Friday, 27 March 2009

Finding face: Tat Marina moves on

Tat Marina as a rising star of the karaoke scene.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cat Barton and Sam Rith
Friday, 27 March 2009

After surviving a brutal acid attack, former karaoke star now fights impunity.

"In today's Cambodia, the God of Impunity reigns side by side with the King of Corruption," said then-King Norodom Sihanouk in 1999. A decade later, Cat Barton and Sam Rith see if Sihanouk's assessment still holds.

TAT Marina was beaten unconscious by the bodyguards before the well-heeled, middle-aged woman poured five litres of nitric acid onto her face. Brought to by the pain, the teenage girl flailed around in agony on the market floor, in full view of dozens of horrified onlookers, as the caustic liquid melted her skin, liquefied her flesh, burned off her ears, blinded her eyes and washed away her young, beautiful face.

"When those people did that to me, they took my life away, made me live in hell, I survived but something died [that day]... that's how I feel - I am alive but something of me died," Tat Marina said Tuesday by phone from the United States, where she now lives as a political refugee.
Ten years after the brutal, broad-daylight attack, Tat Marina's story remains still another of Cambodia's examples of impunity. The alleged perpetrator, Khoun Sophal, wife of Marina's then-lover, the high-ranking minister Svay Sitha, has never even been questioned by police, despite having an outstanding arrest warrant against her. Svay Sitha himself has been promoted to secretary of state at the Council of Ministers.

"I just want them to pay for what they've done. It would be a warning to other people: Do not hurt other people. They took my life away, took my future away.... I know how it feels and I don't want anyone else to feel like me now," Tat Marina said.

Like many other victims of crimes by high-ranking officials, Tat Marina has never been able to seek justice in the Cambodian courts. But a new film titled Finding Face, by filmmakers Skye Fitzgerald and Patti Duncan, seeks to give Tat Marina a voice within the court of public opinion.

"This family has been living under the spectre of injustice and threats for nearly a decade now. It's time they had a chance to exercise their fundamental right to free speech," Fitzgerald said via email, explaining why he decided to make the film.

"Marina's case continues to be (and should be) an embarrassment to the government of Cambodia," he wrote. "Although Cambodia is in theory a democratically elected government, the reality is that it is a functioning dictatorship run by Hun Sen and a fairly small circle of well-placed government officials. Svay Sitha happens to be one of these - and it is this corruption at the highest level that allows cases like Marina's to be slipped under the rug."

Overseas interest, local amnesia
The release of Finding Face, which was launched at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva in March, follows the December 2008 release of a graphic novel, Shake Girl, produced by the Stanford University Graphic Novel Project and inspired by Tat Marina's story.

The book follows Tat Marina's rise from poverty-stricken student to fruit-shake vendor (hence the name of the book) to karaoke star - and describes how, as a 15-year-old singer, she caught the eye of then-undersecretary of state Svay Sitha, who initially told her he was an unmarried American businessman. When she discovered the truth, Tat Marina says she tried to leave him but he responded with violence.

"I fell for him because he used sweet words," Tat Marina said Tuesday. "Now, I never speak to him. It's over between him and me."

A criminal investigation was launched after the attack, but progress was stymied by police fears of probing too deeply into the machinations of the rich and powerful.

Svay Sitha paid the costs of Tat Marina's medical treatment after the attack - on the explicit condition that she would not press charges against him or his wife. Eventually, Tat Marina's brother, Tat Sequando - who was then studying medicine in the United States - got her to America, where she received reconstructive surgery at the Shriners Burns Institute in Boston. They managed to rebuild the basic elements of her face, but the extensive damage from the attack is still clear.

"I feel awful when I walk on the street and people stare at me," she said. "I scare the kids - they freak out because of the way I look."

In the face of continuing local and international outcry over Tat Marina's case, the government argues the incident has been taken out of context and used by activists to unfairly lambaste their management of the country.

"It is an injustice for Svay Sitha that the case of his wife has been politicised and used to [advocate for] a law or regulations relating to women's rights protection," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post last Friday.

"The case of Svay Sitha's wife has been used to denigrate the government because Svay Sitha is a member of the government," he said, adding that the couple had divorced in 1999 soon after the attack, and while Khoun Sophal should face the legal repercussions for her actions, these were not applicable to Svay Sitha.

But according to opposition parliamentarian and former Minister of Women's Affairs Mu Sochua, this is a typical response from a government immune to criticism.

"It is so shameful. Kick [Svay Sitha] out of government. That he is at the Cabinet level, that he has been promoted despite this attack [on Tat Marina] is an insult to justice," she said.

Svay Sitha did not answer repeated calls to his mobile phone, and when tracked down by reporters after a Council of Minister's meeting Friday, he declined comment.

"I do not talk to journalists. I have nothing to say to you," he told the Post before slamming the door of his black four-by-four and driving away.

A convenient amnesia afflicts government and police officials over Tat Marina's case.

"I have never seen the arrest warrant [against Khoun Sophal]. The case occurred before I became the Phnom Penh police chief," Touch Naruth said March 16.

Sy Define, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said she had "no idea" about Tat Marina's case or why there had not been any prosecution.

Yet the case has never been closed and the warrant against Khoun Sophal is still outstanding - it was issued in December 1999 and is, under Cambodian law, valid for 10 years.

"Law enforcement officials cannot simply wash their hands of Tat Marina's case by saying that they don't remember it," said Naly Pilorge, director of Cambodian rights group Licadho. "They have an obligation to investigate crimes and bring perpetrators to justice, and in this case it is clear that they have deliberately refused to do their duty."

Photo by: PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SKYE FITZGERALD Tat Marina has undergone multiple operations in America to rebuild the basic elements of her face, but the extensive damage caused by the attack is still visible, and she says she feels self-conscious when people stare at her.

ACID ATTACKS: a decade of suffering

Overall, since 1999, there have been at least 127 acid attacks reported in newspapers, with a total of 208 victims. The number of victims is higher than the number of attacks because acid is a very messy weapon and bystanders are often injured as well as the intended targets of the attacks. At least nine of the victims died, with the remainder often severely injured. Of the 208 victims, 112 of them were male and 96 female. The youngest victim was a three-week old baby, injured in an attack against the mother.

(Source: Licadho)

Copycat attacks?
The impact of the impunity extended to Svay Sitha and Khoun Sophal is far-reaching. Although accurate statistical data is scarce, there was a sharp increase in reported acid attacks in the months and years after Tat Marina's attack, and the subsequent lack of a prosecution made headlines.

According to Licadho statistics, in the six months from December 1999 (when Tat Marina's attack occurred) until May 2000, there were 14 other reported attacks - the highest number of acid attacks in any six-month period in the past 10 years.

"I am sure there are more attacks. It is like the traffic in Cambodia. Who dares touch a [government] car? So now, all the people say ‘If you don't chase the big man, why should I have to follow the law?' and it becomes part of culture," said Mu Sochua.

The idea that her case could have motivated similar attacks, in part, inspired Tat Marina to make Finding Face. Despite her fear of unlocking memories from the attack, Tat Marina, who now works in a store managing customer returns, felt compelled to tell her story.

"It was so hard to make that film ... I was so confused and so lost, I didn't know what to do with [my emotions]," she said. "But I had heard there were a lot of copycats out there.... I don't agree with it [and] I felt I had to fight back, had to get justice."

Now, Tat Marina's life revolves around her 4-year-old son.

"It is so hard to leave my past behind. I am trying, but I am happy now I have my son and I love him more than anything," she said.

"He makes me strong and helps me hold on to everything, and makes me more mature, not like a little kid like before."

For Licadho's Naly Pilorge, if acid attacks are to be eliminated in Cambodia, then they must be prosecuted regardless of who the perpetrator is. As long as some attacks are not prosecuted because the perpetrators have powerful connections, it sends a message that this is not a serious crime that demands punishment, she said.

