Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Judges visit Khmer Rouge torture centre

Phnom Penh - The judges of the Cambodia tribunal have visited S-21, the notorious Khmer Rouge torture centre. They are involved in the trial of surviving members of the country's toppled communist regime. The former chief interrogator at the centre and one of the main defendants on trial, Duch, also took part in the visit.

The judges hoped the visit would give them a better picture of the atrocities committed in S-21 where, between 1975 and 1979, approximately 15,000 Cambodians were imprisoned. Only a few dozen of the prisoners survived their ordeal.

A few years ago, Duch expressed regret for his part in the atrocities. He is now acting as a witness for the prosecution.

Former Khmer Rouge chief revisits prison

he chief interrogator of the former Khmer Rouge in Cambodia has returned to the prison where thousands were killed under his supervision.

Kaing Geuk Eav, who is also known as Duch, wept as he led the investigating judges of the UN-assisted Khmer Rouge tribunal around the notorious S-21 prison.

He has been charged with crimes against humanity.

Spokesman for the tribunal, Reach Sambath, said Duch became emotional when shown a tree against which children were smashed to death.

"When he saw the tree trunk he said the children were smashed into the tree trunk," he said.

"At the end of the conversation he went on his leg and he, you know he pray, salute to the tree and he feel very emotioned."

Torture victims meet top Khmer Rouge inquisitor

Tourists look at a portrait of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the former head of the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, at Toul Sleng high school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Tourists look at a portrait of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the former head of the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, at Toul Sleng high school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photograph: Chor Sokunthea/Reuters

The Khmer Rouge's chief interrogator came face to face with survivors of the former Cambodian regime's notorious S-21 prison today as part of his trial charges of crimes against humanity.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, returned to the prison where he allegedly ordered thousands to be tortured and executed during the 1970s.

His visit to S-21 as part of Cambodia's genocide tribunal is the first since the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled in 1979. The site, known as Tuol Sleng, is now a genocide museum.

Figures suggest that 16,000 men, women and children were held at S-21; only 14 are thought to have survived.

Duch was joined by several witnesses and survivors of S-21 today. Speaking before the visit, three said they did not feel angry towards Duch but wanted answers about why they had been captured and tortured.

Bou Meng, 67, said he and his wife, Ma Yoeun, were both put in S-21 prison in 1977 and his wife was later executed.

"I just want to ask him what she may have done wrong that they had to kill her. Where is my wife?" he said.

"Duch is revisiting his past atrocities although he is not going to see blood stains or hear the scream of prisoners any more," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, a group researching atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge.

Duch yesterday broke down in tears as he led judges from the tribunal on a tour of the "killing fields" peppered with the mass graves of his alleged victims.

He has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role as commandant of the regime's largest torture facility. He is one of five former high-ranking Khmer Rouge officials being held for trial by the tribunal.

An estimated 1.7 million people died during the 1975-79 communist regime as a result of policies that caused starvation, overwork, lack of medical care and execution.

Cambodia holds Asian Festival of disabled artists

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Festival of inclusive arts attended by disabled and able-bodied artists has started in Cambodia, an event official said on Thursday.

The festival event in Siem Reap province is to be held from Feb.21 to 24 and the event in Phnom Penh will be held from Feb. 23 to March 1, said Chum Noy, an official for Bophanana Audiovisual Center, which is a supporter of the event.

"We encourage the artists to expand their skills and help society," he said.

For the first time, disabled and able-bodied artists from across Asia come together in Cambodia to present an exciting festival of performance, film, workshops, music and visual arts with a spotlight on the abilities of all people, said a press release of the event.

This arts extravaganza will celebrate the talent and diversity of not only Asian culture, but also the human spirit, it said.

"This isn't about putting disabled people up on the stage. This is about changing the way people perceive disability," Hannah Stevens said on behalf of Epic Arts in the press release.

Funded by The Nippon Foundation and produced by Epic Arts, spotlight is a world standard, multi-arts program which will provide powerful role models for people with disabilities, it said.

By involving the international community, the aim is to build opportunities and networks for artists with disabilities within the region, through workshops, collaborations and shared experiences, it added.

Editor: Yao Siyan

Khmer Rouge top interrogator apologises to regime's victim: witness

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The Khmer Rouge's top interrogator returned Wednesday to the former school turned torture centre which he ran during Cambodia's 1970s genocide, apologising to his victims for blindly following orders, a witness said.

It was the first time in nearly 30 years that prison boss Duch, who oversaw the regime's Tuol Sleng prison with brutal efficiency, had set foot in what was one of the Khmer Rouge's most horrific killing machines.

The 65-year-old former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders facing UN-backed trials for atrocities committed under the communists' rule.

During a day-long session with officials from Cambodia's genocide tribunal, Duch walked through Tuol Sleng's dilapidated classrooms, re-enacting for them the daily routine that helped shape his alleged crimes, officials said.

