Saturday, 9 February 2008

Newlyweds lend a hand in Cambodia's struggle against war, poverty

Saturday, February 09, 2008

By Chris Gray,
The Philadelphia Inquirer

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- Let's be honest: It was the specter of tigers, temples and tom yam soup that led my husband and me to honeymoon in Southeast Asia. We wanted an adventure to remember, on a continent where neither of us had been.

But as I researched our trip, I realized that we should spend at least a little time practicing "voluntourism," giving back to people who are still struggling for the basics after decades of war and poverty.

We found a way to have it all in Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the ancient temple complex Angkor Wat -- and Ponheary Ly, a tour guide who considers it her mission to help educate as many Cambodian children as possible.

I found Ly, a Siem Reap native and survivor of dictator Pol Pot's labor camps, through the Asia message board on Ly, 44, is a veteran guide who has arranged private tours of Angkor Wat and other Siem Reap attractions in both English and French -- languages she learned in secret during the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia -- since 2000.

A former English teacher, Ly has also worked for seven years to enroll children in Cambodian schools. While public school in the country is ostensibly free for the first three years, many rural children do not have the $12 necessary for shoes, school supplies or uniforms, she said.

"As a teacher, I knew about the difficulties of the kids and families who couldn't send the kids to schools. Also, I found that the kids are smart, but they don't have any occasion to show how smart they are. To build the country, we have to build the education for all people, especially the kids."

It's a message that Ly's clients -- mostly Americans who prefer independent travel with native guides to packaged tours -- could support. In addition to touring the temples, more and more visitors asked Ly whether they could visit the schools and donate money for bicycles, supplies and uniforms.

Lori Carlson, formerly of Austin, Texas, was one such convert. When she visited here in 2005, Carlson was struck by Ly's background and dedication. On her return to the States, she founded the Ponheary Ly Foundation (, a registered nonprofit that channels money directly to the schools.

As of December, Carlson, 48, had raised $90,000 for five schools -- and quit her job to move here to work fulltime with Ly. She formed a board of directors for the PLF, which distributed school supplies to 1,955 children last fall.

"I believe the travelers who go to visit the temples at Angkor Wat understand they bear at least some of the responsibility to gently nudge these children toward school rather than reinforce the idea that it's good to stand on the corner and beg dollars from tourists," she said.

With such strong advocates, Don and I were excited to meet Ly and do our part. We arrived here to find a city undergoing massive change. The number of tourists visiting Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, has exploded in recent years, spurring an increase in hotels, shops, restaurants and other businesses.

While the influx of dollars has been good for many Cambodians (merchants prefer U.S. dollars to the Cambodian rial), it's disconcerting to see barefoot bicyclists ride past $800-a-night hotels. Young children hawk maps, books and trinkets near the temple grounds; tuk-tuk drivers fight over $1 fares.

That's not to say that Don and I eschew luxury (it was our honeymoon, after all). We turned down a $20 room at Ly's simple guesthouse, primarily because it didn't have a pool, which we considered essential to deal with the area's crushing humidity. At $95, our poolside room at Bopha Angkor was spacious yet not ostentatious, and the package included daily breakfast, a traditional Khmer dinner, and a massage.

Just a few hours after we landed, we went to Angkor Wat with Ly's brother Dara as our guide. There are more than 300 temples in the complex, but Dara steered us to the ones that would provide the most interesting backdrops for my husband, the photographer.

As we sweated in the 90-degree heat, I asked Dara about his family's experience under the Khmer Rouge. He told us that his father, a teacher in Siem Reap, was among the first wave of educated people to be killed under Pol Pot's regime. As a result, Dara and his siblings were sent with their mother to the countryside to work.

It's a sobering tale, and we heard more from Ly over the next few days. Ly, who was 13 when the Khmer Rouge came to power, and her siblings survived, mainly because villagers would leave food for them at night.

"We were given this much rice," Ly told us, holding up the tip of her finger. Dara would "crawl out on all fours, like a cat" to get extra food; sometimes, actual cats or monkeys would have gotten to the rations instead, she said.

Still, the extra nourishment kept the family alive -- and the Khmer Rouge noticed. Officials asked her mother why her children were still alive when so many other youngsters had died, Ly said. When her mother refused to answer, she was horribly beaten.

Such atrocities were common in the Pol Pot years. Yet most Cambodians don't like to talk about the time under the Khmer Rouge, Carlson said. It's rare to find it discussed in schools, primarily due to the country's Buddhist beliefs, which hold that people -- even war criminals -- are responsible for their own karma.

Ly is different, Carlson said. She understands that it's important to talk about the past so it doesn't happen again. We were talking in Ly's van, on our way to deliver lunch to the 476 children at Knar school, out in the Cambodian countryside. On the road, we saw men on bikes toting crates filled with piglets and open huts with children playing in the dirt.

Cambodian families expect all children, no matter how young, to contribute economically, Ly told us. Which is why even the kids who are lucky enough to go to school attend for a half day; at home, they are needed for chores, farm work, or other ways to make money.

In addition to a donation made before our trip, we gave Ly $40 for lunch, which buys two noodle packets for each child. That's essential, Carlson said, because if the child received only one packet, he or she would take it home to the family instead of eating it. The school tries to feed the children at least once a day to make sure they have enough energy to learn, Carlson said.
We arrived at Knar School, which consists of several one-story classrooms. As Don carried the boxes of noodle packets into the rooms, the children's eyes grew wide. They straightened in their seats and thanked us by pressing their hands together and bowing.

Carlson and Ly showed us around the school and talked about the improvements that have been made. Incentives such as bicycles, uniforms, and extra noodle packets show the families that there are tangible benefits to their children attending school, Carlson said.

"I would like to have my country be the same as the other countries," Ly said, with Cambodian children able "to have good education to work well to get out from the poor life."

The children seemed to love school, showing off their uniforms and books. An impromptu game of soccer ensued, with Don in the thick of it. It was an emotional sight for me, which sparked later discussion: Although we had been together several years, Don and I had never talked about the greater good we could accomplish as a couple.

It's a conversation that all newlyweds should have, wherever their honeymoon takes them. For us, road-testing our fledgling marriage in an underdeveloped country not only gave us the adventures we sought, but also set the course for a more permanent path. And that's definitely a trip worth taking.


