Saturday, 25 April 2009

Mid-Pacific Institute and UH team up for benefit dance concert

MPI Senior Kristen Lau is featured in "Swarm," choreographed by Amy Lynn Schiffner, a member of the UH Manoa dance faculty.
Courtesy Photo

The Honolulu Advertiser

Reader Submitted

The Mid-Pacific Institute School of the Arts (MPSA) and UH Manoa present a Benefit Dance Concert Sunday April 26, 2 p.m., Kennedy Theatre UH Manoa. Proceeds will benefit the UH Friends of Dance and the Future Light Orphanage in Cambodia.

MPSA dancers selected the orphanage to be the beneficiary of the funds following a visit by the Cambodian orphans to the MPI campus in September 2008. The Cambodian students performed traditional Cambodian dances in an all-school assembly, followed by participation in a dance class with the MPSA dancers.

The benefit program opens with the Pas de Trois from the classical ballet Paquita, featuring MPSA dancers Brittany Hill and Gregory Lau who will be attending the Juilliard School this summer for a three-week dance intensive. Songs of the Spirit with choreography by MPSA faculty Paul Maley and Sylvia Yamada follows Paquita.

This highly spirited work received critical acclaim at the 9th National High School Dance Festival in Philadelphia, PA in March of 2008. UH Professor Amy Shiffner has two works on the program; Swarm performed by Mid-Pacific and A Woman's Song, a new trio for three UH Manoa dance majors. The final piece on the program Sojourn...Shifting Paths, by Paul Win of the Liverpool (England) Institute of the Arts, highlights male dancers from MPSA.

$10.00 general admission tickets are available by contacting Lisa Reed in the MPI Advancement Office, 973-5017 or Doors for the 2 p.m. April 26th event will open at 1:30. For information, please visit

Giving back

The Star Online

Saturday April 25, 2009

Lim Li Lian, 30, has always been adventurous when it comes to travelling, trying anything new and doing as the locals do. This entrepreneur covered most of Europe when she was a student there, learning cultures and picking up languages.

As charity and the environment are topics close to her heart, Lim joined a programme called Rock Your World Cambodia early last year, which focused on issues of the heart and culture.

“Culture, because Cambodia has a lot of interesting history, from the days of Angkor Wat to the recent history of the Pol Pot regime. Heart, because this is a trip where we can contribute, give back and make a difference. I knew that it would be a very meaningful trip both for me and the people I would come into contact with,” says Lim.

Lim Li Lian is afraid of needles but she donated blood for the sake of the children at Jayavarman VII Hospital in Cambodia.

Besides visiting tourist attractions like Angkor Wat, the group was exposed to the local community through children’s hospitals and orphanages, schools, rehabilitation centres for landmine victims and remote villages.

“Visiting the schools was an amazing experience. We bought school stationery, books and food for the children. It was heart-warming to feel the sincere welcome from both the students and teachers. The smiles on their faces and their joy as we distributed the materials were priceless. They have so little but they are filled with joy and hope.

“I felt very blessed to be a part of this. It reminded me of the simple things in life that makes one happy,” says Lim.

One for the album after a friendly football match which the children won — LIM LI LIAN

Lim visited many floating schools along the Mekong.

“It was the dry season so we were able to cycle on bamboo bridges and sandy trails along the Mekong. We stuffed whatever food and provisions we could into our backpacks and the front baskets of our old bicycles and cycled through these narrow, sandy lanes until we reached small villages.

“We stopped to give food to the villagers. We kept handing out all that we had until we reached a school. There, we challenged the kids to a game of football, which they won! It was so much fun laughing and playing with them,” recalls Lim.

One of Lim’s most memorable experiences was a visit to a rehabilitation centre for landmine victims.

“The first thought that came to mind was: how can humans create such cruel inventions? I won’t forget the story of one man who was trained and forced to plant landmines when he was a child during the Khmer Rouge reign. Today, he and his wife have dedicated their lives to de-mining Cambodia.

“Cambodia has a very sad history, a history that continues to disturb me as to how cruel human beings can be. But despite everything, it is encouraging to see the hope and optimism in the people’s eyes,” Lim says.

Distributing provisions to villages on bicycles. — LIM LI LIAN

Another memorable experience for her was when she donated blood for the first time at Jayavarman VII Hospital, a children’s hospital founded and run by Dr Beat Richner.

“This Swiss doctor has dedicated his life to the children of Cambodia. It’s amazing the work he does to save lives. I wanted to help, and the only way I could was to donate blood. I’d never done it before and was afraid of needles, so I focused on the thought that my blood would be helping some kid’s life.

“We also spent a day at a local orphanage, taking the kids out to play and eat ice cream and buying them a month’s supply of food. It was nice to see them happy.”

Following that, Lim went on another trip with the group in October, to Egypt. She is planning to embark on another community journey to Mexico in September.

Cambodia: Doubts over the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Globel Voices
Saturday, April 25 , 2009
by Chhunny Chhean

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is now weeks into its first trial with the prosecution of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, for crimes against humanity and war crimes. But as the trial continues, many wonder how effective the Tribunal will be in achieving national reconciliation, one of the goals of the project. Two major problems are allegations of corruption related to Tribunal funds and the limited number of indictments.

The corruption charges against the Cambodian government concern misuse of Tribunal funds, which were mostly donated by other countries. News reports are available here and here as well as an interview with the lawyer defending Nuon Chea, one of the defendants awaiting trial, posted at CAAI News Media.

