Friday, February 29, 2008

Hang-in there

The addition of my Blog under the umbrella of my website and adding some files to my server are taking longer than expected. One result is that some of the photos on my website are not loading. Please hang-in there, it will be sorted early next week. However, there's a new front page at http://andybrouwer.co.uk, so please tell me if its easy to use and pleasing on the eye (except for the photos of me, obviously).
I popped into the Rising Sun for dinner this evening to find out that Samnang, the barmaid who I've known for quite a few years now, was sporting a maternity slip and she tells me she's three months pregnant. That's great news for her and her husband and I wish Samnang a painless and easy labour. Another pregnancy that I forgot to mention is that of Kulikar Sotho, the Executive Director of the company I now work for, Hanuman Tourism. Kulikar is around 4 months already and her, and husband Nick, are looking forward to a 2nd Ray to join their son, Julian.
Lots going on in Phnom Penh right now, so don't forget that its Cambodia - The Betrayal at Meta House tomorrow evening (Saturday), the film by John Pilger that showed the disgraceful lengths to which the Western governments went to keep the Khmer Rouge seated at the United Nations and a credible fighting force against the Vietnamese-installed government here in Cambodia at that time. An episode of time for which all those governments should be absolutely ashamed of their actions.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Chandler on S-21

Tuol Sleng and S-21 - by David Chandler
Author of Voice from S-21, Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison (1999)
I began reading documents from the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes in the early 1990s, and since that time I have read thousands of them, and I have also given many talks and seminars about the museum and the DK prison, known under Pol Pot as "S-21", that used to occupy its grounds. In my book, Voices from S-21 , I summarized my research, drawing on these documents and on interviews with survivors of the prison, and with people who had once worked there. The book has been translated, chapter by chapter, in the pages of Searching for the Truth (a monthly magazine of the Documentation Center of Cambodia). On several occasions, Cambodians have suggested to me that S-21 was invented out of whole cloth by the Vietnamese, so as to blacken the reputation of the Cambodian people and to indict them en masse for genocidal crimes. None of the Cambodians who spoke to me could be considered a "Khmer Rouge". I always replied to them that I believe that their suggestions were mistaken. The effort to invent S-21, I think, would have been far too costly for the Vietnamese, and far too complicated. The Vietnamese did not have the resources, for example, to compose the documents discovered in the S-21 archives (and thousands of others related to S 21, discovered elsewhere in Phnom Penh after the Vietnamese withdrew), to invent the names and backgrounds of workers at the prison, to fake the photographic evidence, and to invent biographies for the survivors and former workers at the facility. Moreover, had they mounted such an operation, it seems likely that someone who participated in it would have talked about it, especially after the Vietnamese withdrew their forces in l989.
To be sure, the impetus to turn Tuol Seng into a museum came from the Vietnamese., under the guidance of a Vietnamese army colonel named Mai Lam, who is now retired and living in Ho Chi Minh City. Mai Lam has been interviewed on several occasions. He says he is proud of his work in the site S-21 into a museum of genocidal crimes. He is also happy to have turned the killing fields at Choeung Ek, where over 10,000 prisoners at S-21 were executed, into a terrifying tourist destination. The Vietnamese established the museum at Tuol Sleng in 1979-1980 for several reasons. In the first place, I believe, it was important for them to base the legitimacy of their presence in Cambodia, and the legitimacy of the PRK government, on the fact that they had freed Cambodia from the "genocidal clique" of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, who were tried and condemned to death in absentia in August l979. It was also important for the Vietnamese, and for their allies in the Soviet Bloc, to distance the Vietnamese Communist party, and its Cambodian counterpart, from the communist regime of Democratic Kampuchea. It was important for the Vietnamese and the PRK to label Democratic Kampuchea a "fascist" regime, like Nazi Germany, rather than a Communist one, recognized as such by many Communist counties. Finally, it was important for the Vietnamese to argue that what had happened in Cambodia under DK, and particularly at S-21, was genocide, resembling the Holocaust in World War II, rather than the assassinations of political enemies that at different times had marked the history of the Soviet Union, Communist China, and Vietnam.
The Vietnamese organized S-21 into a museum, using the massive documentation that had survied at the site. Similarly, they turned Choeung Ek into a tourist destination after exhuming thousands of bodies there. In neither case did the Vietnamese invent an institution. Instead, the documents from the S-21 archive, the photographs of prisoners, and the interviews that have been conducted with survivors and former workers at the prison all convince me that S-21 was a Cambodian institution, serving the purposes of the leaders of a terrified and terrifying Cambodian regime.

