Proleung Khmer

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Khmer Rouge Anniversary

Press Statement (Revised)
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
April 21, 2005

The Khmer Rouge Anniversary

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the seizure of power by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It is estimated that up to 3 million Cambodians died in the killing fields. The United States joins the millions of Cambodians, Cambodian-Americans, and others in remembering the victims of this deplorable regime.

The United States believes there must be accountability for these atrocities, and welcomed the agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia to establish the Khmer Rouge tribunal. For the United States to contribute to this process, we believe, as U.S. law stipulates, that the tribunal must meet internationally recognized standards of justice. As the formation of the tribunal moves forward, we will engage with the Government of Cambodia, the United Nations, and interested countries to achieve this goal.

We will also continue to focus on the importance of and need for an independent judiciary in Cambodia. It is only through respect for the rule of law and the existence of effective institutions that barriers to impunity will be built and regimes like that of the Khmer Rouge will exist only in the sad annals of history.


Released on April 21, 2005


  • Last Update: Sunday, April 17, 2005. 7:24am (AEST)

    Cambodia marks grim anniversary
    By South-East Asia correspondent Peter Lloyd

    Today marks the 30th anniversary of Pol Pot coming to power in Cambodia.

    Up to 2 million people died during the dictator's almost four years in power.

    It has been called Asia's holocaust and it began 30 years ago today with the arrival of Khmer Rouge soldiers in the capital, Phnom Penh.

    They were the vanguard of a revolution that promised social reform and justice but instead delivered years of radical agrarian socialism backed by violence and torture.

    Property rights, currency, schools and even the family were abolished.

    The Khmer Rouge regime was eventually toppled by invading Vietnamese forces in January 1979 but the remnants of the movement fought on against the Hun Sen government until 1998, the same year Pol Pot mysteriously died in a jungle hideaway.

    Surviving regime leaders will be tried for genocide and crimes against humanity during a United Nations-backed tribunal expected to be operating by the end of this year.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:53 AM  

  • Cambodians mark start of genocide
    Sunday, April 17, 2005 Posted: 9:58 AM EDT (1358 GMT)

    CHOEUNG EK, Cambodia (AP) -- Cambodians gathered Sunday at mass graves where 8,000 of their countrymen perished under the Khmer Rouge, praying with Buddhist monks for the victims on the 30th anniversary of the genocidal regime's seizure of power.

    The 30 monks -- one for each year since the fall of the capital, Phnom Penh -- chanted prayers for the victims, some of whose skulls lay piled one on top of another in a two-story tower nearby.

    Some survivors -- mostly women -- stood up to talk about their lost loved ones. One woman, speaking about her husband, broke down twice.

    Another woman, 61-year-old Sam Kim Tha, said her father, a monk, and her husband were killed by the Khmer Rouge and she's still angry about what the communist soldiers did. She comes to Choeung Ek every year to pray.

    An estimated 1.7 million people died from execution, starvation, ill health and overwork during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 brutal rule. None of the regime's top leaders has been brought to trial, although the government has signed a deal with the United Nations to create a U.N.-backed tribunal.

    Following a brutal, five-year war between the Khmer Rouge guerrillas and a U.S.-backed government, the victors marched into Phnom Penh April 17, 1975, driving its residents into the countryside at gunpoint to become rice farmers and slave laborers.

    The Khmer Rouge victory preceded that of communist forces in Vietnam which captured the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, on April 30, and forced remaining U.S. personnel to flee the country as they had earlier in Cambodia.

    Sunday's memorial, attended by more than 100 people, was organized by the opposition political party, the Sam Rainsy Party. Acting party leader Kong Korm said Cambodians couldn't forget the date.

    "On the one hand, to respect the dead, but on the other, to say to the world and as much to Cambodians, don't allow this type of regime" to return, he said in French. "We have to respect, completely and totally, human rights in Cambodia."

    Choeung Ek, marked by craters and signs noting the number or types of victims, made headlines in Cambodia in recent weeks when the Phnom Penh city government signed a deal with a Japanese company, giving it the right to manage the site for 30 years. This drew opposition from one of the country's leading genocide researchers.

    The site is located about 12 kilometers (seven miles) outside Phnom Penh.

    It often figures in the debate about the practice of maintaining skulls and bones of Khmer Rouge victims as monuments, since many Cambodians believe the souls of the dead linger on earth because their remains have not received a traditional Buddhist cremation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:54 AM  

  • The Priest who alerted world to Khmer Rouge genocide speaks

    Wed Apr 13, 2:19 AM ET

    PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Thirty years ago on Sunday, Khmer Rouge tanks rumbled into Phnom Penh, completing their conquest of Cambodia after a bloody civil war and immediately forcing the city's inhabitants into the countryside.

