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Friday, February 11, 2011

Genocide Education in Cambodia

A graduate student helps train Cambodian teachers on how to teach the genocide

By Justin Hubbard

Durham, NC -- At a recent teacher workshop in Cambodia, Nguol Sophal submitted her essay "The Human Heart," unveiling painful memories of an entire family, including all her children, lost under the Khmer Rouge regime. Her story of a Khmer Rouge cadre who helped her recover from a deathly illness led her to proclaim the perpetrators were not all monsters, but "humans with human hearts."

For Sarah Jones Dickens, a Duke doctoral student in the department of art, art history and visual studies historical narratives such as these are the foundation of her work with the Cambodian Genocide Education Project (CGEP).

Dickens works with the Cambodian Ministry of Education and Documentary Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) to implement genocide education into all Cambodian high schools and universities. She trains history teachers so they can teach genocide education in their schools.

Dickens received a Fulbright scholarship in 2007 for her work on visual art and trauma in Cambodia. Since then, she has continued work with DC-Cam and has made three trips back to Cambodia during winter and summer breaks.

Dickens, who is now in Durham, hopes to connect with Duke alumni, returned Peace Corps volunteers and other students at the upcoming Duke in Depth weekend, Feb. 24-26. She says she looks forward to learning from their firsthand experiences working on similar issues in the world.

"I think the panels specifically on the roles of art, education women and religion dovetail with my work in Cambodia," Dickens said.

CGEP aspires to promote national reconciliation and individual healing by implementing genocide education in all Cambodian high schools and universities by 2013.

"This is the first time Cambodia has implemented this history since the genocide occurred and teachers are teaching younger generations, who often minimize the stories of their parents," Dickens said.

Between 1975-79, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were killed under the Khmer Rouge regime. The trauma was such that afterwards the society experienced what has been termed "a wave of amnesia."

"You need that history in instances of mass trauma. If not, when you say there is no history, no identity, then you have a past that is completely vague. How can you heal or how can you rebuild your identity?" Dickens said.

At the Cambodian workshop this past December, DC-Cam director Youk Chhang, unveiled his "Land and Reconciliation-Building a Peaceful Society through Education" model. The model contains more Cambodian-specific notions for national reconciliation and healing and emphasizes a ground up approach through education and teachers.

Teachers are respected throughout Cambodian society regardless of religious or ethnic differences and are the primary actors in gathering historical narratives.

"They have proven to be highly effective and efficient in collecting these stories. At the training we asked all the teachers to collect two stories from their villages so they can write the people's history to then be disseminated across the country in monograph forms, " Dickens said.

Another important component of CGEP is government support. In addition to its efforts with the international community to conduct the Cambodia genocide tribunals, the Cambodian government has also set aside land for DC-Cam's Sleuk Rith Institute, a permanent center that will function as a museum, research institute and a university for master degree programs in human rights and law.
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20,000 troops ready to head to the border

Siamese troops in total 23,641 are ready to be slaughtered by machine guns of Khmer Rouge Troops

Army wants B200m for 'Preah Vihear mission'

More than 20,000 soldiers will be deployed along the Thai-Cambodian border as part of a national defence plan and an incident action plan approved by the army commander, an army source says.

The source yesterday said army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha approved the plan last Friday and it will remain in effect until March 30.

Under the plan, a total of 23,641 troops will be deployed at the border.

The army has also submitted a request for more than 200 million baht to support an army mission codenamed "Preah Vihear battlefield" from the cabinet, the source said.

The source said the army has also sought cabinet approval for the procurement of additional ammunition because a lot of ammunition was used in clashes with Cambodian troops between Feb 4-6. The army is also seeking an additional budget to pay for allowances for army personnel at the border.

However, the source said not all of the more than 20,000 troops will be stationed in the disputed border area.

Some will be deployed at the front lines of defence while others will be placed along the border at Sa Kaeo, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani and at the Preah Vihear temple near Si Sa Ket, the source said.

They will be given different tasks to perform in command units, combat forces, logistics units, and other units under the national defence plan.

Second Army chief Thawatchai Samutsakhon said yesterday Thai soldiers will remain at the border until peace talks between the Thai and Cambodian governments achieve results.

"I hope the talks between the government, the Foreign Ministry and the Joint Boundary Commission will improve the situation. But now, the army must continue to maintain a military presence," Lt Gen Thawatchai said.

Lt Gen Thawatchai rejected accusations by Cambodian authorities that Thai troops used cluster bombs during the border fighting.

The armed forces have adhered to an international law which bans the use of such bombs, he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday held a teleconference with the 2nd Army chief and Si Sa Ket governor Somsak Suwansujarit to assess the border situation.

It was agreed at the meeting that the more than 21,000 villagers who fled their villages during the border clashes and who were staying at 37 temporary evacuation centres in Si Sa Ket can return home today. Lt Gen Thawatchai said Thai soldiers are ready to ensure their safety after they go back home.

Mr Somsak said although there is no guarantee that fresh fighting will not erupt at the border, the villagers have to return home because conditions at the evacuation centres are uncomfortable and the heat unbearable.

Many villagers also wanted to get back to their jobs to make money, Mr Somsak said.

The navy has also put its forces on full alert at the maritime border with Cambodia off Chanthaburi and Trat after reports that Cambodian naval vessels have entered the area.
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Cambodian Government Approves Controversial Titanium Mine

The Cambodian government has approved a titanium mine which will lead to the deforestation of over 50,000 acres of rain forest.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia/WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 11, 2011 – Prime Minister Hun Sen has approved a land concession to United Khmer Group, a private mining company. The prime minister’s approval came ahead of a meeting on Friday, February 11 at the Council for the Development of Cambodia that was meant to discuss the proposed mining project. United Khmer Group had exploration rights to search for titanium in 20,400 hectares of densely forested land in the Southern Cardamom Mountains.

