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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Choppers rescue tourists caught by Cambodian flood

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Flash floods at a centuries-old temple in northeastern Cambodia stranded about 200 foreign tourists Thursday, forcing officials to use helicopters to evacuate them to a nearby town.

The group visiting the 10th century Banteay Srey temple included tourists from the U.S., South Korea, France, Britain and Russia, district official Mom Vuthy said. The flooding also forced thousands of area residents to abandon their homes for high ground, or to camp on roofs or in trees, he said.

Brittny Anderson, 26, from Oregon said she was grateful for local residents who brought food to the stranded tourists as they waited on high ground for the helicopter rescues.

"I am scared for the villagers whose houses were under water," she said in a telephone interview. "I heard that the villagers had climbed trees and I'm very worried for their safety."

The temple is just 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Angkor Wat temple complex, one of Asia's greatest landmarks and Cambodia's top tourist attraction. It was not yet known if any of the region's temples were damaged in the flooding, said Mey Marady, vice secretary general of Apsara Authority, a government agency that oversee the temples.

Nationwide flooding since August has killed 28 people.
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Khmer Rouge Tribunal Splist wars crimes trial

A United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia says four ex-Khmer Rouge leaders charged with genocide in the deaths of up to 2 million people will first face prosecution individually for crimes against humanity, in a move to speed up proceedings.

The tribunal move, announced Thursday, separates the trials of the four senior surviving members of the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge, which ruled the Southeast Asian nation from 1975 to 1979. The defendants, all of whom deny the charges, include nominal Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, described as the regime's chief ideologue. Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife Thirith also face the same charges.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

A tribunal statement Thursday said the division aims to safeguard the interests of victims, as the long-awaited prosecutions in a single trial could take years, and the elderly defendants – all older than 78 – are likely to die before verdicts are reached. The tribunal statement estimated it could take as long as 10 years to reach a verdict in a single trial.

No timetable was announced for the start of the separate trials.

In a landmark first trial last year, the tribunal sentenced former Khmer Rouge lieutenant Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to 30 years in prison for his role as chief of the notorious Tuol Sleng torture prison during the regime's rule. The tribunal later reduced the sentence to 19 years, granting Duch credit for time already served while awaiting trial. Prosecutors have appealed the reduced sentence and are awaiting a tribunal ruling.
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Heritage sites in Cambodia and Tanzania get preservation grants

Two UNESCO World Heritage sites have received major funding to save them from decay, Art Daily reports.

The sites are Phnom Bakheng in Cambodia and Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania. Phnom Bakheng temple is part of the famous Angkor Wat temple complex and was built in the late ninth to early tenth centuries AD.

Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania, shown here in this Wikimedia Commons image, is less known but historically important. This trading center was founded at the same time that Phnom Bakheng was being built. The site includes a fort, a grand mosque, palaces, and lots of other buildings. This entrepĂ´t brought together Africans, Arabs, and Europeans and created a blend of cultures that can be seen in its crumbling architecture.

Both sites are feeling the weight of time and are in desperate need of preservation. Phnom Bakheng is in special danger because of the large number of visitors it gets. The World Monuments Fund has received grants for both from U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation to the tune of $450,000 for Phnom Bakheng and $700,000 for Kilwa Kisiwani. The World Monuments Fund is earmarking an additional $150,000 for Phnom Bakheng.

While a world-famous place like Angkor Wat getting funding isn't a huge surprise, the fact that a lesser-known but equally important site such as Kilwa Kisiwani is getting preserved is good news. The majority of visitors I've met in Africa went there for the wildlife and culture, both of which are fascinating, but are generally unaware of Africa's rich and complex history. The lions are lovely and the gazelle are great, but you also need to see the pyramids of Sudan and the cave paintings of Somaliland.
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