally displaced and thousands had been killed. United Nations Watch urged immediate action to protect innocent victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It welcomed the draft resolution tabled by Canada and the European Union seeking to reinstate the Special Rapporteur.

LILY AUROVILLIAN, of North-South XXI, said the Council should do its utmost to facilitate the technical assistance work of the High Commissioner's Office, and to exercise its oversight over this work. There was concern that the technical assistance offered to the Iraqi authorities by the Office's own staff working under the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq might not be having the desired effect. The Council should thus urgently review this effort to determine whether it was the most effective use of resources. The Council could also wish to give attention to balancing technical assistance and the monitoring of the implementation of human rights. In countries where technical assistance was leading to better respect for human rights, perhaps close monitoring and increasing the resources devoted to technical assistance was more efficient. Alternatively, where technical assistance was failing, perhaps the balance needed to be shifted towards monitoring and implementation through the special mechanisms of the Council.

BELL HILAIRE, of Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine (CRED), expressed regret with regard to the responses provided by the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia. The concern highlighted to the Independent Expert was with regard to harmonizing Sharia and customary law with humanitarian and international law. The Research Circle thus recommended the suspension of the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia, and that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continue to monitor the situation until another mechanism could be established.

Right of Reply

YASANTAHA KODAGODA, Sri Lanka, speaking in a right of reply, said that it was regrettable that the world power that was facing terrorism was lacking sensitivity in that regard towards other countries. The military was obliged to eliminate terrorism in Sri Lanka and did so within the international standards. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were already present and monitored the situation. There was no need to add an office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

SAAD FATHALLAH, (Iraq), speaking in a right of reply, said with regards to the statement by North-South XXI, the remarkable improvement of the situation of human rights in Iraq was partly attributed to the technical assistance that had been extended by all United Nations agencies. The continued provision of this assistance would result in an improvement of the situation of human rights in Iraq in a manner that was helpful to the international community. Severing this assistance would cause a downgrade in the situation, which was not what the international community wished. All were thanked for extending technical assistance to Iraq and contributing to improving the human rights situation there.

Statements Following Appointment of Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia

SUN SUON (Cambodia), speaking after the appointment of Surya Prasad Subedi as the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, welcomed the appointment and looked forward to working with the mandate holder for the promotion and protection of human rights in pursuance to the resolution adopted last year concerning the appointment of a mandate holder for Cambodia. It was hoped that the Special Rapporteur would perform his duties in a spirit of cooperation and good partnership. His work should be guided by those principles that ensured universality, objectivity, impartiality and non-politicization. Cambodia believed that the new Special Rapporteur would adhere to the approach of constructive and fruitful dialogues, in order to further advance human rights to which Cambodia attached high importance.

Cambodia expressed thanks and appreciation to the members of the Human Rights Council for the endorsement by consensus of the new Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, as well as the members of the consultative group, the bureau of the Council and the President of the Council for the diligent work and good spirit in conducting the process of consultation that led to this final selection and nomination. Cambodia reiterated its sincere efforts and firm commitment to further promote and improve human rights.

OSAMU YAMANAKA (Japan) said that Japan congratulated the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia on his appointment. The Government of Japan was the main sponsor of the resolution on technical assistance to Cambodia and hoped that the Special Rapporteur would contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in Cambodia. Japan wished the Special Rapporteur great success in that endeavour.
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Riverside man heads to Cambodia to monitor Khmer Rouge trial

By Lisa Chamoff Staff Writer


Over the past few decades, Albert Repicci has found ways to witness history.

In 1963, when he was a 24-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania's dental school, he hopped a train to Washington, the night before President John F. Kennedy's state funeral. In 1998, he contacted then-U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and was able to secure passes to watch the House debate whether to impeach President Bill Clinton.

Today, Repicci, a 68-year-old Greenwich orthodontist and Riverside resident, will travel to Cambodia to watch as a leader of the Southeast Asian nation's infamous Khmer Rouge is tried for his crimes. The radical Communist regime was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 2 million Cambodians through execution, torture and starvation between 1975-79, in an effort to create an agrarian utopia.

Repicci will attend the trial as an unaffiliated observer.

Repicci, who has traveled to remote parts of the world performing volunteer dental work since 1980, started working in Cambodia 10 years ago.

"I have always been a student of history, and each of these places I've gone to, I've known the political turmoil that prevailed," Repicci said.

During many of his travels, Repicci said he has identified needs and helped where he could, funding an immunization program in Kenya and a well-building project in Peru.

Before heading to Cambodia for the first time, Repicci read about the growing problem of human trafficking and women being forced into prostitution. He formed a nonprofit foundation called Stop the Tears, based in Greenwich, to help exploited women and children, and helped open a sewing school in Cambodia for women to help them avoid exploitation.