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Don't worry...there's changes afoot

If you've experienced some access problems with this Blog or my main website this afternoon, then don't worry, it's not your pc or your web-host that's faulty, it's me - as I'm loading a new frontpage of the website at http://andybrouwer.co.uk and then making sure my blog now sits under the umbrella of my website. There's been some unforseen problems recently with my blog - the full story will unfold soon enough - so I need to do a quick-fix and at the same time freshen up my website's frontpage. All good fun.

Be very afraid...

This Dvarapala welcomes and warns you on your arrival at Wat Nokor
I have brought you some of the beauties of Wat Nokor in the form of the heavenly Devatas, so now here are some of the less attractive characters to be found there, the temple guardians, also known as Dvarapalas. They are the guardians of doors and entrances of temples and other holy sanctuaries, they frighten away the evil spirits and are powerful in battle and uproot trees, and hurl the tops of the mountains against their enemies - so I advise you to be on your best behaviour when visiting Wat Nokor. With their bulging eyes, large nose and fierce expressions they always appear fearful and with an imposing strength. They hold a large club, or gada, as their weapon both of attack and knowledge, and are adorned with a crown, ear-ornaments, a necklace, bracelets, anklets and ornaments. There are four of these guardians at the eastern entrance to the temple.

Make sure you are on your best behaviour or you incur the wrath of the guardians
This Dvarapala is inside the first gopura of the eastern entrance to the prasat

Am I mad?

I think the heat and humidity is getting to me. I've just put my name down for a more than challenging cycling tour through the protected forest of northeast Mondulkiri province next month! Am I mad or what? I haven't ridden a bike seriously since I was a teenager. The tour will be 4 days of about 50kms riding each day, which doesn't sound so bad until you realise that its in one of the most remote places in Cambodia. Alongside the Vietnam border, the Srepok Wilderness Area, operated by the environmental organisation WWF, is hours from anywhere and target villages on the itinerary like Trapeang Thmier, Merouch, O'Rovei and Nam Ram don't even appear on the new Total Atlas of the country! It's part of a plan to develop ecotourism as a way of supporting the communities in that area, introducing alternative livelihoods and assisting conservation projects - but whether I should be putting myself through all this is another discussion altogether. It'll be incredibly hot, even in the cooler climes of Mondulkiri, and the route is untried but its a great opportunity to see a part of Cambodia that I've not yet visited, so I'll just shut up and get on with it. Wish me luck, especially my poor arse.

This Saturday evening at 7pm will see the screening at Meta House of one of the John Pilger films that did so much to raise a storm of protest over Cambodia in the UK when it was shown in late 1990. Cambodia: The Betrayal was Pilger's examination of the continued secret support given by Western governments to the Khmer Rouge and their allies. It won an international Emmy Award for Best Documentary and Pilger himself received the Richard Dimbleby Award for factual reporting at the 1990 BAFTA Awards. At the time, it got me writing furiously to the Prime Minister, the Labour party spokesman, my MP, literally everyone and their dog to show my disgust for the actions of my own government and even the SAS in backing the Khmer Rouge and allowing such a genocidal group to remain seated at the United Nations. Read a review of the film by Helen Jarvis, the current Publicity Chief of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal here.

Also coming to Meta House very soon will be an exhibition by Japanese artist and photographer Yoko Toda of photographs he took in Cambodia in 1965 and 1966 of a country at peace. Entitled Silence Remained, the exhibition will be officially inaugurated on March 4 and goes on until the March 14. Read more here. The artist himself says; "The beauty and the truth of this sacred place prior to the nightmare of destruction breathe their eternal light and shadow in these images" - make sure you see the exhibition.

The Devatas of Nokor

A devata at the eastern entrance under threat of a new green coat
Two different styles of devata, the one on the left carries a mirror, the other a flower bud
Wat Nokor was built during the reign of the master temple-builder, Jayavarman VII, at the beginning of the 13th century. And throughout the complex, an array of unique Devatas - also known as Apsaras, where the term seems to be interchangeable - can be found, with simplistic decoration or more intricate head-dresses. These are ravishing beauties, born of the Ocean of Milk and adding glamour and a fantasy element to the temples which they adorn. There are of course nearly two thousand of these deities on the walls of Angkor Wat but Wat Nokor has its share too and each one, as far as I could see, was unique.

