Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Slums Of Phnom Penh

Visa-on-Arrival for Buddhist pilgrims from 5 more countries

via CAAI

NEW DELHI: As a New Year gift to Buddhist pilgrims, the government has decided to extend Visa-on-Arrival facility to five ASEAN countries from January 1.

"It is being decided that Visa-on-Arrival (VoA)facility would be extended to five more countries -- Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. The scheme would be operational from the New Year 2011," a senior Tourism Ministry official said.

The single-entry visa, to be issued at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata airports, will have a validity of 30 days.

"The decision was taken after due discussion with the ministries of External Affairs and Home. A formal announcement in this regard will be made soon," the official said, adding, "the VoA would facilitate in attracting more Buddhist pilgrims from these countries."

India had launched the VoA in January on a pilot basis for Singapore , New Zealand, Japan , Finland and Luxembourg.

"The response is so far good and 5,644 tourists availed this facility between January and November this year. Now we want to include more countries," he said.

Tourism Ministry has signed an MoU with International Finance Corporation to develop the Buddhist circuit.

"Currently, there is a special train connecting Buddhist sites and steps are being taken to make this circuit a well-connected route," the official said.

Perpetrator's perspective: Befriending the Khmer Rouge

It took many years for Thet Sambath (r) to gain the trust of Pol Pot's deputy, Nuon Chea

via CAAI

12 December 2010

"I could easily have stabbed him to death there and then. Millions of Cambodians might even have been proud of me. But I wasn't there for revenge”

Cambodian journalist and film-maker Theh Sambath lost most of his family under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s. He explains how his search for the truth led him to form an unlikely bond with one of the most loathed men in his country - Nuon Chea, number two within the Khmer Rouge regime.

"At the age of eight I was orphaned. In Cambodia at that time there were many thousands of children like me, for this was the age of the Khmer Rouge regime and its Killing Fields.

Growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand, I wanted to be a doctor but I didn't have the money to train. So I started working as a translator and fixer for international aid groups and then for the media. That's how I ended up becoming a journalist.

But throughout all those years, I never stopped asking myself why my parents had died - not the details of their individual deaths but why they were among 1.7 million people who lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge years.

During my almost accidental career I discovered that I'm someone people like to talk to. They trust me. I began to wonder if I could use my new-found talent to persuade people from within the Khmer Rouge to talk.

First I had to find them. I sacrificed many weekends when I could have been at home with my wife and our first child travelling to remote jungle areas to follow leads. I didn't dare tell her what I was doing in those days. I knew she'd be worried for my safety. But also, in those early days, I didn't even really know myself what my project was.

Eventually, I was introduced to a man called Nuon Chea. This man was Pol Pot's deputy, aka Brother Number Two.

Sunglasses and pyjamas

When we first met I remember walking up the steps to the simple wooden hut on stilts where he lived. The old man was there to greet me, wearing pyjamas and sunglasses. His wife signalled for me to sit and offered a drink.

After several minutes he took off his shades and I was able to look into the eyes of the most senior surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge. Nuon Chea was the second-in-command in a regime in which millions of Cambodians lost their lives. My father, my mother and my brother were among them.

But this frail old man seemed kindly and shy. His wife was clearly devoted to him and his grandchildren seemed very happy to play at his feet. I finished my glass of water and hesitantly announced I was trying to find out the truth of what happened when the Khmer Rouge attempted to take the country back to Year Zero.

Nuon Chea put on his sunglasses again. He told me the Killing Fields were a Western fiction and that, in any case, he had no power in the regime. His brief was merely political education.

Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath explains how his father was killed. Pictures courtesy of Old Street Films
I returned home to Phnom Penh. But I had the feeling there was much more to this man than met the eye.

The following week I returned. He was surprised to see me, but pleased too. He didn't reveal anything more but a pattern had been established.

For the next four years or so I visited Nuon Chea most weekends. I told him I wanted to know the real story of the Khmer Rouge, that I was working alone and that I was only concerned with the truth. What I didn't tell him was that my family died during his regime, because I didn't want him to think I wanted revenge.

For several years he kept to his story. So I tiptoed around the controversial Killing Fields years of 1975-9. But I knew he was beginning to trust me when, one day, I was allowed to stay alone with him while his wife went shopping. He even let me put him to bed for his afternoon nap.

I could easily have stabbed him to death there and then. Millions of Cambodians might even have been proud of me. But I wasn't there for revenge; I was there for the truth.