Until that happens, Tat Marina hopes her story will serve as a cautionary tale.

"I just want to tell [all young girls] to be careful, whatever they do, because what happened to me - I just don't want something like that to happen to anybody, to any young girl," she said.


Kingdom of Impunity: a few of the many cases yet to be solved

July 1999
Piseth Pilika, actress
The famous star was shot in the back at point-blank range and died several days later on the operating table in Calmette Hospital. French magazine L'Express implicated Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany. The investigation is ongoing, police said Tuesday.

February 2003
Om Radsady, senior adviser to then-Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh
Om Radsady was shot outside a city restaurant around midday and died later that day. The killing of the widely admired former MP sent shockwaves across the political spectrum, not least because of widespread suspicions that elements within the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) were behind the high-profile murder. After earlier dismissing Om Radsady's murder as the act of a petty thief, the Ministry of Interior now admits there could be a political motive to the killing. The investigation is ongoing, said Mok Chito, Penal Department director at the Ministry of Interior.
April 2003
Sok Sethamony, Municipal Court judge
Sok Sethamony was gunned down while his car sat at an intersection. Two men pulled up on a motorbike, firing five shots and hitting the 42-year-old judge four times. He was rushed to Calmette Hospital, where he later died. The investigation is still ongoing.

October, 2003
Touch Srey Nich, singer
Chuor Chetharith, reporter Touch Srey Nich, 24, was shot in broad daylight along with her mother, who later died. The singer, who performed songs supporting Funcinpec ahead of the August election, was shot twice in the face and another bullet was lodged in her spine in the attack near Hotel InterContinental. She is still paralysed and now lives in America. Three days earlier, a pro-Funcinpec reporter, Chuor Chetharith, was gunned down outside his office at Ta Prohm radio in Phnom Penh.The motives behind the shootings were not clear, but the work appeared to have been done by professionals. Both investigations are still ongoing, Mok Chito said.

January, 2004
Chea Vichea, Free Trade Union Leader
The popular union leader was gunned down in broad daylight while he read a newspaper at a newsstand near Phnom Penh's Wat Lanka. He was shot at point-blank range by a man in his 20s who then made a getaway on the back of a waiting motorbike. The men convicted for his murder, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who are widely regarded as scapegoats, are now free pending further investigation. Mok Chito said Tuesday that his police force never closes the investigation on any case until the perpetrators had been arrested. "We are still investigating all the cases [cited by the Post]," he said.

Acid attack gets graphic

Photo by: David van der Veen
Eric Pape (left, with recorder) with former Khmer Rouge cadre Ieng Sary in late 1996 in Northwest Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cat Barton
Friday, 27 March 2009

Journalist Eric Pape worked with a team of Stanford University students to create Shake Girl, a graphic novel about Tat Marina's fate. He spoke to the Post's Cat Barton.

What drew you to Tat Marina's story?

I initially wrote an article about Tat Marina because, while what happened to her was so unimaginable on a personal level, it encapsulated so many of the horrors that women endure in Cambodia, as I had seen first-hand during my years as a reporter there.

I also knew from the start that the graphic nature of Marina's nightmare risked spurring people to turn away from a newspaper or a magazine article about it. But as a sophisticated comic book, violent scenes don't tend to turn people away. It is just drawings. That said, in the end, if readers know that a book like Shake Girl is inspired by real stories, they have learned about something that they might not have otherwise been willing to.

What does it say that acid attacks are often committed by women?

The violence that permeated the souls of so many people in Cambodia in the 1970s affected women, as well as men, obviously, and brought horrific acts of violence into the realm of something that people just do. Also, it is interesting that even Cambodian women of great privilege feel so vulnerable in relation to their husbands that they become convinced it is within their rights, capabilities, and the rules of their elite circles that they can maim or kill younger competitors for the hearts or loins of their men. If such women are going to seek grim vengeance, why wouldn't they seek it from their own husband, rather than a girl or naive young woman who often doesn't really want to be in the relationship in the first place. The thought must run through the attacker's minds. But they can't. Their husbands are often their pathway to wealth, a sort of marital sugar daddy that they are entirely dependent upon for their societal status, their privilege and their prestige.

How hard was it to create Shake Girl?

Writing a book as an individual is a challenge, but a group collaboration like this brought up countless complex issues. And six weeks isn't very long for such an experiment. [But] I think that a respect for the story and the subject matter made for a very strong sense of purpose for all concerned. People worked to get it right, emotionally, for people like Tat Marina and Piseth Pilika, as well as for similar victims of violence in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India and elsewhere.

Is Cambodian society going backwards? Why?

It is hard to say that things are going backwards in the sense that modern history in Cambodia has been so cruel to so many people. But we can say that the state of rights, respect for the law and political violence should be judged on the basis of the massive investment of time, energy and billions of dollars in resources that have been injected into reviving Cambodia. How is it possible that some of the nation's most prominent critics can continue to be gunned down or eliminated with impunity? And you don't have to oppose the government. This culture of impunity allows people to kill over money or maim young women for fear that they will eat into their position of "first" wives. The victims might be a poor country girl, a popular singer or the most popular actress in the nation.

Why is there no attempt to prosecute Khoun Sophal?

From a practical standpoint for Cambodia's leaders, the problem with setting a standard of justice is that it should - and ideally would - apply to all. How can justice go after the people who attacked Tat Marina in front of many eyewitnesses ... without going after the person who ordered the murder of actress Piseth Pilika, or the attacks on other singers who were the "second wives" of other prominent figures. Then there are the men in these affairs. Those married men - in some cases, the most prominent people in the country - know that the girls or young women that they are interested in cannot refuse them. They also know that their wives might deform or kill those girls. The sad fact is that the Cambodian government has plenty of members who have been involved in gross human rights violations, and many others who have covered them up. On sensitive cases, police don't work for the people of Cambodia. Neither do the courts. They work for the rich and powerful.

What could donors or diplomats do about high-level impunity?

The "international community" has many tools at its disposal. It could refuse to interact with any of the people in the government that it knows were involved with grievous human rights violations of a personal or military nature. It could refuse to be involved with people involved in mass corruption. It could freeze bank accounts. There are countless tools. But at a minimum, the US government and European Union members could deny visas to people linked to such horrific attacks, particularly when survivors or their family members reside in Europe or the US. On a moral level, that would be a minimum.

What do you hope Shake Girl will achieve?

It is hard to imagine that a documentary or a book could bring real justice in Cambodia. If such projects help, that's great, but what it really does is remind people of such injustices - that the pain doesn't end and neither should the search for justice. All storytellers, journalists, writers and others can do is to try to keep the memory of such stories alive until there is justice.

Could the KR tribunal end the culture of impunity?

The tribunal may turn out to be better than nothing, but not by much. The torturous road towards getting the Khmer Rouge tribunal moving three decades late often seems more like a sign of ongoing impunity than of its end. The delaying games that the government has played with the UN over the last decade, the great effort it went through to make sure that no one can be indicted and convicted without local judges (who endure well-known local pressures), and the tiny number of people being prosecuted hardly seem like any great warning to current criminals and potential criminals who might contemplate engaging in horrific crimes, much less those who are planning to murder an individual or throw acid on a pretty young girl.

Tribunal ignoring US role, says Chomsky

Noam Chomsky says the Khmer Rouge trial is a farce and that American leaders should be on trial for illegally bombing Cambodia and supporting the Lon Nol dictatorship.