"At the end he stood at the gate and clasped his hands in prayer, apologising to his victims for what he did and saying he had blindly followed his superior's orders to kill his own people," said one witness to the proceedings, which were conducted in private.

Only around a dozen of the estimated 16,000 men, women and children who were herded, blindfolded and bound, into Tuol Sleng during the regime's repeated purges are known to have lived through the ordeal.

Some of those survivors were on hand Wednesday to confront Duch directly for the first time since the Khmer Rouge regime fell, although tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath declined to comment on what was said.

"They talked to each other, but through the judges. The judges, lawyers and co-prosecutors asked questions and the witnesses and Duch answered," he told AFP.

"All the parties, including the charged person and the witnesses, have explained what happened here 30 years ago," he added.

He said that more meetings between Duch, survivors and former prison guards would be mediated Thursday by court officials as part of their ongoing investigation into the brutal upheaval that engulfed Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

Tuol Sleng survivor Chum Mey, who according to witnesses was present Wednesday, told AFP earlier that he wanted to speak to Duch and convince him to acknowledge his crimes.

"The re-enactment is good, it means he (Duch) cannot say he did not do anything. I want him to show the judges ... where he gave the orders to bring people to be executed," Chum Mey said.

"I want him to recall the stories and answer everything," he added.

Duch, a born-again Christian who was seized by Cambodian authorities in 1999 and held at a military prison until his transfer to the tribunal in July, is charged with crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the regime's inner circle.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed by the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.

Cities were emptied and their populations exiled to vast collective farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated classes targeted for extermination.

Duch, who has not denied his Tuol Sleng role, also took court officials Tuesday through the Choeung Ek killing fields, where as many as 20,000 people -- most of them prisoners at Tuol Sleng -- were murdered.

There he knelt and prayed several times, weeping for the regime's victims, Reach Sambath said, calling the visit a significant step towards justice.

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal was established in July 2006 after nearly a decade of contentious negotiations between the government and United Nations over the shape of the court.

The first public trials are expected later this year.

Cambodia suspends to release alleged terrorists

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian Supreme Court here on Wednesday delayed to release verdict for three men charged with attempted murders of diplomats by suicide bombing and explosion against western countries' embassies in Phnom Penh.

Haji Chiming Abdulazi, 42, and Muhammady Alaludim Mading, 46, both Muslim from Thailand, as well as Cambodian Muslim Sman Esma El, 30, were already sentenced to life in jail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the Appeal Court.

"We delayed to release verdict for the case and we will declare it on March 13," said Khim Pon, president of the Council of Judgment, after over four hours of hearing.

The trio were charged with planning to murder diplomats through suicide bombing and explosion against western countries' embassies in Phnom Penh, including those of United States, Britain and Canada, said prosecutor Chhoun Chantha in the courtroom.

"They were also linked with regional terrorist group the Jemaah Islamiyah," he added.

The group's leader, Hambali, was arrested by the Thai authorities in February 2004, after reportedly staying for six months in Cambodia, he said.

They were connected with international terrorism group the Al-Queda and their acts were of international terrorism, he said.

The Cambodian police authorities arrested the three men in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Chhoun added.

Editor: Yan Liang

S Korean President to visit Cambodia this year

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Lee Myung Bak will visit Cambodia sometime this year, at the invitation by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during their Monday meeting in Seoul, a senior official said here Tuesday.

Lee will visit Cambodia to strengthen the cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, economy and personal relations, Hor Namhong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, told a press conference.

The press conference was held upon the return of a senior Cambodian delegation led by Hun Sen from the swearing-in ceremony of Lee Myung Bak in Seoul.

"The visit will bring about closer economic ties between the two sides to help develop Cambodia," Hor said.

Since Lee was former economic advisor for Hun Sen, the two men have had deep personal relations, Hor said, adding that this year is also the 11th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

As the No. 1 foreign investor in Cambodia, South Korea is contributing large amount of money in the construction field in Cambodia, Hor said.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

ADB president arrives in Cambodia for visit

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda arrived in Phnom Penh Sunday for his first official visit to Cambodia.

Kuroda is scheduled to meet with senior Cambodian government officials on Monday to discuss ADB's assistance programs in this country and the important role of regional cooperation in the Southeast Asia region, an ADB news release said.

Kuroda will also travel to Sisophon in northwest Cambodia to launch a new railway rehabilitation project and will sign a package of five grants and loans that will help spur job creation, expand educational opportunities, and enhance growth, it said.

Cambodia has received over one billion U.S. dollars in assistance since joining ADB in 1966, according to the news release.

Between 2004 and 2007, ADB has provided six grants and nine loans to Cambodia totaling 250 million U.S. dollars, it said, adding that ADB plans to provide an additional 50 million U.S. dollars in assistance this year.

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