During one of our meetings in 2005 he turned to me and said: "Sambath, I have checked you out for many years. Now I trust you. Go ahead, ask me anything you want, I will answer you honestly".

My heart was in my mouth and the hairs on my arm stood on end as I finally asked the question I had been waiting so many years to know the answer to.

"Who made the decision to kill people during the Khmer Rouge regime?" I said. He replied: "Pol Pot and I ….."

So began three years of interviews during which Nuon Chea told me, in amazing and chilling detail, how and why he and Pol Pot decided to kill those they designated enemies of the people. At times I think even he could not believe what he was telling me. He used to say: "Sambath, you are only the third person to know all this, after Pol Pot and me".

Controversial history

I was with him on his last night of freedom, in September 2007. He knew that after 30 years the UN-backed war crimes tribunal was poised to arrest him. It was a sad, solemn evening. I admit I felt hollow in the pit of my stomach at the thought of no longer being able to sit quietly with him, and talk about history and politics, life and family. In the course of our six years of work we had become very affectionate towards each other.

Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's deputy - Brother Number Two - apologises to Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath. Pictures courtesy of Old Street Films

Nuon Chea has been in prison for three years now, awaiting trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court wants to use my interviews as possible confessional evidence in their trial but so far I and my British collaborator, Rob Lemkin, have refused.

It's not because we are opposed to the trial, or to justice, but because my work with Nuon Chea was not about with whether or not he was guilty. It was about trying to find out the history of this terrible time.

What Nuon Chea told me was a first-hand political insider's account of one of the 20th Century's most horrific and mysterious periods. It is, naturally, a very controversial history. It gave me an understanding of how and why his regime turned to killing and helps me make sense of what happened to me and my country when I was a child.

Of course, it doesn't mean that it was OK to kill, and it doesn't bring my parents back to life. But it does help me to go forward. And I hope it will enable other victims of the regime to face the future.

The court must do its work. After 30 years Cambodians are entitled to justice. But I'll forever be grateful to the frail old man who decided to tell me the truth. For without the truth, we will never have a chance of achieving the reconciliation that I and so many other survivors of the Killing Fields so desperately seek."

Enemies of the People, a film by Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin, opened on 10 December in London.

Human Rights Day Interview with Multi-media Monk, Venerable Sovath on How He Uses Video

Witness | December 09, 2010  | WITNESS partner LICADHO [  ] filmed this interview with human rights defender, the Venerable Luon Sovath, in Cambodia for International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2010.

The Venerable speaks personally about how he uses video to fight for the rights of his community in Chi Kreng District, Siem Reap Province. The Venerable also speaks out about communities across Cambodia at risk of forced evictions. This video includes footage of 100s of villagers assembling outside the Siem Reap courthouse during the trial of land rights activists from the Venerable's village in Chi Kreng.

The Venerable is being featured by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its Human Rights Day 2010 video [ ]

Read the WITNESS blog post about the Venerable's visit to New York City to attend the WITNESS Focus For Change Gala

THIS YEAR I learnt... By ROB HAMILL, 46, Olympic and trans-Atlantic rower

via CAAI

ROB HAMILL, 46, Olympic and trans-Atlantic rower, Te Pahu.

Thirty-two years ago Hamill's eldest brother, Kerry, was abducted, tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

THIS YEAR I learnt...

...more about the thin and fragile line separating good and evil. And that we are all capable of both. Coming to understand that better has been quite...what is the word? Scary?

This year I went to Cambodia for the sentencing of Duch, the man who ran the prison my brother was incarcerated in. I also spent time travelling the country interviewing victims and perpetrators for a documentary we're making called Brother Number One. I'm trying to come to terms with the scary realisation that, depending on circumstances, everyone, or almost everyone, is capable of performing the atrocities these people committed. I was kind of put in the difficult position of interviewing one of the people who was responsible for torturing my brother. You might think it odd but I didn't wish to inflict a similar fate on him. Oh, don't worry, I've had thoughts of revenge, but I reckon violence met with violence achieves nothing, other than perhaps creating more violence.

Fact is, I would have lowered myself to the level of the perpetrator himself if I'd been aggressive. Anyway, avoiding the emotional part gave me the opportunity to recognise each individual Cambodian really was a victim in his or her own way. The learnings from that little experience continues like the grieving process.