A long-haired, almost dwarf-like devata standing on a large plinth
One of the more intricate head-dresses on a devata at Wat Nokor
One of the slim-waisted and sensuous devatas at Wat Nokor, with yellow lichen on the wall

Welcome to Wat Nokor

The western entrance into Wat Nokor through a line of palm trees
The southern entrance to Wat Nokor through a simple, unadorned laterite gate
I visited Kompong Cham recently and no visit would be complete without another viewing of Wat Nokor, one of the best-preserved provincial temple sites, with a variety of carvings and statues and an unusual merger between the ancient prasat and the modern pagoda. I have over 40 photos that I want to publish here, so be prepared for a long series of posts over the next couple of days. Don't say I didn't warn you. It's a temple that I've visited on a few occasions and I never tire of seeing it again. As well as the Angkorean temple, it also has a genocide memorial that had been moved since my last visit, a resident monkey, a $2 entrance fee - if you can wake up the tourist policeman and a children's NGO in the grounds of the pagoda that puts on a dance performance most days. The photos here represent the 'welcome mat' to Wat Nokor.

The eastern entrance with four garudas on naga, four lions and a guardian figure
Also at the east entrance are another series of garudas, lions and a guardian. In the background, the large stupa previously housed the genocide memorial
One of the best preserved garuda on naga carvings at the eastern entrance

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bun's latest children's book

The latest children's book from ace animator and cartoonist Bun Heang Ung, titled Wally's Bedroom Aviary, and written by Sara Bednark, has been published and is available here. Bun Heang Ung is better known as a political cartoonist for the Far Eastern Economic Review and for his vivid drawings that accompanied his life story in The Murderous Revolution, written by Martin Stuart-Fox. Read more about Bun here and see his own view on Cambodia today at sacravatoons.

There's more to Wat Moha Leap

My boat ferry across the peaceful Tonle Touch river
Wat Moha Leap is of course known for its well-preserved wooden pagoda. It stands on the bank of the Tonle Touch river in the Koh Sotin district of Kompong Cham province and enjoys its notoriety as it was left standing by the Khmer Rouge and their disregard for the Buddhist faith, when most other wooden pagodas of its type and age were trashed. Next to the main vihara is a sala, or resting house, which was used as the King's sleeping quarters when he stayed at the pagoda and on both the sala and the main temple, the intricate wooden pediments at the front and back remain intact. Few of these wooden pediments remain in situ and some of the best examples can be seen at the Angkor Conservation compound in Siem Reap. To add to the interest at Wat Moha Leap, the grounds contain a large number of statues, the front gate is of unusual design whilst a 12 metre reclining Buddha is a recent addition and located just outside the complex.

The unusual front gate of Wat Moha Leap
The wooden sala built especially for the King's visit and used as his sleeping quarters A rare wooden pediment with intricate design on the back of the King's sala
The 12 metre long reclining Buddha

The 5 Ang's

Vo (left) and the author face the setting sun

The mound with sandstone remains at Ang Pichiva
The inside brick wall at Ang Prum
These are likely to be the most uninspiring pictures I have posted during my temple-hunting adventures! The 5 Ang's that surround the village of Krang Metrei in Kompong Speu povince are nothing to write home about. Five brick prasats, probably pre-Angkorean but almost impossible to tell due to a complete absence of carving at each temple. The prasats are spaced between 200-500 metres apart except for the fifth and final site, at least a kilometre from the others and much nearer the village, where I judged there to have been three brick towers in its hey-day with lots of bricks and a few slabs of sandstone scattered around the ruin. In order of our visits, Vo told me their names were Ang Pichiva, Ang Prum, Ang Kavuth, Ang Yeay Pheang and Ang Sakae. I have no reason to doubt him, though the old French history books indicate the name, possibly of the group of five temples, as Ang Trapeang Prei. Meeting Vo, his family and seeing the temple sites brought an end to my day of exploration in Kompong Speu province.
The ground is littered with bricks around the tower foundations at Ang Kavuth
A fire has burnt off the undergrowth at the mound of Ang Yeay Pheang
The rubble-strewn three tower ruins at Ang Sakae

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prasat hunting in Kompong Speu

A slate pedestal at Wat Ang Serei, on top of the hill
The inside brick wall of one part of the broken prasat at Wat Ang Serei
Kompong Speu is not known as a hotbed of Angkorean temples for prasat-hunters like me to gorge themselves on, as there are in provinces like Siem Reap of course, Preah Vihear, Kompong Thom and so on. However, with the aid of the new Ministry of Culture/EFEO maps that I highlighted recently, you can certainly scout around the sites indicated on the maps to see what you can find and these can lead you onto sites that aren't mentioned on the maps, as I did last Sunday. The first of the prasats were at Wat Ang Serei, which they also called Wat Saportep, just aouth of Route 4 between Samrong Tong and Kompong Speu town. On a small hill, a brick tower was cut into the side of the hill, but all carvings, except for a broken slate pedestal, were long gone. The monk suggested that a tunnel led from the bottom of the tower to Wat Ampe Phnom, a couple of kilometres away but talk of underground tunnels is common at such places. The next ruin was in a field next to a newly-built canal and was called Neak Ta Thma Bang, a couple of kilometres from Wat Ang Po. A cluster of trees hid the site from the road and on closer inspection, the foundations of the brick tower remained but little else of note, except one piece of carving that I found under a carpet of leaves and pieces of colonettes that had been converted into a seat.

