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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Khmer Rouge Prison Chief Kaing Guek Eav could get 40 years

Khmer Rouge jailer says sorry
(02:36) Report - Nov 25 - The Khmer Rouge's chief torturer and jailer in Cambodia in the 1970s expresses "excruciating remorse" in the final stages of his trial before the U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" tribunal. Kirsty Basset reports.

Khmer Rouge prison chief could get 40 years
By SOPHENG CHEANG and LUKE HUNT,Associated Press Writers

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The prison chief being tried for running a torture center for the Khmer Rouge was only following orders and did nothing that scores of colleagues didn't also do, his lawyer said Wednesday, seeking to rebut popular calls for his client to receive the maximum possible punishment.

Prosecutors in Cambodia's first genocide trial are asking for a 40-year sentence, which would likely lock up 67-year-old Kaing Guek Eav for life, but which some of his victims say that would still not be harsh enough.

Judges will decide the verdict and sentence by early next year and can impose up to life imprisonment. Cambodia has no death penalty.

"I cannot accept this sentence request because it is too little," said Chum Mey, 78, one of a handful of survivors from the S-21 prison run three decades ago by Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch. "He should get 70 or 80 years. ... He should be punished by hanging, but Cambodian law doesn't allow it."

Closing arguments will conclude Friday in the case of Duch, who is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. About 16,000 men, women and children suspected of disloyalty were tortured at the prison in Phnom Penh before being taken away for execution.

In total, some 1.7 million Cambodians died due to the radical communist policies of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime and their French-educated leader, the late Pol Pot. Four other senior leaders are in custody, and expected to face trial in the next year.

Duch (pronounced DOIK) has denied personally killing or torturing the S-21 prisoners, and testified that he acted with reluctance on orders from his superiors, fearing for the safety of his family and himself.

Addressing the court Wednesday, he once again apologized to the dead, their families, survivors of the regime and to all Cambodians _ something he has done repeatedly since the trial began in March.

He said he was "deeply remorseful and profoundly affected by the destruction on such a mind-boggling scale."

But he also emphasized that he was not alone in carrying out torture and killings, which also took place at 196 prisons across the country, and insisted there was little he could do to prevent the horror at S-21.

"I could do nothing to help," he said. "Pol Pot regarded these people as thorns in his eyes."

One of his lawyers, Kar Savuth, said his client was not a senior Khmer Rouge leader responsible for the group's policies and therefore should not be prosecuted.

Australian co-prosecutor William Smith earlier acknowledged Duch's admissions of guilt and the fact that he has given evidence against other Khmer Rouge leaders, but said he still must be held accountable.

"The crimes committed by the accused at S-21 are rarely matched in modern history in terms of their combined barbarity, scope, duration, premeditation and their callousness," he said. "Not just the victims and their families but the whole of humanity demand a just and proportionate response to these crimes and this court must speak on behalf of that humanity."

Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer and rights activist who as a 7-year-old was held in a Khmer Rouge prison with her 4-year-old brother, called the proposed sentence "unacceptable" and said it would create "an uproar among Cambodians."

"There are many counts, many crimes he should be found guilty of and each one carries a life sentence," she said. "So even with mitigating circumstances taken into account, he should at least get one life sentence, even two or three life sentences."

Others went further. "He must be punished heavily because he killed people. He should get the death sentence," said Roeung Sok, a spectator at the trial Wednesday.

But Huot Chheang Kaing, 67, who had been Duch's classmate in the early 1960s, said he thought that the defendant should not receive the maximum punishment because he was only following orders under duress. "I wish the court to sentence Duch to only 20 or 25 years in prison," he said

Khmer Rouge Prison Chief Could Get 40 Years
by Michael Sullivan (NPR)

Prosecutors in the genocide trial of a former Khmer Rouge prison chief demanded a 40-year jail sentence Wednesday for Kaing Guek Eav. They say he is responsible for snuffing out innocent lives and spreading terror across Cambodia. Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime called the requested sentence unacceptable.


Thirty years after the end of genocide in Cambodia, a trial is nearing its end. A former prison commander is the first former high ranking official to go on trial. He ran a prison called Tuol Sleng or S-21. He was an official in the Khmer Rouge, the group that ruled Cambodia during four years of torture and executions. As many as 1.7 million Cambodians died.

The prosecution is asking that Comrade Duch be given 40 years in prison. NPR's Michael Sullivan is at the trial in Phnom Penh, and we warn listeners that they may find some parts of this report disturbing.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN: Kaing Guek Eav's trial has been going on for nine months now. And during that time, the court has heard grizzly detail from survivors and from the Khmer Rouge's own meticulous record keeping, about the horrors inflicted on prisoners at Tuol Sleng. A list repeated by co-prosecutor William Smith today, as the prosecution wrapped up its case.

Savage beatings, fingernails and toenails pulled out with pliers, electrocution, all were part of the Tuol Sleng experience, Smith said, which ended for almost all of the prisoners at the killing field of Choeung Ek.