That was my second time to Cambodia. The first was last year with the trial, where I took the stand to testify. I had been trying to get some reconciliation in my own mind about what occurred, to allow me some freedom, you know, to move on. And I was working towards that until I saw S-21, the prison itself, then I just completely, I went really dark on it. Any chance of forgiveness for that man Duch, who ran the prison, just evaporated. But interviewing those individuals, victims and perpetrators, I've become more open to the possibility of letting go again. It seems the more you explore these things, the more you try to understand, the more you pull away the veil of ignorance, then the more opportunity there is to allow yourself to move on.

Kerry was missing for 16 months before we heard the terrible news. About nine months after we discovered Kerry's fate, my second-oldest brother, John, killed himself. And, you know, my parents were distraught but had no one to talk to really. Of course, close relations did what they could to help but my parents were pretty much isolated, there were no social support professionals available. I guess if there's a message there, I'd say to people, reach out and try and talk about it. Cambodia is now finally finding its own voice to talk about their past and be heard.

But the biggest learning has come from Kerry himself. He was forced to write a confession, under duress, stating that he was a CIA agent. He used that confession, I believe, to remove himself from the horror by writing about life in New Zealand and its geography: Great Barrier Island, National Park, the list went on. And to emphasise the absurdity of the confession he named his own friends and family as fellow CIA trainees and trainers. And, sense of humour intact, he named Colonel Sanders as one of his trainers. The most poignant part in the confession was where he named the public speaking instructor as S.Tarr. Our mother's name is Esther. In this most dire of situations he was sending a coded message of love and hope to Mum.

We all have choices how we react to different situations. My brother chose, I think, a very brave, courageous course that transported him home and by doing so he gave himself something to live for, if only for that moment in time.

Human Riaghts In Cambodia Is Still Limited

Cambodia International Conference of Asian Political Parties: Quest for a Better Tomorrow

via CAAI

By Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos
December 11, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – Upon Cambodia Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen's invitation, FVR attended the 6th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) and Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Centrist Democrats International (CDI)-Asia Pacific in Phnom Penh last 01–04 December.

The Philippines has maintained close diplomatic ties with Cambodia for more than 50 years, with bilateral relations between them being strengthened over the years with high-level visits among their leaders. Following an official visit to RP by then Cambodia Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Ung Huot on 6-8 August 1996, FVR offered to help promote the English language in Cambodia, and develop its agriculture and social health services to facilitate Cambodia's entry into ASEAN.

The Philippines-Cambodia Business Council under the leadership of (ret.) Gen. Jose Magno Chairman of CITRA Metro Manila Tollways Corporation, has been recently reactivated and provides important channels for bilateral networking through trade missions, business matching, trade shows, friendship roundtables, and similar activities.

Tenth Anniversary of ICAPP

In his letter-invitation, PM Hun Sen emphasized ICAPP's theme: "Asia's Quest for a Better Tomorrow," with special emphasis on economy, energy, and environment issues.

This international event marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of ICAPP and presented the opportunity for Cambodia to showcase its substantial progress after decades of Khmer Rouge genocide, internal turmoil, political reconciliation, democratic restoration, and membership in ASEAN.

PM Hun Sen delivered the inspirational remarks for the four-day event.

Initiated by Lakas-CMD in September 2000, ICAPP was established "to promote exchanges and cooperation between political parties from different countries and strengthen Asia's regional cooperation through the channel of political parties."

The founding meeting of ICAPP was held on 17-19 September 2000 at the Manila Hotel hosted by the Lakas-CMD (with FVR as Chairman Emeritus and former Speaker Jose de Venecia as Secretary General), and counted delegates from 46 political parties from 20 Asian countries in attendance, including the Communist Party of China. Since then, four more ICAPP General Assemblies have been held in Bangkok, Beijing, Seoul, and Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Today, there are now more than 320 Asian political parties — emanating from 52 Asian countries and one territory — with varying political and ideological backgrounds who participate in ICAPP assemblies and related Asia-Pacific activities. ICAPP's Standing Committee is co-chaired by former Speaker De Venecia and National Assemblyman Chung Eul-yong of the Republic of Korea.

The Centrist Democrats International Arising out of Germany's Christian Democratic Union, the Centrist Democrats International (formerly known as Christian Democrats International) was formed in Chile in 1961. It is dedicated to the promotion of Christian democracy and anchored on the legacy of Christian democrats who sought to create a Christian-inspired alternative in governance and people empowerment.

Former Chile President Patricio Alywyn and FVR are the two lifetime Honorary Presidents elected by the CDI General Assembly in Madrid in 1999.

The CDI has now more than 100 member-parties, including ruling administrations in Germany and other European countries. The European People's Party is Europe's largest political aggrupation, with the Christian Democrats Organization of America as its Latin American equivalent.