    Francois Ponchaud, a Roman Catholic priest who witnessed the takeover and alerted the world that genocide was under way in a 1977 book, has since returned to live in the city.

    Ponchaud was working as a missionary assigned to Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge took the city.

    He was forced to leave the capital along with all the other foreigners but continued to work with Cambodian refugees along the Thai border, whose stories later became part of his book, "Cambodia: Year Zero."

    "The people had been trapped inside Phnom Penh for three months. The Khmer Rouge gradually tightened their grip," he told AFP.

    "All night (April 16), we were subjected to extraordinary psychological pressure. Rockets rained on Phnom Penh, killing many people. We anxiously awaited the arrival of the Khmer Rouge."

    "On April 17, as soon as day broke, a flood of refugees began pouring in from the suburbs," said the missionary, who watched events unfold from Phnom Penh's cathedral, with its 60-meter (180-foot) bell tower, in a northern neighborhood.

    He said the city's population had already more than trebled to two million over the previous five years as people fled the war.

    "Around 7:00 am, the flood of (incoming refugees) dried up. A white car stopped outside the French embassy," negotiations began and then "the Khmer army surrendered."

    "After all the rockets that had battered Phnom Penh, the next morning we expected to see the Khmer Rouge arrive with knives in their teeth."

    "We saw that Lon Nol's army offered almost no resistance. There was peace, there was no fighting."

    "There was a general sense of jubilation, until around 10:00 am ... the joy burst into the open -- the war was over! People were so happy, they thought they were going to return home."

    "People celebrated, believing they were celebrating with the Khmer Rouge. But they were not really the Khmer Rouge. They were men paid by Lon Non's police, the brother of the Khmer republic's president, Marshall Lon Nol, who wanted to steal the Khmer Rouge victory. That was a complete misunderstanding."

    "We saw groups of three, six, nine men -- all small and skinny -- who didn't smile, with Mao caps. No one paid attention to them. These little Khmer Rouge arrived quietly, almost incognito, without anyone noticing."

    "And at 10:00 am, a real lead blanket fell on the city of Phnom Penh."

    "Small men in black or green took positions at every intersection and began controlling the people, emptying all the cars. For the first time in the entire war, I saw people with both arms in the air and a gun at their back," Ponchaud said.

    "Then no one had the courage to smile."

    Some were armed with Chinese rocket-launchers, with rockets on their backs, while others carried AK-47s with ammunition draped across their chests.

    "What struck me was the absence of any expression on their faces -- empty, expressionless faces like robots," he said.

    "They all looked tired and very young, 18 or 19 years old. At the French embassy (where foreigners sought refuge from April 18), some of the Khmer Rouge soldiers guarding us weren't even 10 years old."

    "From 11:00 am, we saw an absolutely outrageous, unforgettable sight -- all the wounded, the sick leaving the hospital. Those who didn't leave had grenades thrown at them.

    "Patients still with IVs left on their hospital beds... men with no arms or legs crawled along the roads like earthworms."

    "Then we saw the most haunting image: the entire population leaving the city," he continued.

    "The Khmer Rouge said, 'Leave, leave quickly. The Americans are going to bomb the city! It's not worth bringing anything, you'll return in three or four days.' That was how Phnom Penh's entire population, between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm, left down the roads."

    Their faces bore "an expression of terror."

    Around 6:00 pm, the "stream of people stopped. The city was almost empty."

    Ponchaud and other clergy with him could no longer "think, after the horror of seeing a city of two million people completely emptied."

    All night, the deserted capital echoed only with the sound of engines backfiring on republican army trucks that the young Khmer Rouge didn't know how to drive.

    Only the young soldiers from the jungle and the countryside remained in the city, which they had imagined was full of Americans and suffering, but where they found to their shock such impressive sights as the royal palace, Independence monument, and the residence of prime minister Long Boret.

    "They couldn't believe their eyes... For them it was like discovering another world," said the priest, who was ordered to guide the Khmer Rouge around the capital the next day.

    "On the morning of April 18, I could confirm that the city was deserted.

    "It was only later that we learned that there were six armed groups that had taken Phnom Penh, it wasn't the unified Khmer Rouge army but six different groups that had taken it."

    "The Khmer Rouge didn't need to give orders, all they had to do was look at us and we felt small next to them. That was the violence, this cold violence, this silent violence of the Khmer Rouge," he added.