There are no direct flights to Siem Reap from the United States. You can fly there from various Asian cities, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi.

We stayed at Bopha Angkor (, booking the "Poolside Evasion package." The cost was $285 for both of us for three nights, including airport transfers, breakfast, a dinner, and a massage for two.

We booked Ponheary Ly as a guide by e-mail ( Ly charged us $145 for 21/2 days of touring, which included three half-day sessions at Angkor Wat, the visit to Knar School, and a visit to the floating village on Tonle Sap lake.

Once he killed; now he’s back as peacemaker

Sareth Kim was slashed on his 7th birthday. Imprisoned for killing at 17, he’s back on the street, trying to settle disputes among rival gangs.

Friday, February 8, 2008

PROVIDENCE — Sareth “Tony” Kim, a founding member of the Providence Street Boys gang, had killed a man.

At the time, he was still a teenager, but his life had been in a downward spiral for the better part of a decade.

Kim sat in his prison cell and wondered about his infant daughter. He also wondered why his so-called friends for life in the gang didn’t bother to visit or write him at the Adult Correctional Institutions.

Really, he thought, why continue to live life as a gang member?

“Everything is drama,” he said. “It’s all about putting other people down. It’s so negative.”

He had made peace with rival gang members from the Oriental Rascals and Laos Pride. He had also earned his GED — high school graduation equivalent degree — and took classes in anger management and developing life skills.

Today, Kim, 32, is a free man and father of three who lives a productive life as a senior streetworker for the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence on the city’s South Side.

He uses his experiences as a former gang member to resolve disputes between rival gangs and keep kids out of trouble. He helps them stay in school and find jobs.

“They know that I’ve been through it,” he said. “The main thing is that they trust me. They can come to me for anything.”

Kim was part of the gang culture back in the early ’90s, when it first took hold in the city’s West End and South Side. He was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, the first son of a family that had escaped the killing fields of Cambodia. His childhood in Providence was entrenched in violence that he experienced or witnessed as a first generation immigrant. He quickly learned that it was safer to hang with a gang than to be “punked” by other gangs or ethnic groups.

“I was just full of anger,” he said. “I decided that I would rather victimize someone else than be a victim.”

Kim was just 7 when he had his first bad experience on the street. It was his birthday, Jan. 1, 1983, and his mother, Savoeun, who worked long hours in a factory, gave him $5. He was excited about the prospect of buying goodies at a corner store on Elmwood Avenue, a short walk from the family’s apartment.

Kim bought candy and stuffed the change in his pants pocket. As he left, a man approached and grabbed his candy. Then, he reached into the boy’s pockets and stole his change.

“Let me see your hand!” the robber yelled.

Kim extended his hand and the guy sliced his palm. He ran home dripping blood on the newly fallen snow.

A year or two later, the Kim family bought a house on Waverly Street in the West End. Tony Kim remembered seeing a man shot outside his home and hobbling toward Cranston Street with a gunshot wound. Once he reached Cranston Street, a car pulled up and a barrage of gunfire finished him off.

There was no escape from the bloodshed.

One afternoon, a few years later, Kim was heading home from Samuel Bridgham Middle School. He and his friends were planning to play volleyball in the park near the Messer Street firehouse.

Suddenly, a wild shootout broke out between the Asian Boyz and Tiny Raskal Gang.

Bullets were flying and several gang members were hit. Kim saw one man get shot in the head, and he thought, “This is the world that I have to accept and live in.”

Kim said the Asian Boyz and Oriental Rascals both wanted him to join their gangs. He was hanging out with the gang members on a daily basis and one of his best friends was part of the Asian Boyz.

One day, several of the gang members asked Kim whether he wanted to join them on a trip to Minnesota. He was thrilled with the possibility of taking a vacation to a faraway place. Since he had arrived in Rhode Island when he was 3, Kim had never left the state.

Now, this group of older teenage boys wanted to include him in a getaway trip. Kim, who had little adult supervision, agreed to go.

“I never told my parents anything,” he said. “My dad worked two jobs all through my childhood, and my mom worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. I’d hardly see my parents. They worked hard, but they missed out on my childhood.”

Kim joined about 8 to 10 other Asian Boyz and Oriental Rascals and they took two cars to Minnesota. Halfway there, Kim learned that the gang members were plotting a home invasion of a Cambodian gambling operation.

In Minnesota, they stayed in an apartment and someone delivered a bag with about 30 handguns and shotguns. Kim said two of the gang members argued over a handgun. One of them grabbed the gun and jokingly pointed it at him and another gang member. Then, he loaded a bullet into the gun and spun the chamber. He placed the barrel to his head and pulled the trigger.
The explosion of the report was deafening. Kim’s friend had blown his brains out. The gang members got rid of the guns and the police arrived. The home invasion never went down, and the Rhode Island boys headed home.

“I came back traumatized again,” he said.

Kim decided to turn his back on the Asian Boyz and Oriental Rascals. He told them that he was done with the gang life. He was a freshman at Central High School, but he was skipping more classes than he was attending. He was constantly getting into fights and getting suspended.

Kim spent most days hanging out with friends in the attic of a house. They would head out and steal bikes in Warwick and Cranston. One day, a group of Oriental Rascals burst into the attic and warned them against forming their own gang. Kim said they had no intention of forming a gang until the Oriental Rascals confronted them.

In response, they formed the Providence Street Boys. They set out and desecrated all the Oriental Rascals graffiti in the West End. In no time, scores of young people across the city wanted to join the new gang. Most of the gang members were Cambodian and Laotian.
The gang members had no great master plan. They hung out, played volleyball and basketball and watched one another’s backs.

About six months later, the Providence Street Boys were involved in a large rumble with the Oriental Rascals at the public park off Messer Street. The newcomers outnumbered the Oriental Rascals and won the battle.

Tony Kim and the Providence Street Boys had become a force on the streets of the city.

A few weeks later, though, the Laotian boys broke away from the Providence Street Boys and formed their own gang — Laos Pride.

A few weeks before Christmas and his 18th birthday, Kim’s world came crashing down.

On the afternoon of Dec. 9, 1993, the police received a report that a man driving a van had been shot and killed on Waverly Street. The day before, Kim’s older sister had been raped by the van driver, Samang Pha, 27, of Providence.