A history of political resistance

Noam Chomsky is one of the world's most noted political thinkers and was called the most important intellectual alive by The New York Times. He rose to prominence during the Vietnam War, becoming a leading left-wing critic of US policy. He is a prolific author and critic of the media, and is a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology. His expertise on Cambodia dates back to the 1970s, and he has written extensively on the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese occupation in the 1980s. In this interview with the Post, Chomsky discusses the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the American bombing of Cambodia and Cambodia's expanding ties with Israel.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George McLeod
Friday, 27 March 2009

Linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky speaks to the Post's George McLeod about the ‘farcical' shortcomings of Cambodia's war crimes court.

Top Khmer Rouge leaders are now in detentionat the war crimes tribunal. Is a UN-backed trial the best way forward, or should it be left to the Cambodian people?

I think it should be left to the Cambodian people. I can't imagine a UN international trial. But then, it shouldn't be limited to the Cambodians. After all, an international trial that doesn't take into account Henry Kissinger or the other authors of the American bombing and the support of the KR after they were kicked out of the country . That's just a farce - especially with what we now know about the bombing of Cambodia since the release of the Kissinger-Nixon tapes and the release of declassified documents during the Clinton years. There has been a very different picture of the scale and intensity of the bombing and its genocidal scale. For an international trial to omit this would be scandalous.

How far down the chain of command should prosecutions go?

I think that's a decision for Cambodians to make. The questions should be: Should [the prosecutions] be limited to KR criminals, or how about criminals from the Lon Nol regime, or later, but those are decisions the Cambodians need to make.

You can make a case for an internationally run trial, but as I said, it would be absolutely farcical if it was restricted to Cambodians.

The records say that the US wanted to "use anything that flies against anything that moves" [during the bombing of Cambodia], which led to five times the bombing that was reported before, greater than all bombing in all theatres of WWII, which helped create the Khmer Rouge.

So to try to excuse their crimes from the broader picture may be sensible for Cambodians who are trying to find some internal justice and reconciliation, but for the broader picture, it's simply farcical.

So you think US leaders should be tried in connection with the DK regime?

Not just in the context of the DK regime - that's afterwards. I think supporting the KR after the DK, after they were kicked out - or supporting the Chinese invasion to punish Vietnam for the crime of driving them out - that's a crime in itself. But the much worse crime was by Kissinger-Nixon, and it's pretty hard to disagree with analysts like Ben Kiernan ... who released the documentation during the Clinton years. Their conclusion was that this bombing, which really had genocidal intent - anything that flies against anything that moves - essentially changed the KR from a small group into a mass army of what they call enraged peasants bent on revenge. How could you omit that when you are discussing the Khmer Rouge atrocities?

Are you saying the KRT is a show trial?

These trials altogether have a very strange character - the most serious of all the tribunals since WWII was the Nuremburg trials, and that was a well-designed, carefully executed legal proceeding.

An international trial that doesn't take into account Henry Kissinger ... thats just a farce.

But if you look at it closely, it was a farce. That was implicitly conceded to allow the Nazi war criminals to be tried. They were some of the worst monsters in history - and there is no doubt they were guilty. They had to define a notion of war crime, and it was post-facto - they were being tried for crimes after they committed them.

The trial had a very clear definition of war crime - it was crimes that you committed and that [the Allies] didn't.

So, for example, the bombing of urban centres was not considered a crime and the reason is very explicit: The Allies did more of it than the Germans.

The bombing of Japan frankly levelled the country and was not considered a crime because [the Allies] did it - in fact, German war criminals were able to exonerate themselves if their defence was able to demonstrate that their counterparts in the West did the same thing.

For example, a German submarine admiral who did commit war crimes by normal standards was freed from those charges when he brought into evidence testimony from an admiral in the British and American navy saying, ‘Yeah, that's what we did, too'. This was recognised, and chief prosecutor Jackson, he made a very eloquent speech to the tribunal where he said we were handing the defendants here a poisoned chalice, and if we sip from it, we must suffer the same punishment or else the trial is meaningless.

Well, we have sipped from that chalice numerous times since. The chief crime was the crime of aggression - the supreme international crime - and count the times the US and Britain have been guilty of outright aggression. Have they been tried?

It's a farce - victor's justice - and if you run through the rest of the trials, they pretty much have the same properties. In fact, I can't think of one that has been honest in this respect - the only ones I can think of that have been honest are the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions like in South Africa, El Salvador or Guatemala, where they brought out what happened and identified the perpetrators. And in many cases, it was done very honestly, and by the victims - they're the ones that testified.

Why are the KR on trial and not other leaders? Some Israeli generals, for example, have been accused of crimes against humanity.

An Israeli general would never be tried because they are backed by the US. These things reflect power systems. Very often, the people that are tried deserve to be tried and sentenced, but the structure of the trials has exonerated the powerful.

The position is extreme. The US is the most powerful country in the world, and it's also the most extreme in rejecting any form of judicial control. It is the only country that rejected a world court decision.... And that's why an Israeli general can't be tried. If an Israeli was brought to The Hague, the US might invoke what Europeans call The Netherlands Invasion Act. The US has legislation authorising the president to use force to rescue any American brought to The Hague.

So you're saying that this trial is not about justice?

There is an element that is about justice. You take Nuremburg again. There is no doubt that the accused were guilty - but is it justice? You take [executed Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von] Ribbentrop - one of the crimes for which he was sentenced was that he supported a pre-emptive strike against Norway. Well, at a time, Norway was a threat to Nazi Germany, of course, and he ordered a pre-emptive strike. But what did Colin Powell do? Iraq was no threat.

Some have accused you of writing favourably about the Khmer Rouge. Were you unfairly criticised?

It's ridiculous. In fact, there has been a massive critique of some of the things that Edward Herman and I wrote, and my view is that they were some of the most accurate things that were written in history.

Nobody has been able to find a missed comma, which is not surprising. Before we published the chapter, we had it reviewed by most of the leading specialists on the topic, who made some suggestions, but basically nothing.

Our main conclusion was: You have to tell the truth - don't lie about our crimes by denying them, and don't lie about their crimes by exaggerating them. In fact, what we actually did ... the main thesis is a comparison between Cambodia and East Timor. And it's a natural comparison: massive atrocities going on in the same part of the world - the same years. East Timor went on for another 25 years afterwards, and relative to population, they were about at the same scale. And what we found was that there was massive lying, but in opposite directions.

In the case of East Timor, it was ignored and denied. In the case of Cambodia, it was wild accusations without a particle of evidence. So what was the fundamental difference? In Indonesia, we were responsible, and we could have done something. But in the other case, an enemy was responsible.

A major Israeli delegation visited Cambodia recently. Should Cambodia be embracing trade with Israel, or do you back a boycott?

It's the same moral issue that arises all the time - even with the trials. Yes, Israel is doing terrible things. Why? Because the US is supporting it. It's like Indonesia and East Timor. As soon as Clinton told the Indonesians that it's over-they didn't have to bomb or boycott - they just told them it's over. They withdrew instantly. If the US stopped providing military, economic, ideological support, Israel couldn't do what it's doing. Well, why doesn't anyone talk about boycotting the US? Because it's too powerful.

Demand for high-end shopping plummets

The high-end retail sector had seen rapid expansion in recent years following growth in the Cambodian economy, but the recent economic downturn brought on by the global crisis has caused a slump in sales, retail outlets say.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Friday, 27 March 2009

Shopping malls and supermarkets report drop in sales of between 20 percent to 50 percent as Phnom Penh's consumers feel the pinch.

SHOPPING in supermarkets and malls - a fairly recent trend in the Kingdom - has dropped off, with the economic downturn forcing consumers to cut back on spending, Phnom Penh's major outlets said this week.

Four of the city's main shopping centres have reported that sales have plummeted since the beginning of the year.

Sales at Sovanna Mall have been reduced by half, said That Rithy, a representative of the store.

Svanna Mall opened in July last year and pulled strong sales until the end of 2008. But the subsequent onset of the effects of the global economic crisis has hit sales, he said.