Another issue for the Tribunal is that so few of the Khmer Rouge members will be put on trial. The scope of indictments is limited to the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

KI Media posted a piece by retired professor A. Gaffar Peang-Meth from the University of Guam, in which he writes:

The trouble is, the trial of a mere five Khmer Rouge leaders for the death of about two million people in 1975-1979 is far from adequate to bring justice and national reconciliation to Cambodians, to begin healing and promote peacebuilding in the country.

Sopheap Chak does not believe the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will bring justice, in part, because:

The foreign countries that supported the Khmer Rouge, or acted as the main catalyst for the emergence of this cruel regime, will not be brought to court. The tribunal’s regulations indicate clearly that only individuals who committed crimes will be tried.

Chak also does not believe the Tribunal will be able to reconcile the country:

For Cambodian society, real reconciliation will be found only when trust returns between individuals; when they can smile at and trust each other again. Thus, a national dialogue or truth commission should be set up so that people, especially the victims, can fully participate to address their suffering and their needs.

Campaign to Identify Those Who Illegally Connect to State Electricity Lines - Friday, 24.4.2009

Posted on 25 April 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 609

“Because of frequent electricity cuts at public places such as at parks, traffic lights, and road lights, and the shortage of expert electricity maintenance staff, and the lack of different materials, the administration of the municipality, that is the Phnom Penh municipal governor, summoned, in the morning of 23 April 2009, relevant officials from all lower levels for a meeting about the electricity for public lighting, in order to identify and assign clear responsibilities.

“There is suspicion about some bad officials who illegally connect to state electricity, like to connect to electricity to use it for advertisement banners and for different other uses. When officials pointed their fingers at each other regarding this issues, the Phnom Penh municipal governor, Mr. Kep Chuktema, ordered to create a working team to go around to check the electricity systems, in order to identify wicked people - he gave one week for this campaign.

“Mr. Kep Chuktema said, ‘For Phnom Penh, electricity is really important, especially for security and for orderly traffic. Therefore, we have to strengthen electricity security, taking this with high responsibility. Even though we are a state institution, the Phnom Penh Municipality has to pay every month for the daily consumption of electricity, and if we fail to do so, the electricity will be cut off, like it is done also for all citizens – per year, the municipality has to pay more than US$1 million.’ Mr. Kep Chuktema added that if electricity is used in the right way, there is no problem. But he suspects that some bad people illegally connect to state electricity, tapping into the public lighting system, such as to connect to advertisement banners, or night vendors, who sell mixed juice or other things, and connect to electricity sources for which the Phnom Penh Municipality has to pay (instead of them), and the municipality did not know anything about it for many years.

“The director of the Department of Public Work and Transportation, Mr. Nhem Saran, reported, said that public lighting, managed by the Phnom Penh Municipality, such as lighting at different parks and roads and traffic lights, is at 32 parks, at 779 lighting poles set up, 4,844 lighting poles along roads, and 43 traffic lights. There is no problem with the electricity at different parks, since the electricity is cut off when electricity systems encounter disturbances. Also, it is because some bulbs are burnt out, and because of the negligence of some electricians. As for the lighting systems along the roads, some lamps have been damaged, hit by cars or trucks, which makes it difficult for the administration to have them repaired immediately.

“An expert official on electricity, from the Department of Public Work and Transportation, in charge of such work, raised many reasons to the Phnom Penh municipal governor as well as to the whole meeting, saying that at present there is a lack of control of electricity, the working team has only 40 officials and lacks means for monitoring - as they have to use their own means and tools for fixing problems. Moreover, the unit lacks expert electricians and tools used to identify the location of underground cables when they are cut, and sometimes they have to dig up the land for more than 60 meters to find which section is cut. The traffic light system is difficult to control technically, because there are six different types and six different control programs. This official requested the Phnom municipal governor for more electricians, more means, and more tools, and especially to immediate supply tools and spare parts.

“Regarding the strengthening of public lighting, Mr. Kep Chuktema ordered to recruit ten additional qualified electricians for this work for all districts under the control of the Ministry of Public Work and Transportation. The Phnom Penh Municipality will offer materials such as cars for the electricians, computers, and spare parts immediately, by allowing them to be taken from commercial suppliers, and the Phnom Penh Municipality will pay for it.

“At the same occasion, Mr. Kep Chuktema instructed expert officials to pay attention to monitor and observe the lighting systems regularly at the main roads into the city, at important boulevards, and at important places like at the buildings of the top institutions of the government, to make sure that the supply of electricity is not cut.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6632, 24.4.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 24 April 2009

Viettel provides internet for Cambodian schools


VietNamNet Bridge – The army-run mobile phone operator Viettel will provide internet services to 300 schools in Cambodia this year, according to the corporation’s General Director Hoang Anh Xuan.

Xuan made the statement while he was being received by the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, in Phnom Penh on April 22, adding that his company wants to offer Cambodia access to modern technologies to help solve its humanitarian and social issues.

Viettel has already donated 500,000 USD to provide poor Cambodian children with heart and mouth surgery.

The company also plans to introduce a landline phone service for households in Cambodia, he added.

For his part, the Cambodian PM promised that his government would create the right environment to enable Viettel to develop its business there in the future.