Tony Kim and five of the Providence Street Boys decided to take justice into their own hands.

They had planned on abducting the man at gunpoint and bringing him to the basement of Kim’s house at 48-50 Waverly St. But during the confrontation, Kim’s .357-magnum handgun discharged, sending a bullet into Pha’s face. Kim told police that he intended to wound — not kill — Pha.
Kim pleaded no contest to manslaughter and received a 30-year sentence —10 years to serve and 20 years suspended. The other five gang members also were arrested and spent time in the state Training School or the ACI.

Kim spent about four years in prison before, on his first attempt, he was paroled. He feels fortunate that he is able to work for the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence and give back to the same streets where he wasted his adolescence. He worries about young people who seem more impressed than ever with the gang lifestyle.

“It’s more accepted,” he said. “Now, it’s more of a trend. Everybody wants to be a gangster.”

Teny Gross, executive director of the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, said that Kim’s ethnic background and experiences as a gang leader are critical in resolving disputes.
He said Kim has placed himself in harm’s way on many occasions, and he likened his role in the community to that of a soldier in Iraq.

“He has a strong passion for his community,” Gross said. “He is doing something that we should all be grateful for.”

NEC: Most Election Funds Pledged

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
08 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Cambodia is about $1 million shy in election funds, following pledges from donors and the government in recent weeks that have nearly filled the coffers, election officials said Thursday.

The July elections will cost around $17 million, and most of that has been filled, said Tep Nitha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee.

The government will spend about $10 million, along with $3 million from Japan, with the rest coming from other countries.

The rest of the funds will come through the UNDP via donors, he said, “but we missed about $1 million.”

UNDP spokesman Men Kim Seng said Japan, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Australia had met over funding in recent weeks.

“The discussion is continuing so we have not received any final decision,” he said. “But we hope to get that soon in the coming days.”

The money will fund administration, staff and services, when as many as 50 political parties compete for parliamentary seats July 27.

Activist: Disunity Could Doom Small Parties

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Small parties allied against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party will be beaten in July’s election if they don’t stand together, a leading rights activist said Friday.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said that divided parties will divide the votes, helping the CPP win parliamentary seats.

“If other non-CPP political parties cannot make an alliance to participate in the race on a one-on-one basis with the ruling CPP in the coming 2008 election, and if the CPP is able to keep its 47 percent [of parliamentary seats], as in the 2003 election, we will see the CPP get more than their current 73 parliamentarian seats,” Thun Saray said. “Because there were only two parties to receive the remaining seats in the previous election. But now there are four parties.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Friday the statements put the CPP in an inaccurate adversarial light.

More Defections Plague Opposition

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
08 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

A long-time opposition parliamentarian quit his party Friday, adding to the pre-election woes of an opposition that has seen a number of defections in recent weeks.

Ngor Sovann, who represented the Sam Rainsy Party in the National Assembly for 11 years, said he left due to internal conflicts in the party and petitioned to join the Cambodian People’s Party.

“I submitted my resignation today, and, approved or not, it’s not important,” Ngor Sovann said.
He applied to a position as deputy chief of Kandal Province, he said.

Ngor Sovann’s resignation follows moves by several other opposition members last week.

Sam Rainsy said Friday the defections would clear room for grassroots supporters.

Nuon Chea Makes Final Bid for Bail

By Mean Veasna,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 February 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Jailed Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea made his final plea to a pre-trial panel of judges Friday, wrapping up a second day of bail hearings.

Nuon Chea and his defense sought to counter prosecution arguments that he would flee the country, destroy evidence or threaten witnesses against him.

“Nowadays, our country’s peace is moving forward,” Nuon Chea told the courts, reading slowly from a piece of paper. “I myself as well as all the countrymen hope that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia will use their wisdom to judge my request to be released on bail.”

The judges released no decision Friday, but tribunal observers were doubtful that Pol Pot’s former lieutenant would be released ahead of his atrocity crimes trials.

“There was nothing found to claim Nuon Chea would be safe and secure if he staid outside the prison,” said Lor Chunthy, a lawyer for Legal Aid of Cambodia.






Nuon_Chea's Pre-Trial 2, 33 min 31 sec - Feb 6, 2008

Nuon_Chea's Pre-Trial Chamber 1; 5 min 33 sec - Feb 6, 2008

Opening of Nuon Chea's Pre-Trial

Friday, 8.2.2008: European Union Funds of US$900,000 to Support Projects of Human Rights and Democracy

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 546 - For the Khmer version, the Kanhchok Sangkum, click here.

“Phnom Penh: Cambodian Non-Governmental Organizations that have suitable qualifications are invited to submit small grant proposals on human rights and democracy to receive funds from the ‘European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights’ [EIDHR] program of the European Union. The fund, from which such support can be call for Cambodia has a total volume of Euro 600,000 (around US$900,000). The common purpose of this initiative is to strengthen the role of civil society in promoting reforms on human rights and democracy, supporting peaceful reconciliation processes among different interest groups, and strengthening the participation in and the representativeness of political processes.

“This fund was prepared to support projects which have the goal to promote discussion between civil society and political circles, concerning the independence of the courts, the right to justice, professional and impartial information dissemination by independent, professional and accountable media, advocacy for awareness raising, and training on children’s and women’s rights, promoting participation and strengthening the rights and the power of local actors related to policy development, as well as improving and strengthening the rights and the power of minorities so that they can protect their own rights. The applicants for EIDHR program support shall be non-profit institutions. The grant for each project is between Euro 10,000 and Euro 600,000. The European Union grant can cover between 50 to 80% of the total costs for each project.

“Further information is available at

Detailed information on the call for proposals is posted in the guidelines for applications, which can be retrieved from [[information in the newspaper sees to be deficient – if we can clarify, it will be provided at a later date – from the editor]]. The deadline for applications is 6 May 2008, at 17:00 local time in Phnom Penh.”
Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6266, 8.2.2008

Cambodian Khmer Rouge Genocide Court Sifts Evidence (Update1)
By Ed Johnson

Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- A United Nations-backed genocide court in Cambodia said officials are sifting through evidence from more than 500 victims of the Khmer Rouge about crimes committed by the regime in the 1970s.