Pencil Supermarket General Manager Svay Sovann Ratana's said sales at his store have dropped 20 percent.

The country's marquee mall, Sorya, located in the heart of Phnom Penh, has seen a 25 percent drop in sales, according to its general manager, Lam Sopheap.

"Customers have less cash to spend since the financial crisis forced their incomes down," he said.

Food sales had remained relatively stable, while consumers were acquiring fewer nonessential items like electronics, he added.

"I keep spending on food, but I won't spend on things that are not important," said Pen Rechana, 37, an independent land speculator shopping Thursday in Sorya.

2007 and 2008 were boom years for business, she said, but the dropoff in the rea-estate sector had hit her personal finances, she added.

Sorya and Sovanna have tried to keep retailers operating in their retail units by offering reduced power costs, they said.

But for retailers, the slight reduction in operating costs has been far outpaced by a much steeper decline in retail sales. "It has become very quiet," said Touch Sotheara, who runs a shoe shop in Sydney Shopping Centre.

Staff reported a 30 percent decline in sales at Sydney since the turn of the year.

"Customers come just to look; they don't buy as often as they did last year," he added. "Last year I earned between US$1,000 and $1,500 a month. Now it's more like $500 [a month]."

Cambodia has seen a downturn in a number of key sectors in recent months, leading to increasingly low GDP growth forecasts for this year.

The Asian Development Bank is due to revise its prediction for 2009 downwards next week.

Isolated Iran takes business East

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses crowds at a recent rally.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George Mcleod
Friday, 27 March 2009

As Western countries ratchet up the pressure on the Islamic republic, Iranian officials say that trade and investment with Asia is growing steadily, despite the global economic crisis.

With Western political and economic pressure on Iran mounting, the Islamic republic's officials tell the Post that Asia is at the front line of the country's trade policy.

Cambodia is likely to become an increasingly significant trade partner with Iran as it builds commerce ties with the non-Western world, analysts said.

Even with the economic crisis cutting global trade and investment, Iran's trade with Asia continues to grow. Two major delegations have visited Southeast Asia in the past two years, with more high-level visits in the works.

"Iran is working hard to increase bilateral relations with all countries in the region," said Iran's Ambassador to Thailand Majid Bizmark.

He cited trade with China, which has skyrocketed from US$9 billion five years ago to more than $20 billion in 2008; and Thailand, which is expected to grow from $800 million currently to $1 billion next year.

Trade with Cambodia remains small, but the ambassador says that officials hope that will change.

Stronger Iran-Asia relations come as trade and financial ties with the West are hit by ever-tightening sanctions.

"In the situation [Iran] is in, with hostile countries in the region, it needs to make as many friends as it can ... obviously Iran has to take a strong stance," said Reza Molavi, executive director of the Centre for Iranian Studies at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

In the situation [iran] is in, with hostile countries in the region, it needs to make as many friends as it can.

The United States has led an international effort to isolate the Iranian government, which it says is sponsoring terrorist groups and working to develop a nuclear weapons program.

Iran cites reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency that say no evidence has been unearthed to indicate Iran's atomic program is weapons-related.

US law bars investment of more than $20 million in Iran, and financial transactions are severely restricted.

The US Treasury reported that more than 40 banks reduced their operations in Iran due to US pressure.

One of Iran's responses, analysts said, has been the Look East policy, creating ties with Asian countries that stress noninterference. Iranian officials say the program is an ideal match between energy-rich Iran and energy-hungry Asia, where foreign policy is also driven by noninterference.

"Look East is one of our top foreign policy priorities, and Cambodia is certainly one of the countries we are looking at," said Iran's ambassador.

Stronger ties with ASEAN are high on the agenda, and Iran has applied for Sectoral Dialogue Partnership with the regional group, which would put it on par with India as a partner nation.

Military and energy cooperation are also in the works through Iran's move to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a group that some analysts tout as a possible competitor to NATO.

The global economic crisis has failed to dampen Teheran's drive to increase trade, political relations and major energy deals.

For Cambodia, Middle Eastern countries may soon become important players in the agricultural and telecoms sector, led by Israel, Qatar and Kuwait. Iranian investment is being welcomed for a country being hit by the economic downturn.

"We are in talks with a number of Iranian investors for property and agriculture ... Iran is not yet a big player, but that could change," said a local business leader who asked not to be named. "We are certainly keen to attract Iranian investors," said the source.

The government could not provide data on Iranian investment in Cambodia for 2008.

But some Iran experts downplayed Look East.

"[The sanctions] are having a serious impact on the Iranian economy. They are doing a variety of things to get around this, most of it is muddling through. They need to address their policies with Western countries," said Steven Cook, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC.

Iran rejects West's pressure

Iranian ambassador to Thailand Majid Bizmark says his country is looking East.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George McLeod
Friday, 27 March 2009

Iranian Ambassador to Thailand Majid Bizmark discusses Iran's plans in Asia with the Post's George McLeod.

Iran says it is pushing for stronger economic political and economic ties with Asia through the Look East policy. Can you say a bit about Look East?

The "Look East" policy devised by Iran in recent years is ... [to increase] trade and economic ties with Asia, along with political interactions. Iran is also keen to foster her participation with the Asian community through ASEAN in different fields including energy, tourism and investment.

Nowadays, more than 60 percent of Iranian trade is with Asians.

Iran is under pressure by Western-led trade sanctions. Is Look East an escape route from the sanctions?

It is not the case. The financial sanctions are not working at all. In fact, the sanctions have helped us to stand on our own feet. The will of the Iranian nation is too powerful to be affected by those hollow, obsolete methods. You have seen we have made giant leaps in technology and were able to launch a satellite. The sanctions haven't been effective. Our people have benefited by looking to the local economy. As well, we have had good experiences dealing with Asian countries that we consider are our true friends.

Do you believe Iranian-US relations will improve with the more moderate Obama administration?

The negative approach of the [Bush] administration was criticised and condemned, not only in the Middle East but also widely around the world. They made the mistake of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. With the new administration, we would like to see practical steps for the changes they have claimed. They say they want change; now we are waiting for that to happen. There has been a lot of propaganda, but we are waiting to see what they do.

The recent International Atomic Energy Agency report expressed concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Do you have any response to the findings?

Iran believes in the non-questionable right of all nations to use peaceful nuclear power. Unfortunately, some monopolist powers, as a routine behaviour against developing nations, have put tremendous pressure on Iran to derail it from enjoying her rights to access new technologies.

We are a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but those that are not members are free to develop a military nuclear program, such as the Zionist regime [Israel]. That's a double standard that the world is witnessing.

The scarcity of fossil fuel, huge demand for abundant electricity ... as well as environmental considerations have forced Iran to strive for renewable energy sources including solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power.

Now Iran's annual electricity demand is growing by 8 percent and should be addressed in an economical and more environmentally friendly way. We need nuclear energy for the development of our economy.

This program isn't for military purposes - in fact it's against our religion [to have nuclear weapons].

Why should we stop our peaceful activities when it is the right of our people? They [Western powers] have no right to use this as a political issue.

Naga forced to end all sports gambling

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Friday, 27 March 2009

FOLLOWING a government reprimand of NagaWorld, the casino has ended sports-betting operations but maintained its core gambling operations.

Keat Chhon, minister of economy and finance, said Thursday that his office issued a letter at the beginning of last week demanding NagaWorld fall in line with last month's nationwide state ban on gambling.

The order was confirmed by Chea Peng Chheang, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance who is in charge of the government's relations with the gambling industry.

"In the letter, we told them to stop all activities banned by the government order," he told the Post Thursday.

The government action comes in the wake of criticism against NagaWorld's exemption from the sports-betting ban at the end of last month.