His charitable work has given him a connection to the country and its violent past, which was immortalized in the 1984 movie "The Killing Fields," named for the sites where thousands were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge.

"Being at this trial is a long-awaited venture," Repicci said.

Repicci's foundation works with the national organization Catholic Relief Services to run his charitable projects in Cambodia, and he called the director there to secure an invitation to the public sessions.

When Repicci arrives he expects to see the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, nicknamed Duch, the commander of the Tuol Sleng prison, where an estimated 20,000 people were tortured and killed. Duch is the first of five leaders slated to face the United Nations-backed tribunal.

Duch's trial is expected to begin Monday.

Last year, Repicci went to Cambodia hoping to attend pretrial hearings, but said the lawyers for the accused were so adept at getting deferrals that he never got to see them. He's kept up with the process through Cambodian English-language newspapers, and was able to visit the trial documentation center while in Cambodia. One afternoon there last year, he ended up speaking with the center's director for three hours.

Years of devastation in Cambodia are evident, Repicci said. There are many amputees, the result of land mines laid by the Khmer Rouge that still litter the countryside.

Repicci feels that by attending the trial, he is "establishing an American presence," though he won't be the only local resident in Phnom Penh next week. Benny Widyono of Stamford, a former United Nations diplomat who served in a peacekeeping mission in Cambodia in 1992, is already there.

Repicci will be accompanied by his daughter, Kelly Repicci. The 32-year-old is a licensed mental health counselor who works for a substance-abuse program in Stratford and has a private practice in Greenwich.

Kelly Repicci started traveling with her father when she was young, helping him with a project in Antigua as a first-grader. When Repicci watched the House impeachment debates, he brought his daughter, who at the time was a student at American University in Washington.

The two have both read "The Lost Executioner" by photojournalist Nic Dunlop, who confronted Duch in 1999 and got him to confess his role in the violent regime.

"I have no idea what to expect, but I've done as much research on this matter that I possibly could for the last three years," Repicci's daughter said.

Repicci remembers the chills that went down his spine during the Clinton impeachment debates, as he watched former Republican Rep. Bob Livingston announce he was resigning from Congress after his own marital infidelity was revealed. He imagines the upcoming trial will affect him even more.

"To me, it's one of these watershed events that I want to establish a presence in," Repicci said. "It's one of these rare occasions where a group of despots who had such a horrific impact on humanity are finally being brought to justice."

-- Staff Writer Lisa Chamoff can be reached at lisa.chamoff@scni.com or 625-4439.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cambodia welcomes the world of women's football

History was made today in Cambodia when the first pilot course for Com-Unity Women's Football Seminar opened in Phnom Penh, bringing the women's game to the football community of Cambodia.

The Opening Ceremony attended by Cambodia Football Federation President, Lt. Gen. Sao Sohka and the Secretary of State from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Dr. Phoeng Sakona, provided a strong start to the three-day course.

A positive tone was set right from the opening speech, with Lt. Gen Sao Sohka underlining the Cambodia Football Federation's dedication to promoting and developing women's football. He continued: "I look forward to the declaration at the end of the course to pledge our will to FIFA and our football community to develop women's football. We do not only want to help by giving moral support, but also the practical implementation of projects and activities."

FIFA representatives gave the audience a lively introduction to the world of women's football, before inviting Dr. Pheong Sakona to officially open the Cambodia Women's Football Com-Unity.

Dr. Pheong commented: "More women and girls are playing football in Cambodia and I support the idea that it is becoming more popular in this country." She continued: "Sport is very important to help reduce the social problems in Cambodia."

Also in attendance was the General Secretary of the National Olympic Council of Cambodia, Mr. Meas Sarin, in addition to a healthy turnout from NGOs based in Phnom Penh including UNICEF, Spirit of Soccer and the Indochina Starfish Foundation.

The FIFA delegation includes Michelle Cox (New Zealand), Mayrilian Cruz Blanco and David Borja (both FIFA), Windsor John (Malaysia, Development Officer Kuala Lumpur), Clare Kenny Tipton (Rep. of Ireland), Dato Yap Nyim Keong (Malaysia) and Belinda Wilson (Australia).

The next two days will be devoted to the Communications and Marketing of Women's Football. A friendly football match between the FIFA representatives and the Football Federation of Cambodia will take place at 1800hrs at the Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh on Tuesday 24 March 2009.

Directly following the Cambodia Women's Com-Unity, a practical FIFA Coaching Course will take place from 26 to 30 March 2009 to train Cambodian women's football coaches.
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