The statements may help judges try five former Khmer Rouge officials who are already in custody, or result in new prosecutions, the court said in a statement late yesterday.

``Information received from victims is crucial to our success,'' said Robert Petit, a co-prosecutor with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

The trials are central to the process of reconciliation in the Southeast Asian nation, where one in five people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The movement, which forced the population out of cities to work on collective farms as it tried to establish an agrarian state, is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people through starvation, disease or execution.

Vietnamese forces ended the rule of the Khmer Rouge when they captured the capital, Phnom Penh, in January 1979. Khmer Rouge fighters resisted in the west of the country until the final units surrendered to the Cambodian army 20 years later.

Pol Pot

Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge's prime minister, died in his jungle hideout in 1998. Ta Mok, the group's military chief, died in custody in July 2006.

Nuon Chea, 81, the regime's second-in-command, is among five officials in custody awaiting trial and is appealing against his detention.

The tribunal has ``violated the human rights of an old man,'' Agence France-Presse cited his lawyer, Sun Arun, as saying during a court hearing yesterday.

The judges ``put physical and emotional pressure on my client,'' Sun Arun said, adding Nuon Chea was without a lawyer for his first three court appearances, a violation of criminal procedures, AFP reported.

Known as ``Brother Number 2,'' Nuon Chea is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, torture, imprisonment, enslavement and persecution.

Prosecutors allege he controlled the Khmer Rouge's internal security apparatus and directed, implemented and enforced its policy of forced labor.

Prison Chief

Kang Kek Ieu, also known as Duch, 65, was charged in July for atrocities allegedly committed while he ran the regime's S- 21 jail. He was the first official to be charged by the court in Phnom Penh, which comprises international and Cambodian judges.

Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, 82, former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, 75, and Khieu Samphan, 76, the former head of state, are also in detention awaiting trial. They all deny charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Of the more than 500 complaints received, about a fifth are missing information such as when, where and what crimes are alleged to have occurred during the Khmer Rouge's rule and victims are being contacted to elaborate, the court said.

A victims unit was set up in January to help people file complaints. In a first for an international criminal tribunal, victims are allowed to take part in the proceedings as civil parties, with legal representation, according to the court.

Theary Seng, whose parents were killed during the regime's rule, appeared before the court today and called on the judges not to grant Nuon Chea bail, AFP said.

``They treated us inhumanely. For us, the graveyard was our playground,'' AFP cited her as saying. ``As victims, we have been waiting for 30 years for justice. There is a risk that the accused will fail to appear in court, and without his presence we will suffer a great loss.''

The tribunal process was scheduled to last three years and cost $56.3 million, with the UN providing $43 million and Cambodia's government $13.3 million. Funds may run out as early as next month.

The court, convened in 2006, is seeking another $114 million from international donors to keep it running until 2011, AFP cited Chief of Public Affairs Helen Jarvis as saying yesterday.

ECCC wants $167 million for more staff

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 02, January 24 - February 7, 2008

As the judicial side of the court creaked slowly forward, the court revised its own budget upwards to $169.7 million, covering an additional two years and the trials of eight defendants, according to January 30 court documents.

There was no immediate reaction from tribunal funders. If the revised budget is approved by tribunal donors, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia would last until 2011.
The Japanese are the largest contributor to the tribunal budget. Others are Britain, France, the European Union and India.

According to the new documents, the budget for the UN side of the tribunal has leapt from an original $43 million to $134 million with the vast majority of it, some $99 million, going on administration.

The Cambodian side of the tribunal would get $35 million with the lion’s share again going to administration.

According to Rupert Skilbeck, head of the ECCC defense support section, there are many different ways to run a hybrid tribunal, some expensive and some cheap. The cheapest example of a UN hybrid tribunal was in East Timor, where the initial budget was just $6 million.

Another more cost-effective example of a hybrid tribunal is the court of Bosnia and Herzegovina where, with a budget of some $10 million per year, they are currently trying 400 individuals for war crimes and serious crimes.

“That budget was difficult to achieve but it was done by excluding all unnecessary costs that were secondary to the judicial process and by setting local salaries at competitive levels,” Skilbeck said. “For example, all staff, including judges in the court, have to catch the bus to work. The court has no vehicles.”

Moreover, at the Bosnia and Herzegovina tribunal it was determined there was no need for security. Skilbeck said one other way the Bosnia trial kept costs down was by having a very streamlined administrative staff – for example, a personnel department of two to manage a staff of 400.

The vast majority of the new revised budget, however, would go on staffing. The number of staff in the ECCC’s judicial offices has doubled, and overall the court will be adding 28 UN posts.
The revised staffing rates for the UN side of the tribunal are now estimated at 168 posts of which 65 are in the judicial offices and 103 in the Office of Administration. The Cambodia side of the tribunal is estimated to need 362 posts with 62 of those being in the judicial offices and 300 in the Office Administration.

This estimate does not include a salary for the proposed Special Advisor, a position many donors are eager to see established as soon as possible. The Cambodian government is not in favor of the idea. According to several sources, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told the UN last week the position was not necessary.

“It is broadly acknowledged that there have been problems at the ECCC in terms of management of this project and we would be grateful for any help we can get,” said Skilbeck.

“Any international court needs expert advice on how to operate. And now, with six international tribunals under its belt, there are individuals with a broad range of experiences on how best to run hybrid tribunals. It would be silly not to take advantage of that expertise in order to make the ECCC as efficient as possible.”

The original budget of $56.3 million for three years was to pay for five to ten persons to be tried.

Global casino developer sets sights on beachfront

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 02, January 24 - February 7, 2008

London-listed casino developer Queenco Leisure International (QLI) announced it has purchased land on the southern side of Sihanoukville and will invest $10 million in building a beachfront resort and casino.

Company official Daniela Cormano said QLI purchased nine hectares of land located along beachfront near the area of Ream National Park and the Sihanoukville airport in February.
He said the development project will start in the near future.

“It is a tourist project that combines the good weather and beautiful beach,” Cormano told the Post by email on February 6. “It is very likely that it will attract more tourists.”

QLI, which is also listed in Tel Aviv and describes itself as an emerging markets casino developer, said in a statement that the nine hectares comes in addition to its earlier acquisition of 48 hectares of land in Sihanoukville and includes the exclusive rights for a stretch of beach in front of the site.