Cambodia victims band together to eke out a living

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Published: April 25, 2009

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- By the walls of ancient temples, just as the morning sun dapples the jungle floor and birds sing, survivors of Cambodia's killing fields and minefields drop their crutches, put aside their artificial limbs or blindly grope for their instruments -- and then play music that can break the heart.

A tentative, mournful melody floats from a two-stringed "tro" bowed by Kak Vy, whose right leg is gone. He is joined by a zither plucked by Khieu Sarath, who lost his parents and sisters to Khmer Rouge murderers and whose mine-shattered leg was amputated without morphine. Phun Ath, blinded by a rocket, taps a drum softly.

Now, the first tourists arrive at the wondrous temples of Angkor, and the 20 musicians -- amputees, blind, scarred, all destitute -- hope that by dusk their playing will have earned them enough to sustain their families for another day. Together, they support more than 100 children and wives.

The musicians' lives mirror Cambodia's agony: 3 million dead in three decades of a savage war, American bombing, the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, a civil conflict and now coping in a country where a third of the people earn less than one dollar a day.

Several members of Angkor's two orchestras say they teetered on the verge of suicide before finding hope by banding together to play the music of their ancestors.

"When I lost my leg, I didn't want to live on this earth anymore," says Khieu Sarath. "Before I lost my leg my friends called me 'friend,' but when I became a disabled man even my close friends would call out, "One legged-man, where are you going?'"

Like almost all the musicians, Khieu Sarath describes his trials beginning during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the mid-1970s when some 2 million of his fellow Cambodians perished.

The fanatic communists executed his father because he allowed cows he was tending to stray into a cornfield, and his starving mother because she stole a cup of porridge from the communal kitchen. His two sisters were killed for taking a nap after grueling hours building a dam.

In the civil war that followed the Khmer Rouge fall in 1979, Khieu Sarath set off a land mine during a firefight, writhing in pain for 16 days in a remote jungle until help arrived. Then they tied his hands to a tree.

"My leg was cut like raw meat with a hack saw, without any injections," says the 48-year-old former soldier.

"Life was difficult for a disabled man. At the beginning I did not particularly want to be a musician. But I had no choice. I had to find something that was not difficult for a disabled man and this job fits a lot of people like me," he says.

Khieu Sarath gathered some of the disabled in 1997 and now seven of them play at Angkor's much-visited Ta Phrom, a monastic complex where gnarled roots and soaring trunks of ancient banyan and silk cotton trees intertwine with crumbling, dusky temples -- a scene out of Hollywood's "Tomb Raider," which indeed was partially filmed here.

"Victims of Landmines," reads a sign in five languages. If every passing tourist who clicked a camera donated, the group would be rolling in cash, but as it is they're very lucky to earn several dollars apiece, plus $4 daily saved in a communal pot for any among them in distress.

This help is also extended to the second orchestra, which plays at Banteay Srei, the "jewel of Khmer art," a 10th century temple of pinkish sandstone famed for its delicate wall carvings.

Here, the 13 musicians sit at the temple's edge on a blue plastic sheet spread over a forest floor strewn with winter's withered leaves. The buzz of cicadas and the wind's rustle accompany their sometimes bouncy, sometimes elegiac melodies played on instruments very like those depicted on the centuries-old friezes of Angkor.

Most are ex-soldiers, some even one-time battlefield enemies. Several desperate villagers from the surrounding area have joined them, including Nov Rey, the only woman among the 20, whose husband threw acid on her face for a reason she still can't fathom. A lovely smile shines from her scarred face as she relates what it takes to care of her five children alone.

The group was brought together in 1999 by Phun Saroeun, who lost his left leg and two fingers fighting the Khmer Rouge alongside his two brothers, one now blind, the other missing a leg and both also members of the orchestra. Six of their cousins, an entire family, were exterminated by the Khmer Rouge.

"I hope that a regime like the Khmer Rouge will never return to Cambodia. I hope that my children will not have to endure the same suffering as we did," says the 46-year-old father of seven.

The Angkor musicians say the long delayed, United Nations-backed trial of the top five Khmer Rouge leaders, which began in earnest last month, may bring some closure and peace to them and their country.

"As an ordinary person, I want all five of them to publicly admit before the Cambodian people that they are guilty. I want them to confess that they committed genocide," Phun Saroeun says.

But it's the daily struggle and the fate of their children in tomorrow's Cambodia which absorbs most of their energies, thoughts and dreams.

"There is no one to help us disabled people," says Khieu Sarath, who supports eight children, including an adopted son. "We have to rely on ourselves, help ourselves. If we don't sacrifice ourselves for our children, they will not have a bright future."

Angkor worth the angst

The Windsor Star

Elaine O'Connor, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, April 25, 2009

I'm two hours into a back-road motorcycle ride through the Cambodian countryside -- wind cutting the baking 34-degree heat, dust flying up from the road -- and as I ride I'm treated to a parade of rural Khmer life.

Two women bicycle by in peaked straw hats, a farmer passes with a load of hay strapped to his scooter, another hauls a slaughtered hog, kids ride three to a bike, parents with toddlers sit four to a scooter.

With every teeth-rattling, spine-shattering swerve, I remember my airport taxi driver's ominous warning after I landed in Siem Reap. Three tourists die every month trying to see the wats (temples) from the back of a scooter, he said. I thought he was just trying to land a gig as my chauffeur.

Now, I'm not so sure.