Nancy Chau, the officer manager of Cambo Six's Phnom Penh office - the company that had been the country's most popular sports-betting establishment before the government ban - previously complained that NagaWorld continued taking sports bets, an exception the government said was because Cambodians are prohibited from going there.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said Thursday that NagaWorld should have been reined in.

"It's the biggest casino and it's along the riverside, in plain sight of all tourists," he said.

Pushing artistic boundaries

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Video art from "Virtual Geometries."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Erin Gleeson
Friday, 27 March 2009

The all-video art exhibit ‘Virtual Geometries' aims to change the landscape of creative communication in the Kingdom.

Throughout the 1960s pioneers of video art began using new technology that enabled them to instantly play back recordings rather than wait for film processing. The portable and closer-to-real-time process was liberating for artists who were all searching for new ways to communicate.

Nearly a half-century later, artists and audiences in Cambodia are appreciating video as an art form. Despite the time and technology lag, the country is not as far behind as it might seem. Only in this decade have the world's leading art schools widely validated video art as an area of study.

While the few art schools in Cambodia seem far from offering degrees in any contemporary medium, informal education opportunities seep in via workshops with visiting artists, offering students options beyond their classical training, such as video art.

"Virtual Geometries" - an exhibition dedicated solely to video art - opens at the French Cultural Centre this Saturday. Its production was organic and can be traced to the complementary paths of its co-curators - Colombian-born artist Carlos Franklin and French Cultural Centre Director Alain Arnaudet.

While Arnaudet created the collaboration system between Cambodian and foreign artists, Franklin, who graduated from the esteemed Le Fresnoy - a postgraduate art school in France known for its excellence in all audiovisual media - both worked with artists and made selections of video art from around the world.

Of the 26 artists in the show, four are Cambodian, while many others have connections with Le Fresnoy or are based in Phnom Penh.

The wide-ranging material that was collected or created offers a thorough introduction to video art under the theme of "landscape".

"As Phnom Penh is changing so quickly, I decided to choose work that considers in some way our landscape or surroundings," Franklin said.

Audiences can discover works - all under 15 minutes - in a variety of ways. Single-channel videos play on old television and new plasma screens, and as projections onto walls. Some videos are silent, others need headphones and still others fill the gallery space with sound.

Only in this decade have ... leading art schools widely validated video art as an area of study.

A 10-minute piece by Swiss artist Anna Katharina Scheidegger is perhaps a good example of accessible and strong video art that relies on low technology and no language. The making of the video was spontaneous, said Arnaudet.

"Scheidegger happened to be wearing her camera when she noticed a simple and comic scene of a man with a large belly looking out to an unknown landscape."

In the video, we see the man straining to see something in the distance as he uses his hand as a visor to block the sun. Other characters join him, standing on the same plane and looking out with the same gesture. Scheidegger never turns her camera. We never learn what they are looking at. Consequently, she shows us there are other things worth knowing, like not knowing.

Arnaudet characterises Schiedegger's witty approach as the height of a learning curve.

"Artists can move little by little from capturing something [akin to a] straight documentary, to something more personal, to something more removed or conceptual until they are always ready to catch things like this."

Cambodian classical dancer Belle Chumvan Sodhachivy, who collaborated with Phnom Penh-based multimedia artist Victor Corolleur, is beginning to understand this learning curve.

Corolleur found himself working backwards from his usual process in which he first defines sound, which he often samples from the natural environment, as inspiration for visual content and finally overall concept.

"One day he asked me to dance a colour, the next day he asked me to dance a sound. We did this without any color or sound in the room, though," she said. The result is Belle in the City, two three-minute, twenty-second videos.

When asked to consider how Cambodian audiences may react to the exhibition, Belle said, like herself, most Cambodians have never considered video as art.

"But maybe," she added, "because now we know TV commercials and film trailers, which sometimes have suspense, we can understand a little more now than we could before."

In effect, "Virtual Geometries" is describing a tradition, but also helping to define and create one.

The exhibition opens this Saturday and runs through to April 4 at the French Cultural Centre.

Koupreys made to look small

Brunei prop Shafiee Matali (centre, facing) is tackled by Kouprey prop Chro Kim Seang with Sam Chanphearom (left) looking on during Wednesday night's Asian 5 Nations reginal tournament match.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ray Leos
Friday, 27 March 2009


The Cambodian national rugby team were outsized and outclassed Wednesday by Brunei, who won comfortably 21-10 in Savannakhet, Laos.

Brunei exploited its size advantage in the forwards and scored on two interceptions as it defeated the Cambodian Koupreys, 21-10 Wednesday night at Savannakhet National Stadium in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Southeast Asia Regional Tournament.

It was a satisfying victory for the Brunei side, as it rebounded from a 28-8 defeat at the hands of Laos in its tournament opener Sunday night.

It also marked the first victory for Brunei in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Series' second year of competition, after being drubbed last year by Guam 76-0 and the Philippines 101-0.

"I'm so happy for our boys to finish up here with a win," enthused Brunei coach Steve Pyrgos. "Our game plan all along was to work through our big forwards to move down the field and wear [Cambodia] down."

For the Koupreys, it was another disappointing performance as they were again plagued by costly penalties and inconsistent play from their backs.

"It was same thing, just like last year," said disappointed Kouprey captain Pich Ratana. "Except for the last few minutes of the match, we couldn't do anything with our running."

Kouprey's veteran number eight Chey Sophal added that the Kouprey forwards also didn't play very well.

"We didn't get a good push in the scrums and we were going backwards much of the time," he said. "I know Brunei was bigger, but we've beaten a lot of bigger teams in the scrums before. That should not have been a problem [Wednesday] tonight. I don't know what happened."

Both sides played each other evenly through most of the penalty filled first half, which saw three Kouprey players - wing Bros Sophorn, centre Francois Bleriot, and Chey Sophal - yellow carded.

Brunei finally broke through in the 38th minute, as fullback Petrus Tuan darted in front of a startled Kouprey flyhalf Chan Samedi to make an interception, and then sprinted 70 metres untouched for the try. Scrum half Richard Chu made good on the conversion, giving Brunei a 7-0 lead at the intermission.

The Koupreys answered back in the opening minutes of the second half as fullback Nheb Rotha fielded a kick and raced in for the try from 80 metres. But halfback Pich Ratana missed the conversion to allow Brunei to keep a two-point advantage.

The Koupreys were unable to muster a consistent running attack during the second period, and Brunei started to keep the ball in close among the forwards, winning the set pieces and slowly wearing down the smaller Koupreys.

With 15 minutes to go, Brunei began an impressive scoring drive from the 50-metre line, using eight phases of hit ups and pick-and-goes by its front five to move swiftly down the field. The drive culminated with flanker Faez Anuar rumbling in to score from five metres out and Tuan's successful conversion kick extended the Brunei lead to 14-5.

However, the match was far from over as the Kouprey backs, who up to that point had been effectively shut down by the Brunei defence, finally found some gaps to run. In the 75th minute, Chan Samedi took a pass off a ruck from ten metres out to score a try and narrow the gap to four points. Pich Ratana missed on his second conversion of the night, and the score remained 14-10.

Brunei kept its poise after the ensuing kickoff and maintained the pressure, pinning the Koupreys inside their ten-metre line. Brunei victory was confirmed with a minute of regulation time to go when Brunei prop Shafiee Matali intercepted a pass by Kouprey flanker Ut Vuthy and ran in for score from five metres out. Tuan's final conversion of the night capped the scoring at the final whistle.

Kouprey coach Peter Maley felt his team suffered from a lack of consistent play and focus.

"Our backs looked like they weren't running on all cylinders, and our forwards, who usually play well, looked out of synch in the scrums," stated Maley.

"Brunei played well and had a good game plan, but we also beat ourselves with penalties, dropped balls, and missed passes."

Despite the disappointing loss, Maley praised the play of a number of his younger players, in particular, Nheb Rotha.