“Foreign investment is primarily driving the significant increase in real estate value in Sihanuokville and the surrounding areas,” the statement said.

“The company aims to develop a destination beachfront resort around the casino and will include hotels, conference centers and other related attractions.”

Within the last few years more than 20 coastal beaches and islands southwest of Kampot and Sihanoukville have been leased to local and foreign companies for the tourist developments worth millions of dollars, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), which governs investment projects.

Garment workers strike as industry growth dips

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 17 / 02, January 24 - February 7, 2008

Factory brings in gunman to disperse picket lines

The Chinese owners of a Phnom Penh garment factory hired a gunman to disperse 700 striking workers outside the factory on February 7.The strikers gathered outside the factory of Phnom Penh Garment City Co. Ltd as part of an ongoing protest over the cutting of their monthly food allowances, but they were dispersed after being menaced by the gunman. No shots were fired.
Once the gangster left the workers reassembled, said Kao Meng, the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia representative at the factory.

But the owners have no will to resolve the problem for the workers and have refused to reinstate money for the monthly food allowance.

With workers at two of Phnom Penh's garment factories entering their third and fourth weeks of strikes, Chea Mony, the president of FTUWKC, said that without serious improvements to corruption levels and the correct implementation of the law, the garment industry Ð an economic lifeline for the country will disappear within three years.

The union launched the strike on January 25 and forced the Phnom Penh Garment City factory, which produces Cowboy-brand jeans, trousers and shorts, to close on February 4.

Union representative Kao Meng told the Post that 700 of Phnom Penh Garment's 800 workers will not return to work until the $6.38 monthly bonus, in place since 1998 but taken away after the factory changed hands in July 2007, is reinstated.

Earlier, the union contacted the Ministry of Labour, and one of its representatives met the factory employers and employees in an effort to solve the dispute. Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Labour, Oum Mean, said neither party would agree so the case had to be sent to the arbitration council.

I think if both employees and employers respect the law, problems like these will not happen. The employees have the right to protest but I suggest that they do not disturb the social order, Mean said.

Owners at the factory could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, a second ongoing strike, also overseen by the Ministry of Labour, was launched in mid January by the Coalition of Cambodia's Apparel Workers Democratic Unions (CCAWDU) at the Chinese-owned Kingsland Garment (Cambodia) Ltd.

This strike is also continuing, with the factory forced to close after a majority of the 600 workers went on strike over the general state of working conditions and the dismissal of two CCAWDU member workers.

The ministry wants to meet the employers and employees in both factories again, hoping to have both cases solved after Chinese New Year.

Cambodia's deteriorating industrial relations come as the Kingdom grapples with external market pressures. For an industry that employs 350,000 people and accounts for over 80 percent of foreign exchange exports, the 46 percent drop in garment exports during 2007's fourth quarter is of crucial significance to the country's economic future.

Cambodia, directly affected by increasing regional competition from China and Vietnam, is also feeling the effects of the US economic slump. The US imports at least 70 percent of CambodiaÕs garment exports.

While the Free Trade Union of Workers president, Mony, welcomed last monthÕs Phnom Penh-based third National Industrial Relations Conference focus on improving communication between employers and employees, he was "also pessimistic that what they discussed were very loose ideas."

"It shows good intentions but no practical means for implementation," he said.

During the day-long conference, which concentrated on collective bargaining agreements and union representation, discussions were also held about how to improve working conditions and productivity in the garment industry.

Speaking at the conference, senior labour administrator and industrial relations specialist for the International Labour Organization's Bangkok sub regional office, Abhik Ghosh said, "The focus should be on finding common goals and areas of common interest and concern. Cooperation should be learned and practiced until it becomes a habit."

Mony says this is easier said than done. "Collective bargaining agreements are a good idea but they are not going to be of any use until the judiciary system is fixed."

On December 28, Mony wrote to the president of the Garment Manufacturing Association of Cambodia (GMAC), Van Sou Ieng to suggest talks about increasing garment factory workers salaries, which he believes have not kept pace with the rising cost of living. His request was refused.

However, GMAC Secretary General Ken Loo said, "We have always opened our doors to unions."

Loo said minimum wages were regulated at the end of October 2006, increasing $5 per month from $45 to $50. "After their implementation on 1 January 2007 it was clear that new wages would not be established until 1 January 2010," he said.

But the outlook for industrial relations and labour disputes is not all bleak. According to Acting Minister Othsman Hassan for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, strikes in the garment industry fell from 86 in 2006 to 80 in 2007.

At New Island Clothing (Cambodia) Ltd, where the Free Trade Union of Workers is also present, general manager Adrian Ross said he cannot recall any industrial relation problems in the seven years since the factory opened.

"Being so close to the workers on a ground level means I know what works. I donÕt think factory managers should have a problem with the unions if they're doing nothing wrong," he said.

Ross believes one of the reasons there have been no disputes at the factory, which employs 816 people, is that the middle management team is Cambodian.

This is unique in Cambodia, and Ross said the high level of mutual respect among his workers is one of the main reasons for success.

Tuomo Poutianen, chief technical advisor for Better Factories Cambodia, a division of the International Labour Organisation, said that "90 percent of Cambodian factory owners are foreigners, and while this brings a wonderful mix of cultures to the industry there needs to be a move towards Cambodians in middle management jobs."

He said there is a disparity in training programs and demand in Cambodia. "The government and GMAC need to create means for young Cambodians to learn skills needed for middle management in the garment industry. It is timely to start thinking about helping the next generation to train for jobs that are available,"he said.

Blind master the last link to Cambodia's classical musical legacy

Cambodian Chapey Dorng Veng (Khmer guitar) Kong Nai plays music as his wife listens at his house in Phnom Penh, in this May 11, 2007, photo. Over the blast of an electric guitar shuddering out of a karaoke machine nearby, Kong Nai was trying to speak of a time when Cambodian music could reach back through the millennia. AFP
By Ros Sothea

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Over the blast of an electric guitar blaring out of a karaoke machine nearby, Kong Nai is trying to make himself heard as he talks of a time when Cambodian music reached back through millennia.