But the effort to uncover Angkor's Beng Malea -- a remote 12th-century forest shrine more than 60 kilometres from the heart of the ancient city of Angkor, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site -- proves well worth my bruised tailbone.

Angkor, Cambodia's star attraction, is considered the seventh wonder of the world, and its archeological mysteries lure four million visitors a year.

The temples of Angkor ("holy city" in Khmer) were built between the ninth and 13th centuries when the kingdom was at its height, with a million people.

It was the seat of the Khmer empire, whose influence extended into Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, and it was the region's most sophisticated city for over 500 years. Archeologists believe it was the largest pre-industrial city in the world.

Beng Malea is a massive, kilometre-square crumbling monument strewn with tumbled rocks the size of small cars set quietly in the jungle. It was built by King Suryavarman II, who also built Angkor Wat. But in contrast to Angkor Wat's tourist throngs and iconic status, Beng Malea seems forsaken, lost and abandoned.

Cambodia itself has profoundly struggled, and tourism to its ruins is just beginning to help it rebuild.

The nation of 14 million was bombed during the U.S. war in Vietnam to flush out Viet Cong, creating two million refugees. A famine followed in 1975 and that same year the rebel Khmer Rouge took power. Pol Pot's Communist Party renamed the country Kampuchea and one to three million people were tortured, slaughtered or died from lack of food or medicine. A Vietnamese invasion in the late 1970s ousted the regime, but 1999 was the first full year of peace in 30 years.

The development and dollars that accompany tourists to Angkor Wat -- arguably the country's top renewable resource -- seem to be having a positive impact.

Angkor Wat itself, the world's largest religious building, makes a profound impact.

The temple was begun in 1112 by King Suryavarman II to honour the god Vishnu and serve as his crypt.

Today, most tourists see it by sunrise or sunset, watching the light pick out details in the 65-metre high stone prasats (towers) and staying to examine the intricate bas-reliefs of devas and asuras (gods and demons) and 2,000 apsaras (divine nymphs) that decorate the palace.

It can be exhausting playing amateur archeologist all day in the 30-degree heat but Siem Reap has lots to offer in the way of rejuvenation.

The city comes to life after sunset and though Siem Reap is a small town, restaurants, night markets and street stalls in the tourist-centric core remain lively well after midnight.

Start the evening with a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned Angkor Palm restaurant near the Psar Chaa (Old Market) and admire the delicate silk wall hangings before tucking in to a Khmer feast featuring the Cambodian national dish, fish amoc.

The creamy coconut-milk fish curry is served with jasmine rice, and the restaurant offers a host of other Asian bites, from pumpkin soup to a spicy papaya salad called bok l'hong and a peppery beef dish called lok lak.

French colonial roots run deep in Cambodia, so good bread here is almost as common as rice, and vendors balance baguettes on their heads on their morning rounds.

For a taste of colonial cuisine try Le Malraux (named for French adventurer Andre Malraux, arrested for stealing temple bas-reliefs in the 1920s), for salade Parisienne, salmon rillettes and cream puffs amid Art Nouveau interior.

Stop for dessert at the Blue Pumpkin cafe, which offers exotic ice cream flavours like banana galangal, green lemon and Kaffir lime, and ginger and black sesame.

End your day with a drink on the terrasse of the Red Piano, a restored French Colonial home with a sweeping corner balcony. Raise a glass of Angkor or Chang brand beers or sip a Tomb Raider cocktail (the restaurant was known as the place Jolie and crew hung out during filming) and toast to the spirit of Cambodia, to the beauty of Angkor, and to the adventurer in you.


- Passes to Angkor are sold at the gate of the archeological park for US$20 for one day, $40 for three days and $60 for a week. A three-day pass will give you time to see the central temples and to explore the countryside to see more remote treasures.

- Prepare for extreme heat -- high SPF sunblock, wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, sunglasses and litres of bottled water are crucial. After 10 a.m. the heat is unbearable. Hydrate early and often.

- Don't bother stocking up on Cambodian currency (the Riel; about 3,300 Riels to C$1) before your trip. Most prices are stated in U.S. dollars and ATMs dispense cash in U.S. dollars. Locals prefer dollars, though they will accept riels.

- Learn more at Tourism Cambodia:

Cambodian break-dancers to visit Philadelphia

Tiny Toones dancers often do outreach along Phnom Penh's riverfront through performance. The hip-hop troupe was founded by a Cambodian refugee who found disciples among the young and poor in Cambodia after he was deported from the U.S. in 1994.
The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Robert Moran
Sat, Apr. 25, 2009
Inquirer Staff Writer

They are being called the first generation of hip-hop stars in Cambodia. Some were street kids from homeless families. Others were abandoned or orphaned.

They are Tiny Toones, a troupe of break-dancers - B-Boys and B-Girls in street lingo - and seven representatives are to arrive in Philadelphia today as part of their first tour of the United States.

How they got to Philly is a story with roots in Phnom Penh and in Long Beach, Calif., and involves a notorious street gang, YouTube, and the Cambodia Association of Greater Philadelphia.

Tiny Toones was founded by Tuy "KK" Sobil, 30, a Cambodian who was born in a Thai refugee camp and grew up in Long Beach, where, as a teen, he became a popular break-dancer.

He also became a member of the Crips gang, and eventually was incarcerated on an armed-robbery conviction.

Afterward, he was deported to Cambodia. He found himself living in a poor country he had never been in before.

As he tried to find his way in Phnom Penh, his western apparel and many tattoos captivated local youths.