"Rotha looked a little shaky in the opening minutes. I think he was a bit nervous, this being his first international and all. But I think he settled down and played very well in the second half, especially after he scored that try."

Cambodia next plays host Laos Saturday night in the final match of the tournament and Maley hopes his players will focus on the challenge ahead.

"Laos beat us both times last year, and they are constantly improving. We are going to have to be at our best on Saturday to win."

Kickoff for Saturday's match at Savannakhet National Stadium is slated for 8pm.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: Five-year health grant from USAID

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Friday, 27 March 2009

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Thursday a five-year, US$77 million health program designed to support the government's national health plan and expand upon existing efforts to combat HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. With the new program, US support for the Cambodian health sector will total $175 million over the next five years. USAID funding for the year 2008-09 totals $35.5 million, including $15.6 million devoted to HIV/AIDS programs.

In Brief: Education ministry announces grants

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 27 March 2009

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport plans to provide more than 3,000 scholarships for students to attend 13 universities in the 2009-10 academic year. The universities include the Royal University of Phnom Penh and the National University of Management. The ministry said at least 10 percent of priority scholarships would go to students in remote rural areas and 15 percent would go to poor students.

In Brief: New NA session set to open

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 27 March 2009

The National Assembly is to begin a new session on Wednesday, Cheam Yeap, a member of the assembly's permanent committee, told the Post. Cheam Yeap, who is also chairman of the assembly's Banking and Finance Committee, said Thursday the assembly would debate a range of proposals from the Council of Ministers, including proposals pertaining to relations with Kuwait, Hungary and the Czech Republic. He said the assembly would also formally approve an agreement reached with India that would enable the transfer of prisoners between the two countries.

Day in Pictures

Crocodiles in the famous "Dead Fish Restaurant". Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Vegetables in the market. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodian children water lettuce at their backyard in Chambak Meas village, Mok Kampul district, Kandal province, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, March 25, 2009. They help their family after the school.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Harm Sokhun, 60, plants lettuce at her backyard in Chambak Meas village, Mok Kampul district, Kandal province, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, March 25, 2009. Sokhun begins her lettuce plantation on Wednesday and will wait about more than three weeks before collecting to sell it at the market.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Interior Design

D.B. Kim
March 27, 2009
Photography by D.B. Kim.

“We perceive atmosphere through our emotional sensibility – a form of perception that works incredibly quickly, and which we humans evidently need to help us survive.” –Peter Zumthor

What a glorious experience to walk through the temple of Angkor Wat! Stepping through the columns leads to various inner courts, giving one the opportunity to calm down and forget the intense humidity of Siem Reap, Cambodia. While passing through the processional columns, tip-toeing and hopping over the graces of paved stones, I sensed spirits and angels. They helped me hum forward to peel away layers of the walled colonnades.

Angkor Wat is a national treasure of Cambodia—important enough to be found in the center of the national flag. Angkor Wat translates as “City of Temple” and, in turn, is a complex of temples built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Another important fact: it was a Hindu temple at first, dedicated to Vishnu, but later became a Buddhist structure.
Architecturally, there are two plans to Angkor: the older one, inspired from India, called Temple Mountain, and the more recent Galleried Temple. Thus, as a Khmer temple, it has the profile of a high mountain, with vertical and horizontal layers of galleries.

Through these different galleries of temples, one experiences a graceful procession, and, due to the incredible passages, the mood is peaceful and hallowed. While traveling through colonnades, one often arrives at irregular apertures: openings that provide options to change directions or take a break to enjoy the framed views.
Small and large, old and new, one should be inspired by the processional qualities within a space like Angkor Wat. The photos I have taken represent the city of temples in an elemental way. I hope you enjoy.

Living On A Knife Edge Under Pol Pot - A NZ Cambodian's Story
Friday, 27 March 2009

Ahead of the first trials of Khmer Rouge leaders starting on Monday, MAGGIE TAIT of NZPA talked to Cambodians who fled to New Zealand during the Pol Pot regime. This is Sambath Mey's story. Wellington, March 27 NZPA - Sometimes he felt he was about to be executed any minute.

"People sleeping next to me get picked up and disappeared," Wellington man Sambath Mey describes life under Cambodia's brutal Pol Pot regime.

Mr Mey came to New Zealand in 1980, married his sweetheart who he met in a refugee camp, and set about educating himself by working almost full-time while studying commerce at Victoria University. Now a public servant, the father of three young-adult children recalls nearly dying of starvation and the fear of execution when he was a young man.

The Mey family were fruit growers in Prey Khmeng village in Siemreap Province when the extreme communist Khmer Rouge gained power. Mr Mey was living in Phnom Penh studying at university in 1975 when the city fell to Khmer Rouge forces.

"I thought that's just impossible."

The fall of Phnom Penh marked Year Zero and the start of a new calendar under the Khmer Rouge. Their first act was to order the refugee-swollen population of about 2 million out of the city to work in rural communes.

The streets were thick with people and Mr Mey said it took a day to travel a kilometre.

On the way he lost what he calls his naivety.

A young soldier directed him to stand to the side of the road to make way for expected high ranking Khmer Rouge but after losing his spot a few times Mr Mey stepped back on the road after the soldier passed.

"This time I heard the cranking of the gun up to here (Mr Mey points at his head) and I think by the time he's finished talking I was probably no more.

"I thought these people meant business."

He took off his glasses at that point realising all the bizarre stories that the educated were considered part of an elite class and were first to die were true.

Bodies and other signs along the road made the reality of their situation sink in even more.

Mr Mey with his sister Chheng who was studying to be a teacher and some university friends broke away from the slow chain heading east out of the city to go north where a friend had family.

Eventually after being turned away from other villages along the Mekong River they were allowed to stay in the relatives' village called Taek in Kandal Province about 30km north of Phnom Penh.

From May 1975 that was their home for just over three years.

Life was hard. Digging in fields, manual pumping of the land, back-breaking labour. Free time involved sitting at meetings and avoiding saying anything that could have them singled out for punishment or death.

The lowest point for Mr Mey was when he was sent to work away from the village for the entire dry season. Camped by a rice field meant there was no way to boost food supplies by picking fallen fruit or other opportunities in the village and he nearly starved to death.

When offered food he couldn't take it.

But he had a lucky break, the rain came and the village wanted its workers back and he managed to pick up and start eating again.

Mr Mey said he nearly died several times and was lucky not to be one of those taken for "re-education" in the middle of the night.

His village was relatively moderate. Each village belonged to a commune, a few hundred metres away but in a different province's commune all the "new people", as city evacuees were known, were killed in a single night in 1978.

"If I were to go half a kilometre away I would've perished."

Vietnam liberated Cambodia in 1979 and Mr Mey eventually managed to get a bike and regain his health before travelling to his family village.

He discovered his parents and youngest brother were dead. The last time he saw them was in 1973. Mr Mey, chatting and detailed in his narrative until now, clams up.

"It was very cruel," is all he can say.

The other siblings -- scattered across the country with one brother Chhoeung Mey living in New Zealand since 1974 on a study scholarship -- all remarkably survived.

"A combination of good luck, some planning and I don't know."

Mr Mey spent about seven months in refugee camps on the Thai border before his New Zealand-based brother found him and organised to take him here.

"I was skinny to the bone, I was almost dead. It took me about six months to recover."

Chhoeung Mey lost his wife and children to the regime but managed to take a brother and sister back to New Zealand.

Mr Mey's fiancee was sponsored by a church group and was able to bring her family. They married in October 1981.

Mr Mey had worked hard and fast to learn English before emigrating.

He found the new country "quiet, unbelievably quiet. In the camp there was 100,000 people."

It took him a while to realise he was free to come and go.

