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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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