"The word got out with the kids that KK knew how to break dance and that he was a famous break-dancer," said Mia-lia Kiernan, 25, youth advocacy program coordinator for the Cambodia Association of Greater Philadelphia.

KK told them he wasn't interested.

"He was already pretty depressed about being in Cambodia in the first place, as he had to leave his family and everything, but eventually gave in," she said.

"The Cambodian kids are finding hip-hop as a voice to express their feelings and their stories," said Vyreak Sovann, 28, a Cambodian American who helped organize the Philadelphia part of the tour.

Sovann, who like Sobil was born in a Thai refugee camp and came to United States as a toddler, discovered Tiny Toones on YouTube while doing Internet research about his Cambodian heritage.

"I was so moved by it, because I saw these kids break dance in Cambodia without shoes, and I was like, 'Wow!' " said Sovann, a former break-dancer.

At first, Sobil taught a handful of children in his apartment. As Tiny Toones gained recognition, it got funding from an international aid organization called Bridges Across Borders to open a multi-service center.

"We have helped Tiny Toones develop a child-protection and education program that has benefited thousands of vulnerable children and youth in Phnom Penh," said David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, in an e-mail from Cambodia.

"It is a shame and somewhat ironic that KK was unable to obtain a U.S. visa to be there with the kids," Pred wrote.

The Tiny Toones multi-service center offers classes in English and Khmer, HIV/AIDS awareness, and job and computer skills.

And, of course, lessons in break dancing.

Kiernan has been following KK and Tiny Toones for four years, and she got to meet Sobil on one of her annual trips to visit her mother in Cambodia.

In fall, she saw an article in the New York Times about KK and Tiny Toones. It mentioned simply that the club had been invited to the United States.

"I e-mailed KK right away and said, well, if you're going to be in the U.S., why don't you come to Philly?" Kiernan recalled.

Kiernan was paired with Sovann, and they have helped to organize a series of performances, fund-raisers and workshops with local break-dancers.

Tiny Toones' first appearance will be at a fund-raiser at noon today at the Khmer Art Gallery at 319 N. 11th St.

The troupe of teenagers includes (using their B-Boy names) Fresh, Homey, T-boy, Khay, Suicide, and K'dep, a rapper. The lone B-Girl is Diamond.

Kiernan yesterday planned to pick up the Tiny Toones in New York and bring them to Philadelphia today on a Chinatown bus.

During their visit here, which will last until Wednesday morning, the dancers will be staying at Kiernan's South Philadelphia home.

"My whole living room is going to be one big air mattress," she said, laughing.

Tiny Toones
For more information about the Tiny Toones dance troupe, go to:

Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")


23 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

22 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 (Part 4 coming shortly)
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

21 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

CNN Documentary Sheds new light on Khmer Rouge Atrocities

Media News International

By MDM Newswire
for Media News International

Published: April 24, 2009

In a groundbreaking new documentary CNN’s Dan Rivers goes on the hunt for Ta Chan, the chief interrogator of the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison camp. For the program, CNN obtained exclusive and previously unseen footage of Ta Chan giving a tour of another Khmer Rouge jungle prison. CNN’s Rivers also details corruption allegations at the Phnom Penh trial of Khmer Rouge leaders, reporting on prosecution and defense fears that the trial will be tainted by the allegations.

As S-21 commandant Comrade Duch and four Khmer Rouge colleagues currently face justice in the UN-backed trial, Ta Chan (left) continues to live in a remote Cambodian village. While he has not been charged with any crime, survivors say Ta Chan played a key role at S21. Rivers talks with Chan’s family as the alleged former torture chief hides from cameras. In exclusive footage from 1996, uncovered by the program’s editorial team, Ta Chan gives a guided tour of what he said at the time was a recently closed Khmer Rouge prison in the jungle. The documentary chronicles in painful detail how torture was part of S-21’s daily regime, resulting in up to 14,000 deaths.

Among the program’s extraordinary moments, a survivor of S21 sees himself on film shot the day he was rescued. At the time, Norng Champhal was a young child, whose mother was among those executed. More than 30 years later, he breaks down in tears, (left) as he sees the images and recounts the horror of the death camp, describing how he survived by hiding in a pile of discarded clothes.

This program also features rarely seen footage from 1998 of the last known TV interview with ailing Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot (left) who led the country into the horrors of genocide. The Khmer Rouge killed a greater proportion of their own people - more than 1.7 million men, women and children - than any other regime in the twentieth century.

Thirty years on, five Khmer Rouge leaders are in court facing the most serious charges imaginable, but both defence and prosecution lawyers tell Rivers that the credibility of the UN-backed war crimes tribunal is being jeopardized by the corruption allegations.

While there are no suggestions the judges or lawyers are involved, employees of the court’s Office of Administration described pressure to to provide kickbacks to supervisors to keep their jobs. The employees say the combined amounts of the kickbacks were large: “Thousand dollars. 30 or 40 thousand US dollars a month.”

The Chief of Defence Section of the trial, Richard Rogers, adds: “It (the trial collapsing) is becoming a real possibility…the victims who’ve been waiting for 30 years for these trials deserve justice…peace…closure.” The UN’s internal affairs body confirmed to CNN it has investigated the alleged corruption in the court administration, but would not share the results of the investigation. The Cambodian government also confirmed an investigation, but says no evidence of corruption was found.