Mr Mey's story from there is one of hard work -- he did manual labour jobs working up to 30 hours a week while he studied for his commerce degree. Since then Mr Mey has achieved an accounting qualification and worked in a variety of roles.

"I am doing reasonably well. I am not a person to complain a lot, I tend to be content with what's available."

Asked what he thought of the trials of Khmer Rouge before the joint Cambodian-international court that New Zealander Dame Silvia Cartwright is sitting on, he noted that only a few at the highest level Khmer Rouge are being held accountable.

"It's good that they do that but it seemed to take long and whether they are going to achieve anything I am not too sure. I just want to move on in a way.

"At some time we have to move on, forget the past."

* Maggie Tait is travelling to Cambodia with the assistance of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Impacts On Kiwi Lives
Friday, 27 March 2009

Thirty years since the end of Pol Pot's bloody rule in Cambodia one of his henchmen is to finally go on public trial on Monday. MAGGIE TAIT of NZPA talks to New Zealanders whose lives were impacted by the regime and what they think of the trials.

Wellington, March 27 NZPA - Rower Rob Hamill's brother Kerry was killed at the torture centre and prison run by Kaing Guek Eav or Duch who goes on trial on Monday.

If he had a chance to send a message to the 66-year-old former teacher, Rob Hamill said it would be to acknowledge "the terrible pain that he and the other leaders of the regime caused, the complete loss and grief that was felt and the impact it had on our family.

"I often think about how things could have been better, not that things are terrible, but you know having Kerry in our lives would have (been better)."

Kerry Hamill was 27, sailing from Singapore to Bangkok in August 1978 with Canadian Stuart Glass and Briton John Dewhirst when their yacht strayed into Cambodian waters and they were arrested.

Records at the prison show Mr Hamill was forced to write a 4000-word "confession" that claimed his father was a colonel in the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who had recruited him into the agency.

Under torture, he described in considerable detail CIA plans to subvert the Khmer Rouge regime, then he and Mr Dewhirst were killed. Mr Glass was shot earlier.

Mr Hamill's treatment was also meted out to the 14,000 mainly Cambodians who entered the doors of S21 or Tuol Sleng.

Most victims at the prison were tortured and forced to confess to a variety of crimes -- mainly of being CIA spies -- before being bludgeoned to death in a field on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Women and children and babies were also killed. Few inmates survived.

Rob Hamill would like to be at the public hearing and has provided the court with a statement but the expense and timing made it impossible to attend.

"I am feeling a compelling sort of need to be out there now."

However, he doubts a guilty verdict would provide the family closure.

"It's more accountability and to see that some sort of justice has been done. It's been over 30 years now and it's about time."

The deaths at the prison were a small fraction of the 1.5 million Cambodians who were starved and worked to death. At least another 200,000 were executed.

Trials of four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are to follow. Pol Pot died in 1998.

Lim Meecham survived the regime, she almost died several times and gave up her two children to other families.

Now living in Wellington, she and husband Roger did manage to reunite the family but the pain is still there.

Mrs Meecham cried silently, recalling the deaths she had seen. The trials produce mixed feelings.

"I want to forget about it. I don't want to remember everything. But people who (are to blame) have to pay for it," she said.

"My life has gone on, I don't want to go back. I hurt enough."

Another of the 4661 Cambodian refugees whom New Zealand accepted between the end of the regime in 1979 and 1992 was Sambath Mey.

He almost starved under the regime and thinks the trials are positive but only a few are being charged.

"It's good that they do (hold trials) but it seemed to take so long and whether they are going to achieve anything I am not too sure. I just want to move on in a way.

"At some time we have to move on, forget the past."

Sovann Dowall struggles to see the point of the trials, especially considering the current Prime Minister Hun Sen's past involvement in the Khmer Rouge.

As a Christian she thinks it is time to forgive but will never forget.

"It cannot bring my dad back, it cannot bring my family back. I feel that it is time to forgive them, they know they are bad, they are scared enough, they are guilty enough.

"I know I can forgive them."

Stanley Harper, originally from Palmerston North, now lives in Phnom Penh with his Cambodian wife. Only a couple of yeas ago he completed a film that took 18 years to make. The message of the film is reconciliation and that is something he does not think the trials will achieve.

"Why didn't it happen before now?"

Harper says the trials seem like a gravy train with lawyers getting incredibly high salaries in a Cambodian context.

"Who are they taking to trial, five old men. Why not seven why not 100 why not everybody over the age of 35? Inasmuch as it was an internal Khmer conflict so maybe everyone in some way was guilty."

Duch has said he ordered people killed to avoid death himself.

"... what would anybody in their right mind do when they see that everyone thing was happening was turning into a genocidal maniac regime.

"You either have to keep supporting it because you're afraid if you don't you're going to be killed. Or if you have the means or possibility you escape, you get out."

Harper does not believe the trials have any deterrent effect and their cost -- $170m for five years -- could have been used in far more practical ways in Cambodia.

"Are these trials worth it? Will they bring anything to Cambodia? I genuinely think the answer is no.

"It's certainly not going to bring around a healing reconciliation process."

Former governor-general and High Court judge Dame Silvia Cartwright is a trial judge for the Duch hearing.

"I think that it will go some way to answering the questions that ordinary people have about how did this happen and what actually happened and who is responsible for the terrible suffering.

"Even a trial just over one institution like Tuol Sleng will help answer a lot of the questions. Whether the accused is convicted or acquitted there will still be a huge amount of information that will come forward during the course of the trial."

A survey of 1110 people by the Victims Participation Project Documentary Centre of Cambodia published this month found 56.8 percent wanted more than the five, including Duch, to be charged.

The centre noted concerns over the slow progress of trials and age and health of those yet to face the tribunal.

Another New Zealander, who prefers not to be named, says the political leadership was part of the problem.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla installed as prime minister by Hanoi in the mid-1980s who was later part of a shaky 1993 elected coalition and has remained in the top job.

Dragging out negotiations for trials was a way of keeping Cambodia in aid donors' minds.

Domestically it was a cautious game with politicians not wanting to be drawn into trials themselves and there were also arguments about how far to reach given the extent of the Khmer Rouge's hold on people.

* Maggie Tait is travelling to Cambodia with the assistance of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Search continues for former Unique Living resident

Shelby Star

Thursday, Mar 26 2009
David Allen

Will answers to Mouy Tang's disappearance soon surface after some technological intervention?

Family members hope so.

Mouy, a 46-year-old native of Cambodia and former Unique Living resident, was last seen Sept. 3 near Burns High School in Lawndale. Subsequent searches haven't unearthed a single lead.

An imaging team from Indiana has the capability to shine a colored light on the world - or at least the areas they take pictures of.

Quyhn Tang, Mouy's sister-in-law, said the team will take several aerial shots from where Mouy originally went missing.

From there, they'll color-code the findings to see if anything pops up.

The color imagery software was developed in Europe and is not available for regular public use, Quyhn said.

"Supposed to be already done or this week coming up," Quyhn said.

Attempts to contact the team for comment were unsuccessful.

Quyhn was told in January that officials drove out to search for Mouy, a diabetic, around 15 minutes after they realized she was gone from Unique Living.

Quyhn said that while Mouy couldn't walk well, she was supposedly long gone when employees began searching.

"Apparently they couldn't locate her," Quyhn said in a previous interview. "It might have taken her 30 minutes to get to that intersection (of Philadelphia Road and Stagecoach Trail where Mouy was last seen)."

The numbers just didn't add up.

Family members recently accepted what some professionals suggested after the last search, Quyhn said.

"She was picked up instead of wandered off," Quyhn said. "We came to terms with it. They did another 5-mile search. Thirty-two people from all over. Nothing."

But the imaging technology could reveal what human eyes haven't until this point.
"They have to have everything back and analyzed by April 15," Quyhn said.