    "Later, with Phnom Penh's entire population evacuated -- men, women, children, the elderly, pregnant women, the sick -- many died or were abandoned on the roadside."

    Witnesses said they saw bodies in the capital's suburbs, in the ditches, even in pagodas.

    "What hit me the hardest was seeing the wounded and the sick leaving on the road. And after that, the memory that is also very strong, is the silence, the terror of the people leaving the city and the icy, empty stares of the Khmer Rouge that froze the deepest part of your being."

    "Even that evening, it was difficult to say, 'Joy at Phnom Penh's liberation," the priest said.

    "Already by the afternoon of April 17, you couldn't have any doubts about the regime that was beginning... a reign of insanity."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:59 AM  

  • Asia Times Online
    April 14, 2005

    Rouge justice
    By Pepe Escobar

    It was exactly 30 years ago. It still is, and will remain for ages, a
    collective trauma: every single person in Cambodia has at least one
    relative who was killed in the dreaded Pol Pot years (April 17,
    1975-January 7, 1979) when the Khmer Rouge imposed a neo-agrarian
    social-engineering folly on a whole nation. Conceptualized by Ieng Sary -
    based on his own Sorbonne thesis - and implemented by Pol Pot, the return
    of Cambodia to Year Zero and the terror reign of Angkar (the Party) may
    have killed up to 2 million Cambodians, out of a total population of 7.7
    million, and traumatized everyone else in the country for generations.

    Some of Pol Pot's henchmen are still alive, living in the desolate Pailin
    area or hidden in crumbling mansions in Phnom Penh. Nobody was ever
    punished for the concentration camps, the institutionalized terror, the
    mass executions, the mass famine. In 2003, filmmaker Rithy Pann released
    the remarkable S21, where a few survivors and their former executioners
    confront their memories on the site of S21, the former school in Tuol Sleng
    that became a detention center in the heart of Phnom Penh where 17,000
    prisoners were tortured and then executed. As Nath, a survivor, tells
    another survivor in front of Tuol Sleng, reconverted into a genocide
    museum: "Up to now, has anybody said that the 2 million dead among the
    Khmer people were a mistake, has anybody said 'I'm sorry'? Have you ever
    heard this from any of the commanders, or the executioners? So how will the
    families of the victims and the survivors rediscover peace? How to
    understand that it was a crime? They don't even say it was a mistake! They
    don't have anythi
    ng to be forgiven because it was not a mistake."

    A tribunal no one really wants

    This impunity corrodes Cambodia's gentle Buddhist soul. To add insult to
    unspeakable injury, the Khmer Rouge terror - the ultimate Cold War-related
    tragedy - was far from over after the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in
    January 1979. During the 1980s it metamorphosed into shameful acceptance,
    to the point that the United States recognized the "exiled" Khmer Rouge as
    the legitimate government of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge kept a United
    Nations seat. Even after the collapse of the "evil" Soviet empire and the
    end of the Cold War, the government of strongman Hun Sen and the UN only
    reached an agreement on a court in 2003.

    The whole process has been dragging on forever. The Cambodian National
    Assembly approved "extraordinary chambers" to conduct a trial only in early
    January 2001. In May 2003 the UN adopted Resolution 57/228B, which set a
    three-year-long tribunal, with its US$56.3 million budget basically
    provided by the international community, composed of Cambodian and
    international judges, and with life imprisonment as the maximum sentence
    (no death penalty). But it was only in October 2004 that the Hun Sen
    government finally ratified the tribunal agreement.

    Dispensing a few drops of justice three decades after the facts depends on
    a mere fistful of dollars. Late last month, the international community
    finally pledged a paltry $38 million for the trial, still $4.5 million
    short of the necessary $43 million. Japan is the largest donor ($21.6
    million, half of the total), followed by France ($4.8 million), Britain
    ($2.8 million) and Australia ($2.3 million). The US has contributed exactly
    zero dollars. Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is
    supposed to contribute $13 million. But it has officially announced it can
    only come up with $1.5 million. Considering that foreign donors injected
    more than $500 million into the Cambodian economy in 2004, a little extra
    global effort wouldn't hurt much.

    The US is not offering a single cent because of the Foreign Operations
    Appropriations Act of 2005, passed by Congress, which explicitly forbids
    help to a Cambodian tribunal. Only Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has
    the power to overturn it, if she judges in her infinite wisdom that the
    tribunal is competent, independent, impartial, incorruptible and "capable
    of delivering justice that meets internationally recognized standards".
    Many at the UN recognize that the system is not perfect. Most of the judges
    will be Cambodian, but all major decisions will require the vote of at
    least one international judge. Anyway, the UN is staking its reputation on
    the trial - though not so forcefully as it should. But so far there's no
    evidence Rice is losing any sleep over the matter.