Mr. WILLIAM SMITH (Prosecutor): Blindfolded and handcuffed, the prisoners were forced to kneel down in the dark next to their own burial pits. There they waited until the blow of a shovel or car axle broke the back of their heads. And if that did not kill them their throats were slit before they were kicked into their grave.

SULLIVAN: The man accused of overseeing those executions isn't denying his guilt. Kaing Guek Eav, today, looked calm, relaxed even, in his blue button-down oxford and khakis, as the prosecutor spoke. The 67-year-old's defense, one he's repeated throughout the trial, that he was simply a cog in the machine, doing the bidding of his superiors lest he be killed, too. Duch, speaking through a translator, nonetheless apologized again today.

Mr. KAING GUEK EAV (Commander, Tuol Sleng prison): (Through translator) I still claim that I am solely and individually liable for the loss of at least 12,380 lives. I still and forever wish to most respectfully and humbly apologize to the dead souls.

SULLIVAN: Then Duch spoke to the handful of prisoners who managed to make it out of Tuol Sleng alive.

Mr. EAV: (Through translator) To the survivors, I stand by my acknowledgment of all crimes which were inflicted on you at S-21. I acknowledge them both in the legal and moral context.

SULLIVAN: Outside the courtroom, one of the survivors was having none of it. Chum Mey, who lost his wife and two children to the Khmer Rouge, a man imprisoned at Tuol Sleng for allegedly being a CIA spy, says his former jailer's remorse and pleas for forgiveness are both insincere and insufficient. The prosecution's recommendation of 40 years in prison for Duch, he says, not nearly enough.

Mr. CHUM MEY: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: It's not justice, he says. Duch should get at least 70 to 80 years or life - or better yet, hang him, he says. Chum Mey says he's now going to have to light incense and pray that the souls of the dead may yet find justice when the court issues its verdict in the case some time next year.

Forty years on, many here are still looking for justice, or at least an explanation, why nearly two million people died during the four year long rule of the Khmer Rouge. But it's also true there are many here who simply aren't interested. I met both today, at a roadside video shop not a mile from the trial venue.

One young man, an accountant, said the tribunal was a good idea and would help the country heal from the wounds of that time. But his 20-year-old friend, a cell phone repair man, just laughed when I asked him about the tribunal. I don't know anything about it, he said. I can't even tell you who's on trial. That was a long time ago, he said, and right now, I'm too busy to care about that sort of thing.

Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Phnom Penh.
INSKEEP: This is NPR News

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Watch: Villagers' grievances can be heard

During the Kathen religious ceremony at the above-mentioned pagoda on October 25, 2009, villagers living along the border with Vietnam complained to Sam Rainsy about the Vietnamese authorities grabbing their rice fields.

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Army report confirms border encroachments by Vietnam

A 1999 report by then Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Commander-in-Chief General Ke Kim Yan to Prime Minister Hun Sen indicates that Vietnam has been surreptitiously and illegally annexing stretches of Cambodia's territories in several provinces along our eastern border since 1979. The newly leaked report details several cases where Vietnamese civilians protected by armed soldiers or militiamen grabbed land belonging to Cambodian farmers and moved border markers well inside Cambodian territory. Read the original 8-page report in Khmer at below:
Army report confirms border encroachments by Vietnam

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Sunday, November 15, 2009


(Getty Images)


31 October 2009 - Cairo, Egypt

Aung San Suu Kyi, Vaclav Havel, Benazir Bhutto, Corazon Aquino, Mary Robinson, Martin Lee, who doesn’t know these inspiring figures who have made the world’s recent history? They were also recipients of the Liberal International Prize for Freedom.

Today we are launching a book to celebrate 25 years of LI Prize for Freedom.

Founded in 1985, the Prize had 26 laureates (there were two laureates in 1991).

I was honored to receive the Prize in 2006 in Marrakech (Morocco).

Now, I am humbled to also, in a way, represent the other laureates at this ceremony.

They are, or were, most distinguished people who deserved the Prize much more than me.

But I am here because nobody else could come to Cairo today…

Let me first recall the origins, backgrounds and main features of the 26 laureates.

In terms of gender, there were sixteen males and ten females.

In terms of geographic origin, the laureates represented 25 nationalities (two of them were from South Africa).

In terms of occupation and professional background, there were 19 politicians also known as human rights advocates, and seven persons from the civil society including three human rights activists and four other persons: a scientist, a scholar, a writer and a poet who all worked for peace and freedom.

Are all the laureates still alive? 23 are still alive. Three have passed away: Raul Alfonsin (Argentina), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan) and Corazon Aquino (Philippines).

Those who are still alive, what are they doing now? Most of them are old now – for sure older than 25 years ago – but they are still active in defending liberal values and ideals. One of them is the current president of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Wade. Two are in jail or under house arrest (Aung San Suu Kyi). Four are leaders of the opposition in their respective countries, including myself.

To fully understand the meaning and the importance of the LI Prize for Freedom, I invite you to read the book introduction by our president John Lord Alderdice.

“The Prize for Freedom was to be awarded to those who had struggled for Freedom in some of the most difficult and challenging political environments for Liberals around the world.”