It could channel those things that defined his country, both simple and ornate, he says - from the shimmer of a green rice field to the gilded royal courts of the great builder kings.
But he stops his story, perhaps unable to think over the howl of the karaoke's tortured speakers.

Or perhaps he is simply unwilling to contemplate the future of his older, gentler craft, under assault from modern tastes with little consideration for old men and their music.

For many younger people, fed with a steady diet of glossy Thai and Chinese-style pop, Kong Nai is an anachronism and his chapey - a boxy instrument with a long, graceful neck that is strummed like a banjo to create a repetitive, droning counterpoint to chanted poems or improvised songs - is uncool.

"I have no hope," he finally said, sitting on the porch of his tumbledown one-room house in one of the capital's slums.

"The chapey cannot compare to this hip-hop," Kong Nai adds, gesturing towards the nearby house from which the karaoke accompanying dancing at a young people's party is blaring.

"Only a few of the old masters are still alive to play the ancient music - what of it when we pass away?" he said. "I am sure the music could easily die."

Officials acknowledge that Cambodia is in danger of losing a piece of its rich artistic legacy.

"People don't understand the value" of the old master musicians, of Cambodia's brightly costumed morality tales and epic dramas, played out through complicated dances and heavily nuanced songs, said Hang Suth, director of the culture ministry's art department.

Kong Nai, like the other few survivors of Cambodia's cultural upheavals, are the last links to a quickly fading past, say officials who also warn that when they die Cambodia will lose part of its soul .

Blinded by smallpox at the age of four, Kong Nai had, by the time he was seven, allowed the darkness that defined his world to also poison his heart.

His disability kept him from school and for years made him the constant victim of small cruelties inflicted by the other children in his village in Kampot province, in southern Cambodia.

"I found life meaningless and wanted to kill myself sometimes. I worried for my future, how I would survive because I couldn't even walk without someone helping me," he said. "I felt useless."

But one evening, as he prepared to sleep, an unfamiliar sound pierced Kong Nai's gloom, carried across the fields from a nearby village where itinerant minstrels had been hired to perform at a ceremony. It was the sound of the chapey.

"I immediately called my mother to take me there," he said, recalling that inspirational flash that would change his life.

For the next several years he memorised poetry at a nearby Buddhist temple, and spent weeks during Cambodian holiday seasons traveling through villages chanting poems in return for small amounts of rice or money.

He first picked up the chapey when he was 13 years old, after struggling to make his voice sound like the instrument.

Surrounded by a musical family - Kong Nai's relatives were masters of traditional Cambodian instruments, as well as chanting Buddhist texts and composing poetry - he quickly excelled.

By 15, Kong Nai had taken up the chapey professionally. His reputation spread among the villages in his province and other parts of the country, where he was invited to sing. His popularity earned him the nickname "Handsome Kong Nai".

"I would never have expected that a blind man like me could earn so much money," he said, a broad, toothy smile spreading across his face beneath the dark glasses that, almost as much as his music, have become a trademark.

The 1960s passed for Kong Nai in a blur of celebrity, wealth and romantic intrigue.

He courted and then married a young woman, Tat Chen, whom he had last set eyes on 14 years earlier when they were both four years old.

She sang beautifully, he said, and her voice helped him visualise what she might look like as an 18-year-old.

"I thought I'd be alone forever - I never expected that she would marry me," he said.

But his relationship was not without drama - a rival for her affections threatened to kill Kong Nai, but by 1963 the couple had settled into an easy domestic routine as his fame grew.

As the war in neighbouring Vietnam escalated, Cambodia enjoyed unprecedented peace and underwent a cultural renaissance, with the chapey's popularity reaching its height in the late 1960s and early 1970s as newly-minted recordings of famous musicians spread across Cambodia.

Kong Nai was among the tradition's superstars and by far the richest in his home province, renowned for his free-style improvisational skills that helped the art form evolve beyond simple poetic recitals.

But Cambodia's drift into the inferno that was consuming the region was inevitable. In 1970 Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the country's leader and a patron of the arts, was ousted in a coup by his top military advisor, General Lon Nol.

"We weren't happy for long after that," Kong Nai said. The country was collapsing in on itself, its corrupt disorganised government battling an increasingly emboldened communist insurgency.

Kong Nai could still work, walking between villages that remained untouched by war, but the crowds were evaporating, and with them the money.

"The country had changed - people didn't care about good music. They cared only for their security," he said.

"What I earned from the chapey was just enough to feed myself from day-to-day."

Like tens of thousands of rural Cambodians, Kong Nai was quickly absorbed into the "liberated zones" controlled by the communist guerillas, known by then as the Khmer Rouge.

Under their rule, he was ordered to only perform songs that described the suffering of farmers under Lon Nol.

"I couldn't sing what I wanted or I would be killed," he said, but Cambodia's misery, and his own, were only to deepen.

Kong Nai was, miraculously, allowed to keep his chapey after the Khmer Rouge wrestled control of the country from Lon Nol and began implementing their draconian vision of an agrarian utopia in 1975.

The arts, music included, had no role in the revolution and like the educated classes performers were slaughtered by the hundreds. An entire cultural legacy was being extinguished.

Kong Nai's role in this new Cambodia was to inspire those toiling on a vast collective farm in southern Cambodia with a brief recital of revolutionary songs once a day to which, he says, "people were forced to listen".

Within a few months it was decided that "there will be no more chapey", the musician recalled, and he was assigned first to harvest corn and beans, and then to making palm rope.

"I worked as hard as the others, but was not given the same amount of food because the Khmer Rouge felt that a blind man could not do the same amount of labour," he said. "A scoop of porridge was my food."

His family was assigned to a remote area of the country, and Kong Nai, alone and without his music, was more isolated and vulnerable than most. "No song, no music and no chapey. We only heard the voice of Khmer Rouge soldiers," he said.

In its final years, the regime's paranoid leadership had begun to turn on itself and increasing numbers of people were disappearing in purges.

Kong Nai's family came under suspicion after being accused by another villager of being American spies and he was imprisoned for three months.

Later, he said, he was sure to be marked for death when a regime cadre ordered the disabled and elderly to prepare to leave for somewhere else.

"I knew my family and I would die," he said.

Instead, he was left overnight in the forest after one of his children was wounded in a landmine blast. The following day, invading Vietnamese troops overran the area.