    No one is, actually. The US - after the Vietnam War and the illegal bombing
    of Laos and Cambodia itself (which killed more than 600,000 Cambodians,
    according to local and European estimates) has absolutely no moral
    authority to push for a tribunal: every serious historian of Southeast Asia
    knows that the Khmer Rouge emerged because Washington did everything to
    undermine King Norodom Sihanouk. China blatantly supported the Khmer Rouge.
    As for Japan, it may be funding half of the proceedings, but its full
    attention is in fact focused on its bid to become a permanent member of the
    UN Security Council - an uphill battle considering that China is seriously
    considering its World War II-related reasons to block it.

    Even the Cambodian nation is not unanimous. The majority of the population,
    now at 12 million, is less than 20 years old, and a third lives under the
    poverty line. Most know about the Khmer Rouge only by oral tradition, with
    no direct experience of the terrible suffering. They tend to believe that
    the money sucked up by a long trial would be better spent on socially
    conscious projects.

    So it's up to the UN to take the lead. The problem is that the UN has been
    consumed by other crucial problems, such as the tsunami aftermath and the
    Darfur tragedy in Sudan - which Secretary General Kofi Annan considers the
    most pressing humanitarian tragedy at the moment. Moreover, there's the
    need to fight back the relentless efforts by Washington neo-cons to
    discredit the UN and Annan himself.

    Cambodia is trying to do its part. It has appointed a task force that will
    train 300 people and it is taking care of logistics. But nothing much is
    being done - apart from preliminary training for 30 judges and the
    translation of legal documents into the three official tribunal languages,
    Khmer, English and French - because there is no money, thus no final green
    light from the UN. For security reasons, the tribunal will probably take
    place at a military barracks 11 kilometers west of Phnom Penh. The UN has
    still not approved the site.

    The main priority will be how to make Cambodian and international judicial
    staff work as a team. The tribunal will automatically follow Cambodian
    court procedures but will use international rules whenever they need. Legal
    experts already despair: they say a specific code for this new court will
    have to be drafted.

    United Nations officials in Geneva admit off the record that the UN and
    especially Annan himself must urgently demonstrate their total commitment
    to get things moving. One way of doing it would be to give the go-ahead for
    the tribunal even if full funding is still not secured. The tribunal in
    this case would be able to start in three months' time, while the UN goes
    on overdrive to get the remaining fistful of dollars.

    Pol Pot is dead. Only a few, aging Khmer Rouge commanders will be tried.
    Certainly not the prison guards and torturers in Rithy Pann's film, who say
    on camera they were just following orders from Angkar. Strongman Hun Sen is
    a former Khmer Rouge. Today he poses as a statesman - the longest-serving
    prime minister in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. One wonders
    whether he will allow Cambodia to confront its terrible legacy of
    autogenocide freely, or whether he embraces the sound of silent pain
    corroding the soul of a nation for decades to come.[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:06 AM  

  • BBC News
    7 April 2005

    Killing Fields deal hits delay
    By Guy De Launey
    In Phnom Penh

    A deal to privatise the killing fields genocide memorial near Cambodia's
    capital, Phnom Penh, has been delayed.
    Municipal authorities were due to sign a contract with a Japanese company
    on Thursday.

    The proposed deal, which would put a national monument in overseas hands,
    had caused controversy within Cambodia.

    The municipal authorities had insisted the deal would go ahead despite
    growing opposition. But at the last minute, the signing ceremony was

    Both the governor and deputy governor of Phnom Penh found they had
    conflicting appointments elsewhere.

    So the contract remains unsigned for the moment.

    The authorities have not announced a new date for the ceremony and it seems
    possible the deal may now be scrapped entirely.

    Senior sources in the ruling party, the CPP, have made it clear that they
    are against the proposal and representatives of the victims of the Khmer
    Rouge regime have asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene. The motivation
    behind the deal remains unclear. The Phnom Penh authorities were planning
    to grant a Japanese company called J C Royal a 30-year lease on the Choeung
    Ek Killing Fields site.

    The company would pay $15,000 a year. It would also surface the road to the
    memorial, build a visitors' centre and raise admission prices by 600%.

