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Cambodia: the lost executioner up for trial

 
 
Tai Chi
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Aug, 2007 07:39 pm
I imagine the reenactment must be cathartic but it must be very difficult to watch.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Aug, 2007 07:42 pm
it is, especially for the elders. The young people do not believe that the Khmer Rouge regime ever existed... or rather that it killed almost one third of all Cambodians. Kids don't believe their own parents, since they learn nothing about it in school or anywhere else... Must feel extremely lonely and strange. It's as if you lived through Auschwitz but your childred would think you're nuts, and believe there was no such thing.
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Aug, 2007 07:43 pm
It's amazing how the collective memory can forget so fast!
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Aug, 2007 07:44 pm
well, in this case it was a deliberate collective amnesia. hopefully the KRT will help.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Aug, 2007 03:06 am
dagmaraka wrote:
that's part of my work, to bring such stories to people, so read people, read! it's good for you.

Thanks for the work you're doing, and I second your motion. Much of what you posted is depressing, but it's important not to forget.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Sep, 2007 10:36 pm
Top former Khmer Rouge leader arrested in Cambodia

The Associated PressPublished: September 18, 2007


PAILIN, Cambodia: Police detained the top surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea, on Wednesday over his role in the notorious former Cambodian regime that caused the deaths of 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.

Police surrounded his home in Pailin in northwestern Cambodia near the Thai border and served him with an arrest warrant on charges of crimes against humanity, police Capt. Sem Sophal said.

Officers later took Nuon Chea, who is about 80 years old, into custody and put him on a helicopter heading for the capital, Phnom Penh, as dozens of onlookers gathered to watch the historic scene, witnesses said.

Nuon Chea helped the group's notorious leader Pol Pot seize control of Cambodia's communist movement in the 1950s and '60s and then became the movement's chief political ideologue during its murderous rule in the 1970s.

"The police have already put him on the helicopter," said Ou Boran, a grandson of Nuon Chea.

Today in Asia - Pacific
Prosecutors for the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal investigating crimes by the Khmer Rouge have not publicly named Nuon Chea as a suspect. But he is believed to be one of five senior Khmer Rouge figures they have recommended for trial before the panel.

He would be the second, and highest-ranking, Khmer Rouge leader detained to appear before the panel.

"There is an order from the top to execute a warrant to take Nuon Chea (into custody) this morning," Sem Sophal said before Nuon Chea was taken into custody. "All road access to his house have been ordered sealed."

After numerous delays, the tribunal's co-investigating judge You Bun Leng and his U.N.-appointed counterpart, Marcel Lemonde, in July began investigations of former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea said in July that he is ready to stand trial.

"I will go to the court and don't care if people believe me or not," Nuon Chea said.

Reach Sambath, a tribunal spokesman, declined to comment Wednesday.

Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch who headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison, is currently the only senior figure detained by the tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity committed during the Khmer Rouge's time in power. He was charged last month.

The late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998 and his former military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006 in government custody.

Their senior-level colleagues, Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health. They are also widely believed to be on the prosecutors' list.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/19/asia/AS-GEN-Cambodia-Khmer-Rouge.php

Muny Chhit
Youth for Justice and Reconciliation Project Officer
Youth for Peace
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Sep, 2007 10:48 pm
And a perspective from this side of the pond:

Revisiting the genocide
For immigrants, Cambodian tribunal awakens painful memories

By Russell Contreras, Globe Staff | September 13, 2007

ACTON - Mention the Khmer Rouge and Thida Loeung stops speaking. The 42-year-old Cambodian-American looks away and takes deep breaths before she can talk about the dark abyss in her motherland's history when an estimated 1.7 million people were killed by mass execution and starvation under the extreme regime of tyrant Pol Pot.
Her father, Houry Loeung, was one of them. After he starved to death, Thida Loeung, then a teenager, and her family were forced to flee their decimated homeland, ending up eventually as refugees in Lowell. And although it's been a quarter of a century, Loeung, who now lives in Acton, still has trouble revisiting that experience.

"It's hard for me to talk about it, even today," she said.

But for Cambodians everywhere, including the thousands who have settled in this area, the past has come back. A genocide tribunal in Cambodia is now targeting former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of crimes against humanity during Pol Pot's reign from 1975 to 1979. So far, the judges have indicted one of five suspects, "Duch," or Kaing Guek Eav. He was the head of the communist Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison and torture center, investigators allege. The others have not been named publicly and remain free.