Khmer Rouge Trial Threatened

Asia Sentinel

Written by Susan Postlewaite
Friday, 24 April 2009

Long-delayed justice in Cambodia may be denied yet

Although the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge have been unfolding in a Phnom Penh courtroom for three weeks, a toxic mix of corruption allegations, political interference and a money shortage threaten to shut the tribunal down, even as the world reads that justice is finally being done after 30 years of inaction.

The situation hit a low point with a blunt threat by Prime Minister Hun Sen recently that if the court runs out of money it's fine with him. He said the international prosecutor's desire to arrest more Khmer Rouge leaders living freely in Cambodia is "propaganda."

"Do not believe the propaganda there will be a widespread trial," Hun Sen told reporters, adding that any more arrests beyond the five suspects in custody could create civil war. "I agree to accept the defeat of this court or the collapse of the court, but I will not let this country have civil war again," Hun Sen said. He was in the Khmer Rouge himself but defected to help Vietnam liberate Cambodia in 1979.

Meanwhile the trial of the regime's lead torturer Kaing Guek Eav, 66, also known as Duch, was off to what prosecutor Robert Petit said was a "good beginning," with four other aging Khmer Rouge leaders in custody and supposed to be tried in 2010. The Khmer Rouge were responsible for 1.7 million deaths by starvation, torture, execution, and overwork in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Petit wants more than five leaders tried, but his Cambodian co-prosecutor does not agree.

The dispute was turned over to the judges in December along with Petit's potential arrest list of five or six names. There is no indication when they will decide.

"The trial of Kaing Guek Eav is extremely exciting and there is a sense that justice is finally unfolding for the millions of victims," said John Hall, a professor at Chapman University‘s School of Law in California. But, he said, the inability of the court to credibly investigate allegations that Cambodian court personnel had to pay kickbacks to get and keep their jobs is fraying the patience of the donors who support the court.

"At some point the UN and the international judges must seriously consider what Judge (Marcel) LeMonde called the nuclear option - to walk away," he said.

The problems have taken on renewed urgency as the court does not have money to pay Cambodian staff salaries for April. Australia offered to release funds that had been put on hold for six months pending an investigation into the corruption allegations. But the UN blocked the release. The UN has refused to release funds since last July when allegations resurfaced by Cambodian staff that a kickback ring operates at the court and they have to pay a percentage of their monthly salaries to a middleman.

Court spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said Friday that "we're confident" that the staff salaries will be paid next week. She said she could not say what country will shoulder the expense. (Japan came in with a $200,000 "urgent" donation to pay March salaries.)

Jarvis also said the judges are still considering whether more arrests will be allowed. "They're working on it. They have given questions back to the co-prosecutors. It‘s very complex," she said.

The UN investigated last fall but refuses to release its findings. UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen has met three times since January, most recently for three days ending April 9, with Cambodian officials about the alleged kickbacks.But no resolution has been reached.

The court's senior Cambodian administrator, Sean Visoth, was named in November as a participant in a report by a German parliamentary delegation after their meeting with the court's UN administrator. Visoth has been sick leave since then.

Human rights groups and defense attorneys believe the corruption is widespread and could well extend to the judicial side, although they have not submitted evidence of that.

"The Cambodian judges and prosecutors receive their orders directly or indirectly from Hun Sen. They cannot act independently for fear of being removed or worse," said Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch Asia division.

"I've said for years that Hun Sen will try at key moments to sabotage the tribunal, and sadly, yet again he has done so," Adams said. "It is ridiculous to suggest the possibility of a spontaneous security threat from former Khmer Rouge, as they have no ability to take up arms against the government. If anything happens, it will only happen with Hun Sen's blessing."

Prosecutor Petit, veteran of war crimes courts in Rwanda and East Timor, said he still hopes that the judges will agree with his request to arrest more leaders. He also said the graft allegations have to be dealt with.

"This has to go away so it no longer shares the headlines with the more important work of the court. Half the headlines are about the problem they refuse to deal with," said Petit. "It threatens the continuation of the court. It's a very real problem."

Three of the defense attorneys representing the other suspects in custody asked the court to investigate the corruption, but the court's co-investigating judges said they don't have jurisdiction.

"The corruption is like a plague where everybody gets tainted," said defense attorney Michael Karnavas who represents 82- year- old Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge's foreign minister. He said if the UN is "worried that Hun Sen is going to kick them out they should be out the door first."

Others pointed out that Hun Sen has the UN over a barrel because the UN doesn't want to walk away from the tribunal, but it also doesn't want to be seen supporting a court that doesn't meet international standards of justice.

Hall said as unpalatable as it would be to halt the trial, it may " be preferable than to continue to condone a court whose legitimacy has been so seriously undermined."

"Is a flawed court better than no court? Not necessarily," he said.

Southeast Asian sojourn makes impression on marco man

Labor of necessity: A basket weaver slices bamboo with a sharp machete, and then weaves the pieces to create a basket he will sell for about $1. He lives in a village entirely devoted to, and reliant on basket weaving. Dave Pattison

A typical rural hut near the town of Delat. This was off the tourist track, so these children had probably seen very few tourists in their lives. Dave Pattison

A girl, probably not much older than 10, sells home-made bread out on a street. Dave Pattison

It's a timeless scene, but this one is Vietnam, 2009, as workers toil in a rice paddy. They work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Dave Pattison

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vietnam and Cambodia are mysterious, magical and still very primitive countries. These are the overriding impressions gleaned by veteran traveler David J. Pattison, who just returned from an Overseas Adventure Travel trip, conducted by Grand Circle Travel, to both countries.