    But there was already a long-standing agreement for the Asia Development
    Bank to fund some improvements, including a new road.[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:07 AM  

  • Khmer Rouge Soldiers Rue Revolution
    By KER MUNTHIT, Associated Press Writer
    April 17, 2005

    CHAMKAR TA NGET, Cambodia -- Nai Oeurn had reason to celebrate. Cambodia's
    civil war was over, and as the 14-year-old Khmer Rouge guerrilla marched
    into the capital, Phnom Penh, he truly believed his country's rural poor
    had triumphed.

    Thirty years later, after the "killing fields" and the death of one-sixth
    of the Cambodian population, his dream has come to this: collecting cow
    dung for a living, earning 90 cents for a 3-foot-high pile that takes five
    days to collect.

    For him, as for many other Cambodians, the 30th anniversary of the fall of
    Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, is an occasion to remember the thrill of
    victory while ruing its horrifying aftermath.

    "The ideology we were taught was to clean up the rich and the corrupt, who
    used to drive cars and look down on peasants, and to send them to work in
    the rice fields," Nai Oeurn says.

    It became a failed effort to demolish and rebuild the nation from scratch,
    and resulted in 1.7 million deaths by execution, starvation, overwork or
    lack of medical care.

    The Khmer Rouge leaders under Pol Pot declared 1975 to be "Year Zero" and
    set out to smash private ownership, money, the family structure, privacy --
    anything that smacked to them of the old Cambodia. But their ruthless
    efficiency couldn't fashion a functioning replacement, and in the end, all
    Cambodians were losers.

    Among the biggest losers are guerrillas like Nai Oeurn, many of whom have
    moved back to their impoverished villages and face suspicious neighbors who
    still remember the Khmer Rouge days.

    Khorn Prak says he was wounded 27 times in battle. When the Khmer Rouge
    were ousted by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979, he returned home to learn
    that his mother had died of illness in the years he had been away. Now, at
    53, he farms and mends bicycles in Kampong Thom, 80 miles north of Phnom

    The struggle, he says, "brought me nothing but my wounds. It was bloody and

    Cambodia had already been dragged into the Vietnam War and heavily bombed
    by U.S. warplanes when the Khmer Rouge rolled into Phnom Penh.

    They had been besieging the capital for months. The city was teeming with
    refugees and lacked food and medicine. But to guerrillas from the
    countryside such as 20-year-old Chhaing Tek Ngorn, it looked unimaginably

    Awed, they paused at a roadside shop, devoured noodle soup and struggled to
    uncap Pepsi-Cola bottles with their teeth.

    Now 50 and a farmer, Chhaing Tek Ngorn remembers nervously smiling
    civilians greeting the guerrillas with shouts of "Long live the liberation

    Almost immediately, however, the new occupiers began driving the populace
    into the countryside. Government military officers and high-ranking civil
    servants were executed. Khorn Prak said it took just a week to turn Phnom
    Penh into "a ghost town." Like Nai Oeurn, he was a believer who took part
    in the expulsion because he had a deep faith in the Khmer Rouge's pledge to
    eliminate distinctions between rich and poor.

    "I had no feeling, did not pity anything. I had no desire to possess
    anything," he said.

    Nai Oeurn recalled that his division commander "ordered Phnom Penh to be
    swept up and his soldiers to shoot anyone resisting eviction."

    The Khmer Rouge were moving everyone onto vast agricultural communes, and
    if they died, no tears would be shed because all city dwellers were
    considered pampered and corrupt.

    Today, in Chamkar Ta Nget, the same village 20 miles west of Phnom Penh
    where he joined the Khmer Rouge, Nai Oeurn lives with his wife and four
    children in a thatched hut with dirt floor. His right side is still numb
    from a shrapnel wound, and he says he hasn't seen his parents and three
    siblings since 1972. His father was a government army officer and would
    have been marked for death by the guerrillas.

    In a ceaseless, paranoid search for enemies, the Khmer Rouge inevitably
    began devouring their own. Suspect figures at the top were the first to go,
    then their underlings.

    Before being executed, many underwent gruesome torture at the regime's S-21
    prison in Phnom Penh -- now a museum and tourist attraction -- where Pen
    Heng once served as a guard.

    When one of the men on his watch fell asleep and let a prisoner snatch a
    gun to commit suicide, Pen Heng became suspect and was sent to plant rice
    outside Phnom Penh.

    "During the Pol Pot time, I tried to live day by day," Pen Heng said. "You
    had lived another day when you woke up the next day alive."

    At 47, he breeds bulls and lives with his three children and his wife, who
    used to be in a Khmer Rouge supply unit. Now making a good living by local
    standards, he says: "I've been reborn."

