Thursday, 17 January 2008

Cambodia accuses actress Mia Farrow of hijacking its tragic past

Jan 16, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodian officials Wednesday accused a group spearheaded by American movie star Mia Farrow of hijacking the country's tragic past for politics and barred it from taking a symbolic Olympic torch through a genocide museum.

The actress was planning to light an Olympic torch at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in the capital where up to 16,000 people were tortured or killed by the Khmer Rouge in order to draw attention to the war in Sudan and China's close ties to that government.

China, one of Cambodia's closest allies, is preparing to host the Olympics in August. It has been accused of failing to use its economic clout in Sudan to end violence in the Darfur region, where the United Nations estimates that at least 200,000 people have died so far in a protracted war.

The Olympic torch-style relay Dream for Darfur has so far visited five countries where genocides took place, including Germany.

'Toul Sleng is a place to come quietly with incense to respect our dead, not for torches and politics,' Toul Sleng director Chey Sopheara said by telephone.

'Please don't plus our victims to other issues. To do what the foreigners want would disturb our dead. How can they compare Toul Sleng with a sporting event?'

Farrow's organization has partnered with German-funded local non-government organization Center for Social Development. Its American-Khmer director Theary Seng has denied the guesture is political, but Cambodian officials disagree.

'It's naive to say this action avoids politics. We cannot allow it. We would not allow them to make these sorts of displays about any embassy here,' government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

'If they wanted to make a protest against the American bombing of Cambodia, we would not allow that too,' he said in reference to Richard Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia from 1970 which many people blame for giving the Khmer Rouge the impetus to come to power.

Kanharith described Farrow, 62, and her local counterparts as 'a group of foreigners lacking insight who do this for money' and warned against cheapening the memory of Cambodia's victims.

Up to 2 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime.

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