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Monday, July 26, 2010

Outrage as Cambodian Holocaust Killer Gets 19 Years

(July 26) -- The man who ran a prison and torture center for the Khmer Rouge where more than 15,000 people were killed was convicted today in Cambodia of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But his 19-year prison sentence was met with tears, outrage and disbelief by survivors.

"I felt it was a slap in the face," said Bou Beng, 69, according to The New York Times. He testified about his torture at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch.

"He tricked everybody," said Chum Mey, 79, another survivor of the Tuol Sleng prison. "I feel like I was a victim under the Khmer Rouge, and now I'm a victim again."

"I can't accept this," said Saodi Ouch, 46. "My family died ... my older sister, my older brother. I'm the only one left," she was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

Duch, 67, was the first Khmer Rouge figure convicted by a United Nations-backed court in connection with the Cambodian regime that left 1.7 million people dead from 1975 to 1979, either from torture, execution, starvation or overwork.

The regime's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998, and four other communist Khmer Rouge officials from the "Killing Fields" era are awaiting trial.

An official with the New York-based Human Rights Watch expressed her frustration at the situation to Agence France-Presse. "Up to 2 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge's horrific rule, yet the government is refusing to hold more than five people to account," the news agency was told by the group's Sara Colm.

An official with the New York-based Human Rights Watch expressed her frustration at the situation to Agence France-Presse. "Up to 2 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge's horrific rule, yet the government is refusing to hold more than five people to account," the news agency was told by the group's Sara Colm.

Duch, a convert to Christianity who pleaded guilty, had a Bible by his side as the verdict was announced and seemed to find it hard to maintain his composure, the Times reported.

As there is no death penalty in Cambodia, the prosecution had asked for a 40-year sentence.

What shocked those in court, and the crowds that gathered outside, was that the judges reduced an initial 35-year sentence by five years because of illegal detention in a military prison and by 11 years for the time Duch had already served. Millions more Cambodians were able to watch the proceedings live on television.

The eventual 19-year sentence raises the possibility that it could be reduced for good behavior and that the man who admitted authorizing the killing of men, women and children could one day be free.

"We can't accept a sentence where it is conceivable that he could walk even for one minute in society," Theary Seng, a founder of the Cambodian Center for Justice and Reconciliation, told AFP. Seng's parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge was ousted in a Vietnamese-backed invasion in 1979. Duch disappeared, but was arrested in 1999 when he was found working as a Christian aid worker.

Described as a meticulous record keeper, Duch was asked by a prison guard in a memo he kept what to do with six boys and three girls accused of being traitors. He replied, according to the BBC, "Kill every last one."
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Cheng Heng's very satisfying home style Cambodian cooking

By Phyllis Louise Harris, Asian Pages

Wing Young Huie's cover photo this issue of the Cambodian man in front of the Ankgor Wat temple painting reminded me that I had not been to Cheng Heng for several years--11 to be exact. The photo is of Bunthary Van, father of Kunrath Lam who along with her husband Kevin have operated their Cambodian restaurant Cheng Heng for 13 years. Huie's camera captured Mr. Van standing in front of the restaurant's original, framed painting of the temple that they brought from Cambodia.

Kunrath Van, her parents and sister moved to Minnesota from Cambodia in 1984. She went on to finish high school, then college, married Kevin Lam, and opened Cheng Heng in 1997. They had talked of opening a Chinese restaurant in the building they owned on University Avenue in St. Paul, but then decided since there was no Cambodian restaurant in the area, to feature the cooking of Cambodia. So, they started with her mother's recipes.

From the beginning the food critics and attracted a loyal following. The menu is filled with noodle and rice dishes, substantial soups, coconut-milk curries, and multi-ingredient stir-fries. And, best of all, the food is refreshing and fresh. Like its neighbors Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam, Cambodian cuisine combines cooked with raw, sweet with sour, spicy with bland, and hot with cold, for some interesting dining flavors and textures. Lighter than Vietnamese and more mellow than Thai, the Cambodian food at Cheng Heng seems to appeal to a wide variety of diners. On a recent Friday lunch there were families with children, couples, singles, workers from a nearby business, retirees, and students of a wide variety of nationalities.

This time I had one of their rice noodle salads topped with warm stir-fried beef and onions, Cambodian fried egg roll, chopped peanuts, and fresh mint leaves. It is all served atop crisp, fresh bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, and slivered cucumbers bathed in a slightly sweet vinegar sauce. While I didn't see them, there was also the light flavor of licorice leaves. Add a little hot sauce and squeeze some fresh lime juice over it, and mother's home cooking is truly satisfying.

The menu is extensive and includes good descriptions of each dish along with small color photos. Many dishes can be ordered vegetarian and the prices are modest. The small, bright dining room looks out on busy University Avenue and is unpretentious...just as a neighborhood family restaurant should be. Cheng Heng, at 448 University Avenue West in St. Paul, is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. with parking on the street. For information or take-out orders call 651-222-5577.

Phyllis Louise Harris is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher specializing in Asian foods. She is founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes Ltd. dedicated to the preservation, understanding and enjoyment of the culinary arts of the Asia Pacific Rim. For information about ACAI's programs call 612-813-1757 or visit the website at
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Tribunal jails Khmer Rouge member for 35 years

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A U.N.-backed tribunal has found the former Khmer Rouge chief jailer guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and ordered him to serve 19 years in prison.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, listened impassively as the chief judge read out the verdict Monday.

It was the first verdict to be handed down against a senior member of the genocidal regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people during their 1975-79 reign of terror.

The court sentenced Duch to 35 years in prison, but shaved off the 11 years he's already spent in detention and five more for cooperating with the court.

Tribunal convicts Khmer Rouge member of crimes against humanity, sentences him to 35 years. - AP

Earlier report

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - A U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal hands down a verdict Monday in the first trial of a senior member of the Khmer Rouge regime that turned Cambodia into a vast killing field three decades ago.

The defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, ran the notorious Toul Sleng detention center reserved for "enemies" of the state. He admitted overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 men, women and children who passed through its gates and asked for forgiveness during his 77-day trial.

Duch is widely expected to be found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but many people in this still-traumatized nation are anxiously awaiting the sentence.

Anything short of the maximum life behind bars could trigger public outrage.

Riot police lined up outside the court on the outskirts of the capital as hundreds of villagers - all of whom lost family members during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign of terror - started arriving by the bus load.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution under the Maoist regime that sought to turn the country into an agrarian utopia. Their bodies were dumped in shallow mass graves that still dot the countryside.

The group's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and four other top members of the Khmer Rouge are awaiting trial.

Unlike the other defendants, Duch (pronounced DOIK) was not among the ruling clique and is the only major figure of the regime to have expressed remorse, even offering at one point to face a public stoning.

His surprise request on the final day to be acquitted and freed, however, left many wondering if his contrition was sincere. Some worry he will get off lightly.

Prosecutors asked that he face 40 years in prison, but because the 67-year-old has mitigated with the court and already spent 11 years in detention, there is a chance he'll get less than that.
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