    Pol Pot died in the jungle in 1998, and about a dozen top Khmer Rouge aides
    may face a U.N.-assisted tribunal that is supposed to open this year. The
    foot soldiers, however, have been left to make their own peace with the

    Although they have generally been able to rejoin mainstream society, an
    "emotional barrier" still remains between the veterans and other Cambodians
    from their era, said Youk Chhang, director of a center researching Khmer
    Rouge atrocities.

    "Former Khmer Rouge and the victims are not socially integrated as yet
    because the Khmer Rouge still remain a living symbol of evil in our
    society," he said.

    Even though they appear at ease talking about their past, many former
    guerrillas feel a collective guilt or are shunned by neighbors, even if
    they did not take part in killings, he said.[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:07 AM  

  • Los Angeles Times
    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    Cambodians Divided Over the Past
    The slaying of a youth at a Los Angeles temple Sunday comes after weeks of
    debate over how to remember the Khmer Rouge genocide.
    By Anna Gorman, Times Staff Writer

    Cambodian Americans gathered at Wat Khmer Temple near downtown Los Angeles
    on Sunday to celebrate the New Year, kneeling in prayer before a Buddha
    statue, dancing to a traditional live band and serving fish soup and
    noodles to the orange-clad monks.

    On the same day in Long Beach, survivors of the killing fields held a vigil
    at a local park to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the start of the
    brutal communist Khmer Rouge regime that took the lives of more than 1
    million Cambodians.

    But just as the New Year's festival was coming to a close, a fight erupted
    outside the Los Angeles temple among a group of young Cambodian Americans.
    Elders, along with security guards, tried to break it up.

    But when the altercation ended about 9 p.m., police said, 21-year-old Harry
    Yang was mortally wounded, stabbed multiple times.

    "It looked like wartime," said Phan Eng, 31, who said he heard screams
    during Sunday's melee. "This celebration time is supposed to be happy. It
    is not supposed to be like that."

    On Monday, the monks sat cross-legged in front of the Buddha statue and
    prayed for Yang and his family.

    Steps away, Los Angeles Police Department detectives investigated the
    slaying. Officials said they were trying to determine a motive but believe
    local Asian gangs may have been involved. Police said a suspect was seen
    running from the temple, but no arrests had been made as of late Monday.

    "There was a party and they were just celebrating and dancing, and someone
    lost their temper," said Los Angeles Police Det. Alan Solomon. "Over what,
    we don't know."

    For Southern California's Cambodian community, the shooting punctuated an
    emotional few weeks in which its members have publicly debated how to both
    commemorate the solemn anniversary and celebrate the New Year.

    The conflict divided the older generation, who believe April 17 should be a
    day of remembrance for the dead of the killing fields, and the younger
    generation, who did not experience the horrors of that time.

    Roughly 28,000 people of Cambodian descent live in Los Angeles County,
    according to the U.S. Census, with the largest community in Long Beach. For
    the last four years, the community has held a New Year's celebration at El
    Dorado Park in Long Beach.

    This year, Long Beach City Councilwoman Laura Richardson helped sponsor and
    plan an inaugural New Year's parade to be held the day after the
    festivities in the park. She and others proposed that the park festival be
    held April 16 and that the parade take place April 17.

    But a group of elder Cambodian immigrants and refugees immediately opposed
    the plan.

    To them, April 17 holds sacred meaning. It was the date that Pol Pot
    stormed into Phnom Penh and began his four-year reign. Between 1975 and
    1979, Pol Pot aimed to wipe out the past in Cambodia and start a utopia.
    During that time, Khmer Rouge soldiers executed, starved or tortured
    Cambodians throughout the country. The reign of terror ended with Vietnam's
    invasion in 1979.

    Critics of the April 17 parade formed an organization called the Killing
    Field Memorial Task Force to protest holding the parade on the 17th. The
    task force also set a goal to build a shrine and museum about the killing
    fields to teach young Cambodian Americans the history and the legacy of
    that deadly time in Cambodian history.

    Paline Soth, 53, who lost his father, two brothers and grandparents, is
    part of the task force. Soth said the younger generation did not understand
    the suffering and sorrow that he and others still feel over losing so many
    family members.

    Soth shaved his head in protest and went to the council to beg officials to
    change the date. "We view April 17 as a day of mourning instead of
    celebration," he said. "April 17 is in the anthem of the Khmer Rouge…. It's
    very symbolic. It's very painful."