It was early 1979 and Kong Nai, and his long-suffering country, were free of the Khmer Rouge.

First Bites: Cambodian restaurant opens in East Tacoma; Ranch House BBQ rides out storm in Olympia
Tacoma, WA -February 9, 2008

Tacoma’s melting pot has a new culinary adjective: Khmer, the indigenous food of Cambodia.
“It’s between Chinese and Thai food,” said Sovanna Eang, who, with her husband, Tharath “Bro” Eang, opened Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant on Dec. 21 in a former Vietnamese eatery in the K-mart shopping center at the corner of East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue in Tacoma.

Sovanna Eang said her 40-seat restaurant is “the first true Khmer-owned restaurant in Tacoma.” It’s the first restaurant for both Sovanna and Bro Eang, both natives of Cambodia, both of whom share the cooking.

As I encountered the Eangs’ home-style cooking, chewy Chinese-style flat noodles and leafy Chinese broccoli stood out in mee katang stir-fry ($7.95). Familiar Southeast Asian ingredients such as lime leaf, galanga and lemon grass anchored samlah kako ($8.95), a smooth and mild green curry soup textured by seeds of bulbous Thai eggplant and accented with prhoc, the Cambodian fermented fish paste. I ordered my soup with sweet and tender pork ribs (fish and chicken are other options); green papaya, green beans and pumpkin filled out the bowl.

Star anise, a seed used in both Chinese and Thai cuisine, added sultry depth to beef stew ($6.95, on the specials board). This was a fantastic bowl of stew. Beef short ribs were spoon-tender, meaty and flavorful in deep-brown broth thickened with potatoes and chopped peanuts. Melt-in-my-mouth beef tendon was the stew’s tastiest surprise. Get the toasted baguette to soak up all the stew.

Whole fried tilapia ($10.95) was crispy outside, moist and flaky inside. Noodle soups, papaya, mango and seafood salads, deep-fried hot wings, and fresh spring rolls round out the menu.


1314 72nd St. E; Suite A3, Tacoma; 253-414-2262. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.


After being displaced by a devastating mudslide in December, Ranch House BBQ checked into downtown Olympia’s Governor Hotel. Actually, it was invited to take up rent-free residence until the restaurant got on its feet.

After opening its new location Jan. 4 (and closing the takeout restaurant it had opened down the street last summer) Ranch House is finding its footing.

“We’ll probably be negotiating a lease to stay here,” Ranch House co-owner Melanie Tapia said this week.

As for the original Ranch House location off Highway 8, Tapia said, “It’s questionable whether we’ll rebuild.”

There’s no question about this: Ranch House’s barbecue – apple-and-cherry-smoked brisket, pulled pork and pork ribs – was as good this week as it was when I gave the restaurant a four-star review in May. Ordered on the sampler platter ($21.99), slow-smoked brisket was alternately tender and chewy. Pork was sweet and moist. Ribs were pink and meaty. Smoked sausage was kissed with fennel.

Ranch House has beefed up its menu with more steaks – hence the new, augmented moniker, Ranch House BBQ and Steakhouse. New steaks include a bacon-wrapped filet, a rib-eye and a porterhouse. I recently went for the 20-ounce porterhouse ($32.99); it was a few flames past the medium-rare I’d ordered but it was as big and tender as the price requires.

Ranch House’s new 60-seat location – the hotel restaurant was most recently occupied by Southern Kitchen soul food restaurant – is comfortable and colorful, with a partially submerged view Capitol Way. Ranch House’s plethora of awards survived the mudslide and have found an attractive home in the dark wood shelves that line the dining room.

A full bar awaits, pending liquor license approval.

While the December mudslide wiped out the location that Ranch House had inhabited for four years, it didn’t wipe out the restaurant’s sense of humor: The Mudslide, an ice cream-and-Oreo dessert, commemorates the event of Dec. 3, 2007.


621 Capital Way S., Olympia; 360-866-8704. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Tuesdays; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.

Multimedia Transmission well received
Feb 08, 2008
Susan Walker

Given that artists and intellectuals are the first to go whenever despots take over a nation, how does a culture survive after the massacre of its people?

This question must have been on Peter Chin's mind when he began the research in Cambodia that fed the creation of his moving and thought-provoking work, Transmission of the Invisible.

A most mature and fully integrated multimedia production, the show begins in darkness and profound silence, suggestive of the silencing of one million to two million Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.

Phon Sopheap and Yim Savann, born in Cambodia in the years after the fall of Pol Pot's brutal regime, begin to dance surrounded by the sounds of a rural village awakening to birdsong. They seem to be telling a story from their pliéed stance, with delicate hand gestures and fingers pointing as if to say, "Listen."

As, one by one, Andrea Nann, Louis Laberge-Côte and Heidi Strauss enter the scene, Cylla von Tiedemann's video projection is a shimmer of green, like biological forms growing under a microscope. The dancers exchange gestures, their movements increasing and spreading from one to the other like signals received and transmitted.

Garnet Willis's sound design creates an enveloping environment and Chin's music, played on flutes, horns and an insistent drumming, is almost hypnotic.

A layering of imagery in sound, spoken word and video creates a montage effect.

Dance is a way of showing the imprint of a culture on a body, like a genetic code. As the three Toronto dancers interact with the two Cambodians, they move in strikingly individual ways, and then combine in gorgeous formations.

Chin has travelled far, geographically and metaphysically, to bring back a story of survival and renewal.

Transmission of the Invisible ends as it began, in silence, but the final silence is one in which to reflect on all that we have seen, heard and felt.

From Cape Breton to Cambodia

Three Cape Bretoners, Tim Gillis, Kayla Pattingale and Andrea Landriault will be heading overseas with a group of Nova Scotians to help build homes in Cambodia. (Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau)

Adventurous teenage trio will help build houses
Cape Breton Bureau
Fri. Feb 8

PORT HAWKESBURY — It’s hard to believe that Andrea Landriault is still just a teenager.
The 19-year-old has already trekked through the Nicaraguan rainforest and sipped coffee at French cafes and will be flying off to Israel this month.

And between her globetrotting, Ms. Landriault has been organizing a 10-day visit to Cambodia to build homes for residents of the developing country. She’s spent nearly two years making contacts overseas, finding participants — and convincing people to take her seriously.