The US Democratic Party maintains links with CDI through its National Democratic Institution for International Affairs. Current co-presidents of the CDI are Italy's Pier Fernando Casini and Mexico's Vicente Fox.

The Kingdom of Cambodia

Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy of 14 million people with King Norodom Sihamoni as Head of State since 2004. It was a protectorate of France from 1863 to 1953, though occupied by the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. Under King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia gained independence from France on 9 November 1953.

While visiting Beijing in 1970, Sihanouk was ousted by Prime Minister (General) Lon Nol with US support. This development led to a four-year civil war between Cambodian government and US-backed forces versus the combination of the Communist Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge guerrillas — which resulted in massive loss of lives and destruction of property.

The Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot eventually gained power in 1975 and changed the country's name to "Democratic Kampuchea." This Communist regime attempted to rebuild the country by evacuating the cities and making the population work on rural agricultural projects. Anything considered Western-oriented was discarded and eventually destroyed. In the process, more than one million Cambodians out of a population of 8,000,000 died from executions, overwork, and disease.

The country thus became deeply impoverished, but in October 1991, thru a comprehensive peace settlement administered by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), reconciliation and reconstruction came about. Norodom Sihanouk was restored as King of Cambodia in 1993.

CDI in the Asia-Pacific

To carry out CDI's expansion in the Asia-Pacific, CDI-AP was founded in Manila in January, 2006, with Lakas-CMD as its core group and six other Asian political parties as co-founders: Indonesian Golkar Party, Thai Rak Thai Party, Funcinpec Party, and Cambodian People's Party, Kazakhstan's Oton Party, and Pakistan Muslim League. Then Speaker De Venecia was elected President of CDI-AP.

It will be recalled that when the controversial merger of the Lakas-CMD and Kampi parties took place in June, 2009, FVR declined to assume its Chairman Emeritus position offered to him by then Philippine President/Chairperson Gloria Arroyo of the "merged Lakas Kampi CMD." Ramos flatly refused said position, asserting: "The merger was done with undue haste, and by dictation and not consultation."

Moreover, in his letter to President Arroyo dated 17 August 2009, Ramos made it clear that he continues to be the elected Chairman Emeritus of Lakas-CMD (of which he was the co-founder and elected Chairman earlier in December 1991).

At that time, FVR emphasized: "For the record, I wish to make clear that I have not relinquished the position of Chairman Emeritus of Lakas-CMD, which political party still exists in the COMELEC roster, and continues to maintain strong connections with the Centrist Democrats International and other political aggrupations worldwide."

From CDI Asia-Pacific to CAPDI

One important development in the Cambodia International Conference last week was the restructuring of the CDI Asia-Pacific in order to deepen its role and broaden its scope in Asia's fast-changing political, security and economic environment.

To highlight its new aspirations and greater regional reach, the original CDI-AP was renamed "Centrist Asia-Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI)." It is the first organization in the Asia-Pacific that brings together political parties and key democratic institutions of civil society — people's organizations, think tanks, academe, business leaders, media, women/youth sectors, and other eminent groups.

While its predecessor was a limited platform for Asia's centrist political parties, CAPDI now strives for a more comprehensive role and greater outreach. Thus, it becomes an institutional bridge between governments and common people represented by leaders of non-government sectors.

As the result of extensive consultations among member political parties and newly emerged leadership groups, CAPDI intends to mobilize mainstream moderates — whether political or non-political — to work for good governance, mass poverty alleviation, elimination/reduction of corruption, empowerment of women/youth/disadvantaged groups, and environmental protection.

On the global front, CAPDI totally supports the UN Millennium Development Goals, Inter-Faith/Inter-Civilizational Dialogues, and Debt Relief for the 100 most heavily indebted nations. CAPDI strongly stands against international terrorism/political extremism, and provides viable mechanisms for peace, particularly in the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan Straits, Chechnya-Caucasus, Pakistan-Kashmir-India, Palestine-Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mindanao.

CAPDI's affairs are governed by an Executive Council led by a Chairman, President/CEO, Secretary General, and Vice Presidents/Directors representing specific regions and functional sectors. It will be initially headquartered in Manila for East Asia and Islamabad for South and Central Asia. It is scheduled to convene a General Assembly every other year, with functional conferences in between.

PM Hun Sen and FVR were elected as CAPDI Chairman Emeritus and Honorary Chairman, respectively, last 03 December in Phnom Penh.