    The younger Cambodian Americans knew about the killing fields. They knew
    about April 17. But they also knew that there were New Year's celebrations
    elsewhere that same day, and they believed that the community should move
    forward, said Lina Heng, 21, the president of the Cambodian Student Society
    at Cal State Long Beach. The committee planning the Cambodian New Year
    parade also did not want to change the date because the city had not yet
    guaranteed a new date.

    "We recognized the date as a sensitive date," Heng said. "We understood,
    but for us, it's all about moving on."

    With both sides holding their ground, tensions escalated. Heng, who was
    born in Long Beach, said people called her and fellow classmates communists
    and students of the Khmer Rouge. Richardson said there were threats made
    and car windows smashed.

    Finally, the community reached a compromise. A killing fields memorial
    service would be held at MacArthur Park on the 17th, and the parade along
    Anaheim Street would be moved to April 24. At tonight's meeting, Richardson
    said, the council also plans to sign a proclamation setting April 17 as a
    day of mourning.

    "We have a single Cambodian population in the city, and it's important we
    recognize the historical background of that community," Richardson said in
    a phone interview Monday. But she added that the disagreement should have
    never escalated.

    Heng, the Cal State Long Beach student, said she was pleased by the
    compromise but saddened by the division.

    "It kind of comes from what happened 30 years ago," she said. "It was a
    wound that wasn't healed yet. It was a wound that was opened again."

    At the Los Angeles temple, congregants were dealing with new wounds.

    Solomon said Asian gangs were a problem in the area surrounding the temple,
    on Beverly Boulevard near Union Avenue. Some of the gangs are made up
    predominantly of Cambodian youths, he said.

    Sok Mom, the president of Wat Khmer Temple, said he hoped to gather youths
    from the community to discuss the violence. Mom also hopes to have the
    police monitor future celebrations at the temple.

    On Monday morning, he joined the monks to chant in the sanctuary.

    "I feel very sad," said Mom, 58, who is an interpreter. "We will try to
    solve this problem to make our community better. We don't want something
    like this to happen". We are all Cambodian."[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 AM  

  • The Christian Science Monitor
    Thursday, April 14, 2005

    Lessons from killing fields of Cambodia - 30 years on
    By Alex Hinton
    (Alexander Hinton, author of 'Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of
    Genocide,' is an associate professor of anthropology at Rutgers

    NEWARK, N.J. - When the Khmer Rouge victoriously entered Phnom Penh 30
    years ago, many people greeted the rebels with a cautious optimism, weary
    from five years of civil war that had torn apart their lives and killed
    hundreds of thousands of Cambodians. All of the city dwellers were sent to
    live and work in the countryside, joining the peasantry in one of the most
    radical revolutions in history.

    During the nearly four years following that day - April 17, 1975 - Cambodia
    was radically transformed. Economic production and consumption were
    collectivized, as Pol Pot and his circle mobilized the entire population to
    launch a "super great leap forward." The labor demanded was backbreaking,
    monotonous, and unceasing.

    Everyday freedoms were abolished. Buddhism and other forms of religious
    worship were banned. Money, markets, and media disappeared. Travel, public
    gatherings, and communication were restricted. Contact with the outside
    world vanished. And the state set out to control what people ate and did
    each day, whom they married, how they spoke, what they thought, and who
    would live and die. "To keep you is no gain," the Khmer Rouge warned, "To
    destroy you is no loss."

    In the end, more than 1.7 million of Cambodia's 8 million inhabitants
    perished from disease, starvation, overwork, or outright execution in a
    notorious genocide.

    Now, 30 years after the Khmer Rouge came to power in a time of war and
    terror, we - who also live in a time of war and terror - would do well to
    consider what lessons can be learned from the Cambodian genocide. I offer
    four suggestions in the spirit of George Santayana's oft-cited words "Those
    who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

    * The vision thing: Pol Pot and his fellow ideologues believed that the
    "science" of Marxism-Leninism had provided them with the tools to eliminate
    capitalist and imperialist oppression. The "all-knowing" Party would
    catapult Cambodia toward communist utopia. Like that of other genocidal
    ideologues, the Khmer Rouge path to this future was strewn with the bodies
    of those who did not fit this vision.

    Today, in an era of new fanaticisms, the Khmer Rouge remind us that vision
    needs to be tempered with humility and toleration of the sort that inspired
    people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and, perhaps now in Iraq, Grand
    Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

    * The enemy within: For the Khmer Rouge, grandiose and unrealistic visions
    led to failures, failures suggested subversion, perceived subversion fueled
    paranoia, and paranoia sparked purges and the "purification" of the masses.