He was struck by the friendliness of the people and their spartan lifestyle in their villages and hamlets. “The people are very industrious and extremely pleasant, and they live a quite challenging life in an oppressively hot tropical environment that makes every day a struggle,” Pattison said.

He visited a small basket-weaving village in Vietnam, were people live in homemade bamboo huts and work all day making large, bamboo fishing baskets, which they sell for a dollar. He observed floating fishing villages in both Vietnam and Cambodia, where families live on raft-style homes, make their own nets and fish for their meager living.

One village even had a floating church and grocery store. Pattison took an oxcart ride in a Cambodian village and then visited the driver’s family in their one room straw hut. Two adults and four children live in this one room, with only bamboo mats on their floor. A tiny, 12-inch television served as their only other furniture, yet the family seemed quite happy and content with their meager living conditions.

Pattison said that at his small hotel in Hanoi, a woman remained all day on the front step with a bag of T-shirts to sell to anyone who ventured out. Many women spend all day walking the crowded streets with baskets of fruit or vegetables, held by a bar across their shoulders. Others sit on the sidewalk and sell their goods, from unshelled peanuts to berries, to any passer-by. He saw one such girl, about 10 years old, sitting there all day, selling bread. Others cooked food or soup in large tin pots and served their fare to people sitting on tiny plastic stools on the sidewalk.

Pattison said that his 15 companions on the trip ate some meals in local homes. “I had the opportunity to sample snake, crickets, beetles and ants, but won’t admit that I swallowed each of these items, nor would I willingly repeat that experience,” he said. “I had the impression that everybody was nourished on anything that moved in these countries. But I must assure that the food was excellent, with rice always available.” Both countries depend on their rice crops, and rice farms are tended daily in nearly every village.

Colorful produce and flower markets exist in every village, because most people shop daily for fresh food. Most of the towns and cities have few automobiles, so most ride motorbikes, which make a street crossing a life-threatening experience, because there are no observed crosswalks. There are more than three million motorbikes registered in Saigon alone.

While he did not serve in the Vietnam war, Pattison was captivated by the lingering evidence of that brutal conflict. “We saw the remains of many pillboxes throughout the country, and saw huge bomb craters, including some in historical sanctuary sites,” he noted. The tour visited the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison site, where U.S. Senator John McCain and other pilots were imprisoned, including cells similar to the one in which McCain was held. His Hanoi hotel was close to the lake in which he landed and was captured.

The most emotional experience, he said, was a trip to the Cu Chi underground tunnels, outside of Saigon, that the Viet Cong had dug with hand trowels within an area covering 125 miles. This was a nightmare for our forces, who could not locate these hidden passages. They contained hospitals, dormitories, conference rooms and kitchens. “I went into one of the open tunnels and found it very difficult to move or breathe. It is impossible to imagine anyone living underground in these conditions,” he said.

Another moving experience was a visit to the Killing Fields Memorial, in Cambodia, which contains skulls of victims of the notorious Pol Pot regime, which killed a third of the country’s population. The skulls were found in the rice fields.

Other highlights of the journey included an exploration of the famous Angkor Wat temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the seven ancient wonders of the world; a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Presidential Palace in Hanoi; an overnight stay on a floating “junk,” in picturesque Halong Bay; and a sampan ride on the Mekong Delta.

There was also a stop at China Beach, near Da Nang, used by U.S. troops for R&R during the war; a visit to the 4th-century temple ruins of the Champa Kingdom; an exploration of the citadel of Hue, a wartime Tet offensive site; and cyclo-rickshaw rides in Hanoi and Seim Reap. The tour included visits to schools in both countries and an orphanage.

While all these sights and experiences were worth the arduous trip halfway around the globe, Pattison said it was the local people in these villages and their well-preserved cultural lifestyle that will linger most in his recollections of the journey. Pattison summed up his impressions: “They are a simple, courteous people, who often work hard, 10-12 hour days and survive with minimal comforts, yet maintain a calm dignity and positive outlook in the face of these challenges.”

WHO vows to intensify fight against malaria in Asia-Pacific

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 06:23:49 GMT
Author : DPA

Manila - The World Health Organization (WHO) vowed on Friday to intensify the fight against malaria in Asia and the Pacific amid growing signs of the disease developing greater resistance to commonly used drugs. The Manila-based WHO Western Pacific Office expressed concern over the situation in the Thai-Cambodian border where a strain of malaria that is increasingly resistant to artemisinin, the most effective drug available to fight the disease, has proliferated.

"Time is of the essence here. We have to act now to contain this problem within the Mekong region. It must not be allowed to spread and become a regional and international threat," said Shin Young-Soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

"Measures such as early malaria diagnosis, effective treatment and high quality surveillance need to be maintained and funding sustained," Shin added. "New tools will need to be developed if malaria elimination is to be achieved through the region."

WHO also expressed concern over the rampant use of low-quality and counterfeit drugs in some countries in the Mekong region and the improper use of medicines such as antibiotics and antimalarials, including arteminisin.

WHO said it is closely working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other donor agencies to contain the drug-resistant malaria in the Mekong region.

The initiative is part of a global anti-malaria programme called "Counting Malaria Out" which will kick off Saturday with the aim of achieving near-zero deaths from the mosquito-borne disease by 2015.