The decision to approve the mine threatens to devastate one of the last remaining elephant corridors on the continent, put more than 70 endangered and vulnerable species at risk, and degrade one of the world’s largest remaining carbon sink reserves. Months after local villagers initially discovered construction workers bulldozing access roads in June 2010, the Cambodian government’s decision will allow the mining company to exploit the land.

Suwanna Gauntlett, Wildlife Alliance CEO, led the fight against the mine, representing the views of local communities and other environmental groups. Local villagers recognized the mine as a threat to the growing ecotourism industry, agricultural initiatives, forests, and a habitat for one of Cambodia’s largest wild elephant populations.

This is Cambodia’s natural heritage, its national heritage, and it could all be eliminated by 20,400 hectares of strip mining,” Gauntlett says.

“This is Cambodia’s natural heritage, its national heritage, and it could all be eliminated by 20,400 hectares of strip mining,” Gauntlett says.

The United Khmer Group projects revenues of more than $1.3 billion a year, numbers that far outpace the market rate for titanium. To date, a comprehensive study to determine the size and concentration levels of the titanium ore deposit has not been conducted.

“Without scientific research to prove the economic viability of the proposed mine,” Gauntlett says, “bulldozing the rainforest is simply destructive and does not even make good business sense.”

Wildlife Alliance calls on United Khmer Group to work closely with communities, the Forestry Administration and environmental groups to minimize the mine's impact on local residents, waterways, and wildlife. Further, we request UKG submit a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment and strictly abide by the regulations laid out in Cambodia’s laws on forestry and mining.

“We recognize that development is essential to Cambodia’s future, but that development must be conducted in a coordinated matter that respects conservation initiatives,” says Suwanna Gauntlett. “We ask that all industrial developers work closely with conservation partners in the Southern Cardamom Mountains to minimize environmental damages associated with economic development. Together we can find solutions to maximize the earning potential of local people while diminishing the harm to wildlife and habitats, local rivers, and downstream fisheries.”

Wildlife Alliance is a non-profit organization based in Cambodia and Washington, D.C., working directly with communities and governments to improve forest management and institute good governance to comprehensively address the devastation of ecosystems and combat the illegal wildlife trade. We actively empower local communities by promoting diversified agriculture, community-based ecotourism, and reforestation. Visit Wildlife Alliance on the Web at:

In Phnom Penh — John Maloy, Chief Communications Officer
+855 78 809 70

In Washington, D.C. — Andrea Kaufmann, Director of Communications and Marketing
+1 202 368 1746
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Cambodia's orphan tourism

With more than 600,000 orphans in Cambodia, we look at the booming business behind the country's orphanages.

Cambodia's beautiful temples and dark history attracts tourists from across the world.

But many of today's holidaymakers want to do more than sightseeing, with a growing number volunteering their time, energy and skills for free.

From schools to orphanages, they hope their efforts will have a positive impact on the country. But critics claim that such good intentions are having a negative impact, with some orphanages creating a booming business trading on guilt.

There are reports of orphanages using children with parents to pose as orphans, of wealthy tourists depriving local workers from getting much-needed jobs, and of orphans forming emotional attachments to volunteers and facing more trauma when they leave.

On this edition of 101 East, we ask if volunteer tourism does more harm than good for the people of Cambodia.

This 101 East episode can be seen from Thursday, February 10, 2011 at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2230; Friday: 0930; Saturday: 0330; Sunday: 1630.
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Thailand, Cambodia Border Fight Moves to UN

Thailand and Cambodia plan to present their positions next week to the United Nations Security Council over recent fighting on their border.

A ceasefire held Friday along the Cambodian-Thai border, though the armies of both governments remain on alert.

Latest fight

A week ago, fighting erupted near a 900-year-old Hindu Khmer temple on the border. Several died before fighting halted Tuesday, and thousands on both sides were forced to flee their homes.

On Monday, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Thailand’s Kasit Piromya appear before the United Nations Security Council to set out their respective positions. Each country blames the other for starting the battle.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled the temple was in Cambodia, but a main access route is on the Thai side. The two sides have disputed the exact border in places around the temple, known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand.

Possible rights violations

Sunai Pasuk, a representative for Human Rights Watch in Thailand, says the U.N. will provide a forum for debate over the clashes, and could help determine human rights violations.

"But the basis for conflict resolution is still within bilateral process," noted Sunai. "A presentation at the U.N. Security Council will be an opportunity to both Thailand and Cambodia to [outline] further allegations of human rights violations to international laws as the use of cluster ammunitions can only be resolved with independent observation of the affected area."

Both countries have accused the other of using banned cluster bombs in the fighting.

ASEAN presence at meeting

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natelegawa, whose country is currently chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also will attend the U.N. meeting. ASEAN officials have offered to mediate negotiations between Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

In Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says the temple should be de-listed as a United Nations Scientific and Educations Organization World Heritage site.

Mr. Abhisit says doing so and scrapping a proposed Cambodian management plan would defuse the border conflict. However, Cambodia is expected to oppose the idea.

Interior pressure

The border dispute first flared up in 2008, after Cambodia received World Heritage status for Preah Vihear. Thai nationalists, many of whom say the temple belongs to Thailand, protested, and both governments reinforced troops along the border.

The Thai government is facing pressure from the nationalists, who demand that Bangkok revoke a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia on resolving border disputes. Nationalist groups want their government to push for Cambodians off disputed lands. The government has rejected these calls.

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