    After Pol Pot's clique ordered the eradication of "hidden enemies burrowing
    from within," terror and death became commonplace. Sometimes suspected
    enemies were executed in public; often they simply vanished. "Be quiet,"
    people whispered; "bodies disappear."

    In our age of terrorist fear, as suspect Arabs and Muslims vanish, are
    tortured, or held without trial, the Khmer Rouge period cautions us about
    the dangers of political paranoia. The enemy within, too often, turns out
    to be ourselves as - driven by fear - we violate the rights of others.

    * Torture: The Khmer Rouge established an elaborate security apparatus to
    identify and eradicate the "impure elements" threatening the purity of the

    Some of these class enemies were killed immediately; others were imprisoned
    and tortured. Arrest presupposed guilt, so interrogators sought to force
    prisoners to reveal their treason. "Why did you betray the Party?" they
    would ask. "Who else belongs to your secret network?" The Khmer Rouge
    utilized a wide range of torture techniques - electric shocks,
    asphyxiation, immersion in water, forcing the consumption of feces and
    urine, stringing prisoners up in the air, and prolonged bodily stress -
    that have echoes today. These brutal methods got results: Most prisoners
    were eventually willing to confess to almost anything.

    Now, as we learn more about Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and sites of
    rendition, the violent practices of the Khmer Rouge warn us that the
    information extracted through torture is highly unreliable and that those
    who turn down this dark path start to resemble the evil they are pursuing.

    * Through a glass darkly: One of the most startling aspects of meeting
    perpetrators of genocide is how ordinary they often are. In their path to
    evil we catch reflections of ourselves. Most of us have, at some point,
    used stereotypes and euphemisms, displaced responsibility, followed
    instructions better questioned, succumbed to peer pressure, disparaged
    others, become desensitized to the suffering of others, and turned a blind
    eye to what our government should not be doing. These sorts of things are
    going on right now in the war on terror.

    Thirty years later, the Khmer Rouge teach us difficult lessons about
    ourselves and the world in which we live. Such understanding can help us
    become more self-aware, humble, tolerant, and let's hope, willing to act in
    the face of evil.[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 AM  

  • U.S. Wants Khmer Court Justice Assurance
    By WILLIAM C. MANN, Associated Press Writer

    April 21, 2005, 8:50 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON -- The United States will pay none of the $56.3 million needed
    for a tribunal to punish members of the Khmer Rouge for Cambodia's killing
    fields of the 1970s until convinced that the trials will meet international
    standards of justice, the State Department said Thursday.

    The government of Cambodia, where the three years of trials will be held,
    said last month it can afford only $1.5 million of its expected $13.3
    million share in the U.N.-aided exercise.

    This week marks the 30th anniversary of the radical Cambodian guerrillas'
    seizure of power in 1975, two years after U.S. forces left next-door
    Vietnam. North Vietnam completed its takeover of power in Vietnam a week
    after the Khmer Rouge accession in Cambodia.

    In the following years, 2 million to 3 million Cambodians were murdered or
    worked or starved to death during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror.

    "The United States joins the millions of Cambodians, Cambodian-Americans
    and others in remembering the victims of this deplorable regime," State
    Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Thursday in a statement marking the
    Khmer Rouge anniversary.

    Ratified last year, an agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations
    set the $56.3 million budget for the tribunal to bring to justice surviving
    leaders of the defunct communist group. None has been tried, and many,
    including the leader, Pol Pot, have died natural deaths.

    Plans for the tribunal projected that about $43 million of the total would
    be paid by other countries, with the remaining $13.3 million to be paid by
    Phnom Penh impoverished government.

    Talking to foreign diplomats in Phnom Penh last month, Om Yentieng, a
    member of the government's Khmer Rouge tribunal task force, urged other
    governments to help cover its $11.8 million shortfall toward its expenses.

    "We are appealing to interested states to assist Cambodia in meeting its
    allocated share of the budget," Yentieng said.

    "The United States believes there must be accountability for these
    atrocities and welcomed the agreement between the United Nations and
    Cambodia to establish the Khmer Rouge tribunal," Ereli said Thursday.

    But, he said, "For the United States to contribute to this process, we
    believe, as U.S. law stipulates, that the tribunal must meet
    internationally recognized standards of justice. As the formation of the
    tribunal moves forward, we will engage with the Government of Cambodia, the
    United Nations and interested countries to achieve this goal."

    "It is only through respect for the rule of law and the existence of
    effective institutions that barriers to impunity will be built and regimes
    like that of the Khmer Rouge will exist only in the sad annals of

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:09 AM  

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