Among the malaria-endemic countries in Asia and the Pacific are Cambodia, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

WHO said that every year, there are 250 million cases of malaria infections around the world, causing nearly one million deaths. In the the Western Pacific region, more than 300,000 malaria cases were confirmed in 2007, with 939 deaths.

Cambodia: ADRA First to Respond to Needs of Fire Survivors

24 Apr 2009

Nadia McGill

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.
SILVER SPRING, Md.--On April 16, a deadly fire broke out in an impoverished neighborhood of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, killing one person, destroying nearly 100 homes, and displacing more than 1,120 people. To help survivors recover, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) launched an immediate emergency response, providing food and shelter for 250 families left homeless by the fire.

In the aftermath of the disaster, ADRA met with community and district leaders to identify the most pressing needs, which included the distribution of food kits stocked with rice, sugar, salt, oil, fish, noodles, and soy sauce, and plastic tarpaulins.

The distribution was implemented in partnership with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cambodia, and received funding from ADRA International, the ADRA Asia Regional office in Bangkok, Thailand, and ADRA Cambodia.

Following another fire in April 2008, ADRA also provided emergency food and shelter for 2,400 residents in another section of Phnom Penh. That blaze, which began at 5 a.m. in a community of makeshift structures, destroyed 450 homes.

To send your contribution to ADRA's Emergency Response Fund, please contact ADRA at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or give online at

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

Additional information about ADRA can be found at

Author: Nadia McGill

Council Approves Plan for Minorities

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
24 April 2009

The Council of Ministers approved a development policy for ethnic minorities on Friday, which officials hope will lead to more training and expertise for the country’s non-Khmer groups.

The policy is aimed at protecting the cultures, traditions, language, customs and beliefs of groups such as the Phnong, Hmong, Kampun and Steang hill tribes of the northeast.

“This policy is aimed at the improvement of the capacity and knowledge of the minorities, to have the ability to improve their living through sustainable development based on the use of the natural environment,” the Council of Ministers said in a statement.

Dam Chanthy, who is a Kampun member and chairman of the Highlander Association in Ratanakkiri, called the new policy import for the development of minority groups.

“We have a clear law, and we have real principles in the implementation for the minorities, and we hope that the government will take this policy to develop the minority communites and allow them to have a job when they have the ability,” she said. “And they can improve their livings properly, like other Cambodians. So I think the policy is good, and I support this policy.”

Tep Borin, a member of the Indigenous Community Support Organization, also in Ratanakkiri, said the policy marked a path for “the government to help the minorities.”

“A clear policy is a tool to help minorities properly live with their traditions and cutlues,” he said. “When the government sets up such policies, it means the government is thinking of the minorities.”

Country Must Be Ready for Downturn: Sam Rainsy

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
24 April 2009

The government can implement three important plans to help stabilize the economy as the global downturn continues, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday.

The steps should be taken immediately, Sam Rainsy, a former finance minister, said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

First, the government should allot $500 million in a special package to increase expenditure on social programs that help the poor, bolster the health and education systems and prepare new investment sites to create jobs, he said.

Second, the National Bank should decrease interest rates, to avoid confiscation of land and homes of people who may be struggling under debt, while at the same time promoting more loans as people cope with the downturn.

And finally, the government should seek to decrease the prices of electricity and fuel, along with the price of tolls and other services.

The outlook for Cambodia’s economy has been downgraded by major financial institutions, with the economy now expected to shrink in 2009, at a rate of about half a percent, down from broad growth in previous years that reached as high as 10 percent.

Government officials have said they are preparing $2.5 billion as an emergency fund. The total budget is around $1.8 billion, most of it spent on defense.

The global downturn will continue and will have a serious impact on Cambodia, Sam Rainsy said, citing Asian Development Bank and World Food Program warnings that poverty and food insecurity will increase.

Farmers and workers are likely to see decreased incomes, as prices for agricultural products fall and demand for garments from factories decreases, forcing the closure or suspension of operations for factories, he said.

At the same time, small businesses are likely to see income lost through decreased revenue, he said.

All of this adds up to a need for action by the government, which must realize the troubles ahead and request aid from the international community, while preparing its own measures to mitigate the financial woes.

“If you don’t realize the severe impact, how can we get help?” he said.

International finance institutions stand ready to help, on request, he said, “but Cambodia has not recognized that.”

Forest Fire Continues to Burn in North

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
24 April 2009

A forest fire in the north of the country that has been burning for six days, undeterred neither by crude fire-fighting methods of villagers nor rains, officials said Friday.

The fire has spread to Thmor Kaul district, Battambang province, where it has destroyed another 1,000 hectares of flooded forest.

Villagers have been unable to beat the fire back, and officials said heavy rains in the area near the fire had yet to put a stop to it.

“Some places still have fire, despite heavy rain in my district,” said Uch Eng, governor of Thmor Kaul, told VOA Khmer by phone. “The fire took place in five areas, and it is very difficult to reach that place. So I’ve ordered people to take water baskets and sticks and brooms into the forest, but the fire is still strong right now.”

The fire, which destroyed forest in Bantheay Meanchey and Battambang provinces, began April 19, as villagers were burning their rice fields. It has now spread across a total of 3,000 hectares, in areas not easily reached by fire trucks.

So far only wildlife, such as monkeys, snakes and turtles, have been killed by the blaze.