Following the imaging, members of the South Carolina-based S.T.A.R.R. team will be called back for another search based on the new information.

Earlier this month, an independent review panel in Raleigh recommended fining Unique Living, the now-defunct adult care home, $50,000 for three major violations cited in July 2008 by the Division of Health Service Regulation Adult Care Licensure Section.

All three penalties against Unique Living are Type A violations, defined as those that result in death or serious physical harm or the strong likelihood that would occur.

"When you open a facility like this, you are responsible and this should show every facility that they will be held accountable," Quyhn said at that time.

Trust and confidence are crucial, speaker says

The Brown and White

By Fazle Rabbi
Issue date: 3/27/09

Companies and people must be agile and build trust to deal with the economic realities of the world, computer company Lenovo's CEO Bill Amelio, '79, said during a lecture in Perella Auditorium Monday.

High trust organizations tolerate mistakes, share information openly, share credit abundantly and have more positive, creative and innovative people, Amelio said.

"As a leader, it is important not to add a brick to the people working, but to take one away," Amelio said.

Building trust in a business leads to increased efficiency and decreased cost, he said.

"Trust is a factor hard to build but easy to destroy," Amelio said. "If we don't trust, we can't buy, we can't sell and the underlying economy can't be built."

Banks might also refuse to lend money to an organization if it fails to build a certain level of trust with it, Amelio said.

Agility is also important and requires businesses to assume unpredictable and disruptive changes, act promptly when changes occur and decentralize knowledge expertise and decision-making responsibilities, he said.

Amelio said embracing change with passion can help the company flourish in business. He said giving and receiving feedback is important, even when it is difficult, because it allows people to identify mistakes and aim for a change.

Doing one's best with an unshaken confidence level aids the process.

"I never ask my son if he got an A or a B," Amelio said. "I ask him if he tried his best."

Amelio said some of his objectives for a better global economy are diverse global perspectives, the ability to serve anywhere and to operate in all time zones. He said it's important we achieve these goals as soon as possible.

Amelio said the population has been increasing and technology has made worldwide communication easier, reversing what would otherwise become a chaotic process.

Faster means of realization, replication and exchange of ideas have shielded today's world from being affected by the large population when it comes to management, he said.

For example, the introduction of cell phones to Indian fishermen has eliminated their need to travel between market places for the best price, Amelio said. Now, it's just a phone call away.

He said today's products should be labeled "made globally," since most products go through a variety of assembly processes in many different countries with the help of many different people.

Amelio said the best world economy ever seen can be achieved when the East and West come together.

Amelio has worked worldwide as a global leader for Lenovo and launched Caring for Cambodia, a charity organization promoting education for underprivileged children in Cambodia.

Last year, Amelio was the commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2008. In his speech, Amelio said a Lehigh education is one of the best tools to succeed in a fast-moving world.

He also said the secret to success is the ability to admit one's mistakes and learn from them.

Tough Job Ahead For Nz Judge Dame Silvia Cartwright
Friday, 27 March 2009

Dame Silvia Cartwright will next week start to hear the case against a man who ran Cambodia's most notorious torture centre and prison. MAGGIE TAIT of NZPA talks to her about the unusual role.

Wellington, March 27 NZPA - As many as 1.7 million Cambodians perished in the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, 14,000 of them "class enemies" of the Communist regime executed at Tuol Sleng, the S-21 torture centre and prison.

New Zealand judge and former Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright is one of five trial judges who must now decide if the man who ran the prison, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, is guilty of crimes against humanity.

It will be the first case heard by the United Nations-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

It has been a long road to the first case, after the hybrid local-international court was set up three years ago -- a decade after Cambodia sought United Nations help to try those most responsible for the 1975-79 Khmer Rough genocide.

Khmer leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

Dame Silvia, who has been living in Phnom Penh since last July, has been preparing for her role by reading a mountain of evidence.

"I don't think I have read everything by any stretch of the imagination but, by heaven, I've read a fair bit. It's huge," she tells NZPA.

The ECCC is based on the local Cambodian law, with international law and expertise, and uses the Civil Law system.

It varies from the New Zealand system, in which police investigate and a decision is then made whether to lay charges, followed by a preliminary hearing, then a trial.

Under a civil law system, a complaint is made to prosecutors who gather information which goes to investigating judges. After they investigate, a summary of the evidence and charges to be answered is prepared.

That process in the Duch case took a year and was in private. Last month a hearing decided what witnesses would be heard.

The trial judges -- one French, three Cambodians and Dame Silvia -- now have the case file and are preparing to go through it in the public hearing.

"Effectively it's our job to test the evidence in public and to allow the witnesses to say what they need to say in public and we then decide whether there is sufficient evidence to convict."

Dame Silvia has been wading through evidence on her computer in her ECCC office.

Once the trial gets under way she will be allocated certain areas to focus on.

"I might be asked to focus on how S21 or Tuol Sleng was actually established, or I might be asked to focus on methods of torture or focus on how many people died or something like that, and it will be my job to be totally on top of the evidence. The evidence goes to hundreds of thousands of pages."

Unlike New Zealand the evidence can be indirect -- for example there are at least 50 films in the file.

"Unlike our system in common law world it includes everything that anyone ever said on the subject that's been put in this case file, whether its got any evidentiary value or not."

As soon as one of the judges refers to any item in the file it becomes part of trial evidence, and the judges then decide what weight to give it.

"People are still putting material into the case file."

Another challenge for the judges was managing the civil parties. There are 95 in this case but there are thought to be already 3000 applications for the next investigation of senior Khmer Rouge figures and that figure could go as high as 10,000.

Dame Silvia says each civil party the judges approve is allowed to call and question witnesses.

There are more than a dozen civil party lawyers in the court.

Hearing the witnesses proposed by the prosecution is expected to take about three months.

There will be other witnesses and the judges will also be presented with personal information about the defendant.

If there is a guilty verdict sentencing will form part of the judgement.

A former teacher who is now a Christian, Duch, 66, has admitted his guilt, but the legal system as practised in Cambodia has no mechanism for a plea of guilty.

The judges decide his guilt or innocence after considering all the evidence.

It is alleged most victims at the prison were tortured and forced to confess to a variety of crimes -- mainly of being CIA spies -- before being bludgeoned to death in a field on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Women and children and babies were also killed. Few inmates survived.

New Zealander Kerry Hamill, 28, brother of rower Rob Hamill, died at the prison in 1978, where he was taken after his yacht was blown off course.

Apart from the judgement and sentencing, the judges will also have to resolve difficult legal issues around the charges.

They will make decisions on whether civil parties have proved they suffered damage, and whether they are entitled to reparations.

The tribunal has no money to pay financial reparation and no power to order the government to act.

"All we can really do is to say that these civil parties qualify because they have satisfied us they have suffered damages . That's the extent of our jurisdiction."

The ECCC has been beset with allegations of corruption within the administration, and of being politically influenced.

Its budget, originally $53 million for three years, has increased to $170m for five years.

The Cambodian branch of the ECCC is running out of money after a UN report highlighted problems with salaries and over staffing.

A hold has been put on donor money until problems are resolved.

Other accusations included that staff had to pay kickbacks of up to 30 percent of their salary in order to get the job.

Corruption is rife generally in Cambodia, but Dame Silvia says the ECCC is quite separate from the rest of the justice system.

Whatever may happen in the administration of the Cambodian arm of the body, Dame Silvia does not think there is a problem with the judiciary.

"I have no hint of any corruption of any description amongst my Cambodian judge colleagues."

One commentator has said the court's viability is in question.

"I don't believe the court is compromised to that extent," Dame Silvia said.

"If it were, a number of the judges would pack our bags and go away."

Any issues of corruption would have to dealt with in local courts.

NOTE: Maggie Tait is travelling to Cambodia with the assistance of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

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