“The Award would provide encouragement, recognition, in some cases, a degree of protection, since it would warn authoritarian regimes that moves against a Prize for Freedom Laureate would produce a storm of protest from liberals around the world.”

I fully subscribe to what John Alderdice wrote in his introduction.

I would add that, at least in my case, the Prize was not given to an individual. It was to honor a just cause in a particular context.

The cause is the defense of liberal values, above all Freedom that we all cherish.

The context for me was Cambodia.

The Prize was not given to me as an individual. I just received it, as the head of a team, on behalf of countless known and unknown colleagues and friends who had made sacrifices while serving the cause of freedom.

Founded in 1995, the political party that I lead in Cambodia, the SRP, is now the country’s second largest party and we will become, God willing, the number one party in a not too distant future.

But as of today, over eighty members of my party have been assassinated. Countless others have been injured, arrested, jailed, or forced to go into hiding or into exile.

I can never forget those who have been killed, sometimes in front of my eyes.

I have attended too many funerals. I would prefer not to receive any prize or award at all if I only could stop attending unnecessary funerals.

But things being as they are, the LI Prize for Freedom is a useful recognition of our legitimate fight and a powerful encouragement to us to go on fighting our uphill battle against a powerful dictatorship. The Prize gives us more courage and strength in the face of dictators who use the state media they control to denounce us as “traitors”, “anarchists” or “hooligans.”

Such a prestigious international award as the LI Prize for Freedom gives us legitimacy and honorability in the eyes of the whole world. It gives us irrefutable international credentials as democrats fighting for freedom, and that proves to be an invaluable protection against assaults from dictators who just want to eliminate us.

Thank you.


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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thaksin Risks His Reputation

Former Thai Premier Appears Cozy With Nation's Rival

BANGKOK -- Since Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra was forced out of power in a military coup three years ago, he has made a show of traveling the world to keep in the public eye back home. But his latest gambit -- taking up a role as economic adviser to Thailand's neighbor and rival, Cambodia -- threatens to backfire and jeopardize his standing in the country he still hopes one day to lead, analysts say.

On Thursday, Mr. Thaksin, a telecommunications magnate, began his new job by delivering a lecture on economic planning to Cambodian government officials in Phnom Penh, the capital.

The former prime minister, who still commands the support of many Thais, said he could use his business skills to help steer Cambodia's economic development. He has been photographed smiling and making golf plans with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen before he leaves aboard his private jet on Friday.

This is going down badly in Thailand, where many of Mr. Thaksin's critics accuse him of selling out his country's interests to help an ancient enemy. "If Mr. Thaksin persists with this alliance with Cambodia, the nationalist backlash in Thailand will pick up, even among his own supporters," says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

Mr. Thaksin's popularity has a bearing on the stability of one of America's main allies in Asia. The photo opportunities in Cambodia will play particularly badly next to images of Thailand's current, military-backed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who on Sunday will host President Barack Obama in Singapore at the first summit between Southeast Asian leaders and an American president.

Mr. Thaksin accused his foes in Thailand of "false patriotism" by criticizing his trip to Cambodia. His decision to work as Mr. Hun Sen's economic adviser is risky. The two men are close personally and share a penchant for golf and sparring with their critics in the media. But historical enmity between Thailand and Cambodia runs deep. Cambodia's Khmer Empire, which dates to the ninth century, was for centuries the dominant power in the region.

More recently, anti-Thai riots broke out in Cambodia in 2003 after a Thai actress was incorrectly reported as saying Cambodia's national symbol -- the Angkor Wat temple complex -- belonged to Thailand. Since 2008, at least seven soldiers from both sides have been killed in clashes near another temple, Preah Vihear, which is claimed by both countries. A Thai man living in Cambodia was arrested in August for sketching out a map of the Angkor Wat complex on his toilet floor.

The dispute may also provide Cambodia with more leverage in future negotiations over competing temple claims -- as well as the significant oil and gas deposits believed to exist off Cambodia's shores -- with its larger, more powerful neighbor. Analysts say the country is growing in confidence now that Chinese and South Korean businesses have begun investing there, and it is less dependent on Thailand and its other large neighbor, Vietnam.

For his part, Mr. Thaksin now has the opportunity to use Cambodia as a base from which to organize his supporters across the border in Thailand, a prospect that alarms leaders in Bangkok, who are recovering from the impact of antigovernment riots in the city last April.

Thailand and Cambodia have withdrawn their ambassadors and on Thursday expelled a diplomat apiece as part of the escalating dispute.

Thailand this week filed an extradition request to Cambodia to hand over Mr. Thaksin for a corruption conviction. Mr. Hun Sen's government refused, saying the charges against Mr. Thaksin are politically motivated and a direct result of the 2006 military coup. Thailand is now moving to cancel an oil and gas exploration deal with Cambodia and has raised the prospect of partially closing its border because of the row over Mr. Thaksin.

Other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are struggling to contain their irritation with both sides ahead of their historic meeting with Mr. Obama Sunday on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Singapore.

"We in Asean cannot afford to be seen as being so seriously divided," Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, who is Thai, said in a statement.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com

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