The prosecution of the five former leaders - Pol Pot died in 1998 - has grabbed international headlines and the attention of human rights advocates as the United Nations-based tribunal attempts to bring to justice those who may have been involved in an investigation that already has seen many delays and turns.

For many Cambodians in this area, though, the subject of the trial is painful and rarely discussed, said Vong Ros, executive director of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association in Lowell, a city with an estimated Cambodian population of 30,000.

"Cambodians don't get excited about it because they'll have to relive it," Ros said. "We're not celebrating to find out who is responsible for our displacement."

Loeung, for one, isn't following the case closely. But her husband is. George Chigas, a visiting political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and a scholar of Cambodian literature, reads news out of Phnom Penh, sends out updates via e-mail, and lectures about the day-to-day happenings of the court proceedings 10,000 miles away and decades in the making.

The 49-year-old professor and poet, who grew up in a Lowell Greek-American family, said that the prosecution of Pol Pot's lieutenants is being met with skepticism and distrust by Cambodians because they are occurring some 30 years after the start of the Khmer Rouge regime. That's very different from the South African and Rwandan reconciliation trials that occurred soon after the end of the brutal regimes in those nations"There's a huge gap in time," Chigas said. "That really complicates the response to these trials. People have become cynical about there being some sort of real legal response. People are a little wary about getting personally invested."

Still, Chigas said that there is hope among Cambodians that the trials might bring to light some acknowledgement by the world of what happened.

A study published two years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly all Cambodian immigrants had suffered trauma before reaching the United States. The study also found that 99 percent came close to death from starvation and 90 percent reported knowing a family member or friend who was killed.

During the Khmer Rouge's reign, around a quarter of the population died, with most buried in mass graves.

"There were no formal funerals," Chigas said. "There was no public display of acknowledgement that this person died for this reason and is buried in this place. Having that unfinished business of the funeral hanging on for 30 years makes it something that people feel needs to be done."

Chigas said the closest analogy would be like not having the many memorials and funerals held to remember and honor the victims of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the public memorials allowed families to put the event in context and place.

"That place doesn't exist for the family members of people who died in these mass graves," Chigas said. "The trials will almost function as a kind of state- and international-sponsored funeral. It will put a name and place to those who died."

Chhan D. Touch, a nurse practitioner at the Lowell Community Health Center-Metta Health Center, agreed.

"It's a history of Cambodia that needs to be closed," said Touch, who is on Chigas's e-mail list and follows the tribunal's proceedings daily. "This has to take place so we can stop hurting each other."

Touch said his center treats many Cambodians who still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or have a mental health issue. He said some have come in recently asking for general information about the tribunal while others just don't want to talk about it.

"It's something we have to come to terms with," Touch said. "Many of us are still angry, and don't even know why."

Russell Contreras can be reached at [email protected].
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2007 12:46 am
That's great news. I hope the trials continue to be fair, and that Cambodians will eventually come to appreciate them in time.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2007 07:38 am
Thomas wrote:
That's great news. I hope the trials continue to be fair, and that Cambodians will eventually come to appreciate them in time.

Most people that know about it, do appreciate the KRT... But that is not many people - there is very little information. People in the villages hardly know that it exists, much less what it does, and who it is, and why.... They have an outreach program, but that only reaches a limited amount of people, and sort of higher up. So it's up to non-profits, volunteers, and fools, to travel to the villages and talk with people... Sigh.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Sep, 2007 08:36 pm
Any job has its ups and downs, I imagine. Mine comes with its quirks - racing for deadlines, coordinating communication of people scattered all over the world, which is impossible...little money, lot of stress. But... on a day like today (actually, not even on the worst day) I would not change it for any other in this world.

Villagers from one of the villages we work in in Cambodia, wanted to come see the Tuol Sleng museum (former prison) and Choung Ek killing fields. The elders say their kids don't believe their stories of famine, murders, death of exhaustion during the Khmer Rouge. They say how is it possible to kill 1.7 million people without a mass rebellion? That's ridiculous. Authority is, as you can imagine, among key social glues in this Asian society...and history (or lack of it) is causing a major inter-generational riff.

So we took them. A bus load. The youngsters saw their own history for the first time. There is nothing in their history books, mind you. Nobody was even breathing, all eyes glued on the guide. It was a cathartic moment for the village... as well as for my colleagues. Not to be forgotten in one's lifetime.