People empowerment and a higher quality of life

Does the CAPDI look like a United Nations for Asia-Pacific? Of course, it does.

And why not? Because the world of the 21st century cannot and will no longer tolerate hegemonic powers, much less one single economic-political-military superpower in our family of nations.

In due time, empowered peoples around the world not only will clamor with greater force than ever — but will also mobilize with truly universal people power — for equal opportunity, justice, good governance, quality population, prosperity, and a better future for all.

Kaya Natin Ito!!!

Please send any comments to . Copies of articles are available at

Kent man sentenced for sexual exploitation of Cambodian children

via CAAI

December 10, 2010

Posted by John de Leon

A Kent man was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for having sex with underage girls in Cambodia, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Craig Carr, 59, used the Internet to contact someone in Cambodia who agreed to find girls for Carr to have sex with during a visit to the country. Carr paid the individual approximately $8,000 for sex with the girls during a week-long trip to Cambodia. Carr reportedly told the person arranging the sexual encounters that he wanted the girls to be about 12 years old, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Carr traveled from Seattle to Phnom Penh on Jan. 13. When he was arrested nine days later he admitted that he had sex with three young girls during his stay in Cambodia, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. His camera contained pictures of three young victims. Two of the victims have been located, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Carr pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child in July in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Cambodian prince re-enters politics

Prince Ranariddh was Cambodia's first elected prime minister in 1993

Prince Ranariddh was ejected from Funcinpec over fraud allegations in 2006

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned to politics Saturday with a vow to reinvigorate the flagging royalist movement, taking the helm of his former party which has re-adopted his name.

Two years after quitting politics, Prince Ranariddh, who was Cambodia's first elected prime minister in 1993 after years of civil war, was re-instated as president of the party he created during a meeting in the capital.

Party members also agreed to re-name the Nationalist Party the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP).

The 66-year-old son of former king Norodom Sihanouk said in a speech that he was returning to politics to re-unite royalists ahead of 2012 local elections and a 2013 general election.

"I have seen that the royalists are hopeless, separated, I want them to be one family," he said.

Ranariddh called for an alliance with fellow royalist party Funcinpec, with him as leader.

"The prince wants to create a new party called Funcinpec 81 before 2012," party spokesman Pen Sangha told AFP. "The ball is now in the court of Funcinpec."

Ranariddh has been off the political scene since late 2008, when he said he was quitting the opposition after receiving a royal pardon on fraud charges and returning from self-imposed exile in Malaysia.

The prince's political career had begun with great promise when he won Cambodia's UN-sponsored election in 1993 as head of the royalist Funcinpec party.

However, he was forced to accept Hun Sen as co-prime minister, who then staged a coup in 1997.

In following elections, Ranariddh's voter appeal diminished as he entered into coalition agreements with Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party.

In 2006, he was ejected from Funcinpec over fraud allegations involving the illegal sale of the party's headquarters. He formed the NRP shortly afterwards.

The prince was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in jail over the fraud charges the following year but was later pardoned.

The NRP won just two parliamentary seats in Cambodia's 2008 general election, as did Funcinpec. The NRP then changed its name to the Nationalist Party.

Both parties have in the past expressed an interest in merging to improve the royalist movement's flagging fortunes.

Hun Sen warned the prince earlier this week that if he was coming back to politics, he would not be able to stay on as an adviser to Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, Ranariddh's half-brother.

Cambodia announces plans for controversial new drug centre

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH (Dec 11, 2010): Cambodia's government has approved plans for a new drug rehabilitation centre, the country's biggest so far, national media reported Saturday, following criticism of similar facilities by Human Rights Watch and other activist groups.

Moek Dara, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, told the Cambodia Daily newspaper that the proposed centre would be located near the resort town of Sihanoukville and have a capacity of treating around 2,000 patients.

"The national rehabilitation centre would become the biggest ever in the country," he said.

In a report issued earlier this year, Human Rights Watch documented numerous instances in which inmates at Cambodian rehabilitation centres were beaten, tortured and locked up involuntarily.

The group has called for Cambodia to move towards a community-based, non-coercive treatment model, warning that the punitive approach taken in Vietnam and China is not effective.

Moek Dara said the new treatment centre would be non-coercive, but added that inmates would be held against their will if they "[refuse] to receive the voluntary treatment and [are] a danger to themselves or to society."

Vietnam is providing 2 million dollars in funding for the project, Moek Dara said.

Cambodia came under fire last year for forcing an untested Vietnamese herbal remedy on addicts in drug treatment centres. -dpa