"Age bias has been a major hurdle," she said. "Even among teachers, there’s been a questioning of my capabilities (because) I was only 17 when I came up with the idea."

But after nailing down her first sponsor, Ms. Landriault says she won the respect of her elders.
Now, she’s busy recruiting people to go with her — and the excitement she exudes when talking about the trip sounds like a convincing pitch.

"It’s something that I’m really passionate about," she said. "It’s the chance to help in a way that I’ve never really done before."

Before building homes with the Tabitha Foundation, Ms. Landriault and her team of three others will learn more about Cambodia’s culture and history. Within the first days of arriving, the group will visit the killing fields outside Phnom Penh where tourists now pay tribute to the estimated two million people murdered from 1975 to 1979. Many of those who died in the Communist-led genocide were professionals, according to the Peace Pledge Union, and the country is still recovering from the loss of about 25 per cent of its population and the decades of civil war.

Farmers also have to deal with torrential flooding that can sweep away homes and crops. The eight tin-roof houses Ms. Landriault and her team will build will be on stilts and are designed to withstand the elements, she said.

The team will also spend several days at the Sok Sabay Orphanage.

Working in a developing country will definitely change the way you look at the world and the way wealth is distributed, Ms. Landriault said. Her own frame of mind changed after returning from a month volunteering in Nicaragua.

"I had such a better concept of what it really (means) to be in a developing country," she said. "I realized the importance of global development and how much we really are provided for and how easy we do have it and how many opportunities, equal opportunities, people are given here."

The four Nova Scotians going to Cambodia are 18 to 20 years old.

Grade 12 student Kayla Pattingale said that she thinks the trip will be one of the most rewarding things she’s ever done, but also one of the hardest.

"I feel like it will be a really good experience to go there and get to help," she said. "But I also think it’s going to be really sad, because I’m really soft and seeing (the poverty) is going to touch me."

The group will be fundraising until their May 1 departure. It will cost each volunteer about $3,200 to pay for their flights, accommodations and the materials needed to build the houses.

Anyone interested in making a donation or joining the team can contact Ms. Landriault at

Pol Pot number two blames outsiders for ills

Headshot of Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's right hand man from the Khmer Rouge, during his second public appearance at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh February 7, 2008. Nuon Chea blamed foreigners on Friday for Cambodia's current ills, thereby refusing to acknowledge the legacy of Pol Pot's murderous regime at the U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" tribunal.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Fri Feb 8, 2008

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Khmer Rouge "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea blamed foreigners on Friday for Cambodia's current ills, thereby refusing to acknowledge the legacy of Pol Pot's murderous regime at the U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" tribunal.

"My fellow Cambodians, today Cambodia is enjoying peace, solidarity and national reconciliation and its development is improving gradually," the octogenarian former guerrilla chief, charged with crimes against humanity, said at his bail hearing.

"But difficulties remain due to the influence of foreign countries that are hindering Cambodia's growth," he said without elaborating.

His only other words were in praise of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a one-eyed ex-Khmer Rouge fighter who defected to Vietnam in the late 1970s before returning with the 1979 Vietnamese invasion that ousted Pol Pot's four-year reign of terror.

An estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died of torture, disease and starvation under the ultra-Maoist regime as Pol Pot's dream of creating an agrarian peasant utopia descended into the nightmare of the "Killing Fields".

The effects of the "Year Zero" revolution and the nearly two decades of civil war that followed are still being felt 30 years later, with Cambodia one of the poorest and most heavily mined countries in Asia.

The court is expected to rule on Nuon Chea's bail request in several days. He is highly unlikely to be freed.

Besides Nuon Chea, top cadres now in custody are former President Khieu Samphan, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, and Duch, head of Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng, or "S-21" interrogation and torture centre.

Pol Pot died in 1998 in the final Khmer Rouge redoubt of Anlong Veng on the Thai border.
(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Michael Battye and Bill Tarrant)

Cambodian genocide victim confronts former Khmer Rouge leader in courtroom

The Associated Press
February 8, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia : A Cambodian genocide victim confronted a former Khmer Rouge leader in a courtroom Friday, demanding to know who was responsible for the "hellish regime" that killed 1.7 million people, including her parents.

Tribunal officials called it a historic moment when Theary Seng took the stand on the second day of a hearing of former leader Nuon Chea's appeal for release from pretrial detention at Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal.

"It's the first time a victim is able to stand up and confront a defendant. It's extremely symbolic," said Peter Foster, a tribunal spokesman. "We made history today."

The hearing ended without a ruling on the appeal.
Nuon Chea, who was the main ideologist for the now defunct communist group, has been held since Sept. 19 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his involvement in the Khmer Rouge's ruthless 1975-79 rule. He has denied any guilt.

He is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders detained by the tribunal, which is expected to hold the first trials later this year.

Prosecutors have argued that continued detention is necessary to prevent Nuon Chea from pressuring witnesses, destroying evidence and escaping, as well as for his own safety, which could be at risk if he was released.

Nuon Chea sat stoically across from Theary Seng in the courtroom as she testified. When she was 7 years old, Theary Seng and her 4-year-old brother were "shackled and held under inhumane condition in a Khmer Rouge prison," she said.

"If Nuon Chea claimed he was not responsible, who was then for the loss of my parents and other victims' loved ones?" asked Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American who heads the Center for Social Development, a nonprofit Cambodian group monitoring the country's judicial system.

"What we know is that Nuon Chea was the second leader after (late Khmer Rouge leader) Pol Pot. It was a hellish regime."

Theary Seng's testimony was allowed under tribunal rules that give victims an unprecedented voice in the proceedings, the tribunal said.

Nuon Chea's defense had contested having victims testify at the hearing on his appeal for release, while accepting that victims have a right to participate in other aspects of the tribunal. However, the judges allowed their participation.

No Khmer Rouge leaders have ever stood trial for their regime's activities, and there are fears the aging and infirm defendants could die before facing justice. Pol Pot died in 1998.

Nuon Chea was the second defendant to appear before judges to appeal for release from pretrial detention. He asked the judges to use their "pure conscience and wisdom" in deciding on his appeal.

Prak Kimsan, chief of the five-judge panel, set no date for announcing the ruling.