People pine for some sense of justice. They know the Tribunal will not try many, only the top few, if that. But it still means the world to them.
http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i31/dagmaraka/SVTriptoPP_099.jpg

http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i31/dagmaraka/SVTriptoPP_090.jpg

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http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i31/dagmaraka/SVTriptoPP_065.jpg

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http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i31/dagmaraka/SVTriptoPP_030.jpg
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Sep, 2007 04:22 pm
NPR just aired a bit about the work of my colleague Vichhra a few days ago. I'm very proud of her. The girl is 21, bright, and an extremely skilled facilitator...

http://onthemedia.org/episodes/2007/09/21
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Endymion
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Sep, 2007 05:28 pm
This is an exceptional thread dagmaraka - i've learned a great deal reading through it - thanks
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Sep, 2007 05:39 pm
whew, thanks. i thought nobody was reading it anymore!
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Sep, 2007 12:21 am
dagmaraka wrote:
whew, thanks. i thought nobody was reading it anymore!

Not at all! It's just a topic I know way too little about, so I'm just reading along quietly.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 10:59 pm
Our projects in Cambodia are going great. More than great. Given the difficulties of running an office in Phnom Penh from U.S., and the fact that our staff is so young (23 years old girl in charge of the office, 28 years old Cambodian project coordinator and 3 paid volunteers between 21 and 26 years of age), they are dealing better than most wizened old sailors of the in-the-field non-profits. I'm very proud of them.

The village dialogues are continuing. It involves for the staff to spend a lot of time living in the village, doing various events, even helping out in the rice fields and whatever it takes to get to know them.
The dialogues are about the Khmer Rouge, what justice means to these people, what should the Khmer Rouge Tribunal do to achieve some sense of justice, etc... But mostly sharing stories and memories, passing them to the young ones who often do not even believe genocide ever happened in Cambodia...

Now, here comes the TASK I WAS CHARGED WITH:

T-shirts for the villagers!

I'm thinking yellow t-shirts. Every damn NGO has either white or light blue t-shirts. I want mine to be bright yellow.

On the back, I want a really good quote. Something about peace, about coming together, concilation... (not quite forgiving, that's pushing it too far for genocide survivors and i dislike it for many theoretical reasons with practical implications which i'll spare you off) -- I WOULD LOVE ALL AND ANY SUGGESTIONS

ANd the front: logo, name of the program, and.... some picture. Again, I'll appreaciate any suggestions. I'd like to avoid the cliche - the dove with olive branch and such... Cambodia is flooded with such crap. Something that stands out, maybe a bit fun, too....

Maybe I should start a thread on it so that design-prone folk look into it, too.... Tomorrow....now...sleeeeep.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2008 07:53 am
Hi Dag!

On my drive to work, I heard a report on "NPR Morning Edition" about a group of young Cambodian men whose work sounds somewhat similar to what you describe in this thread. "Related", because it has to do with healing wounds in Cambodia and getting the voices of Cambodians heard by Americans. "Somwhat", because it's not about the Khmer rouge but about more acute problems such as Heroin and AIDS.

When the men in the NPR report were children, their parents brought them with them to America as refugees. Then they had a few brushes with American law, mostly drugs and gang related. Because they never acquired US citizenship, the US government deported them back to Cambodia for their crimes. Now they work as something like social workers, trying to stem the Cambodian AIDS epidemic caused by a growing problem with heroin addiction in Cambodia. They also walk around their neighborhoods with tape recorders, documenting Cambodian life for American listeners.

Here's the link if you're interested

Any connection between them and the Cambodians you work with?
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2008 10:50 am
hey, you have no idea how timely this is! i am beginning to work with cambodians in lowell, ma (more than 30,000 of mostly former refugees) and am just writing their story for my newsletter (that i write, edit, design, put on the web... Rolling Eyes ), so these stories are great... and we'll be collecting stories in lowell as wel...

also on NPR - on here and now, there was a story about Dith Pran today. Dith Pran was a 'sidekick' to an American journalist Sydney Schanberg, but very talented himself. Survived the Khmer Rouge by posing as a common man (if you spoke english or french well, they'd kill you), then became New York Times reporter after he fled to Thailand. The Killing Fields (book and movied) is based on his story.

He is now fighting cancer in a New Jersey hospital.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2008 12:36 pm
Interesting! Is it new, or was it this old piece, which is all I could find about "Dith Pran" on NPR's website?
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2008 04:26 pm
no, it was from today on Here and Now. www.here-now.org . It wasn't lont, more of a memoir on Dith Pran by (rather emotional) Sydney Schanberg.

but i'm listening to the other one you fished out, too. Thanks.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 Mar, 2008 07:39 am
Cool. Good luck with the newsletter!
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