Returning to my moto, I was met by a local villager, Vo, who asked if I wanted to see the five temples that surrounded his nearby village. As these weren't mentioned on the map, I gave him a big beaming smile and asked him to lead on. We left the moto at the home of one of his neighbours in the village of Krang Metrei and began the start of our two-hour exploration on foot. Walking in a large semi-circle across burnt rice fields and shrub-land we visited five brick-built prasats that in each case consisted of a large hole inside brick foundations on top of a small rise in the middle of a field. In most cases, the temples had been broken apart by robbers looking for loot and large holes dug inside where the tower had stood on the hunt for whatever they could find. The prasats were spaced between 200-500 metres apart except for the fifth and final site, at least a kilometre from the others and much nearer the village, where I judged there to have been three brick towers in its hey-day with lots of bricks and a few slabs of sandstone scattered around the ruin. In order of our visits, Vo told me their names were Ang Pichiva, Ang Prum, Ang Kavuth, Ang Yeay Pheang and Ang Sakae. Not earth-shattering discoveries by any stretch of the imagination and for 99.9% of people, the two hours would've been a waste of time, but my view is that if you don't make the effort to visit these sites then you will never know what's there. Vo had been good company. He told me that he was married with two baby girls and that when he wasn't working as a carpenter, he helped his father grow cucumbers on his plot of land, on which Ang Yeay Pheang sat. We then returned to Vo's home for cold drinks and to chat to his father, Prak Doh, who related the history of the temples, as had been told to him by his father, and claimed that as little as ten years ago the prasats had been in much better condition until thieves came looking for their bounty. The sun was setting as I said my goodbyes to Vo and his family and closed the page on my prasat-hunting in Kompong Speu, until next time.

The colonettes at Neak Ta Thma Bang have been converted to seats
The remains of the brick tower at Neak Ta Thma Bang
The only piece of carving I could find at Neak Ta Thma Bang, under a carpet of leaves

Scot shot by Pol Pot

History is revisited with this report from Scotland's Sunday Herald newspaper.
Pol Pot murdered Scot in Cambodia : Report shows dictator ordered shooting of academic

More than 1.5 million people died in the killing fields of Cambodia, but one of the most puzzling footnotes in the slaughter and destruction of that country is the unsolved murder of the only British victim - the first Westerner caught up in the violence. Gunmen burst into Scottish academic Malcolm Caldwell's Phnom Penh government guesthouse and shot him repeatedly in the chest and leg, killing him instantly. He was found with his apparent assassin slumped by his body and also riddled with bullet holes. At the time, the BBC reported he was killed by Vietnamese agents to discredit Pol Pot, but 30 years after the murder documents newly obtained by the Sunday Herald under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the genocidal dictator himself ordered the assassination, early in the morning of December 23, 1978. Just hours earlier, the 47-year-old father of four had met the despot, demanded to see deposed leader Prince Sihanouk and had asked about missing Cambodians and ministers, most of whom, it transpires, were already dead.
According to the classified documents, journalist Wilfred Burchett had seen an official Cambodian report a year later which said: "Caldwell was murdered by members of the National Security Force personnel on the instructions of the Pol Pot government." An unnamed British civil servant adds: "Caldwell told Burchett he had every intention of asking some pointed questions and that he was absolutely determined to see Sihanouk. It is likely, therefore, that he upset his hosts, who were probably concerned that a prominent supporter/apologist of the Pol Pot regime might report in a critical vein on his return home. Matters probably came to a head after a private interview which Caldwell had with Pol Pot." The papers also reveal a chilling account of the murder from eyewitness Richard Dudman, made five days later at the British embassy in Washington. The journalist for the St Louis Dispatch told officials of the moment a young gunman shot at him and Caldwell in the Khmer Rouge VIP guesthouse at 12.55am.
Born in Stirling into a middle-class Tory-voting household, Caldwell went on to get a double first at Edinburgh University by the time he was 21. He became a Marxist academic at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies and a left-wing activist, serving as head of CND in 1968-70. A supporter of the Khmer Rouge, he was one of the first Westerners allowed into the country after 1975, and travelled to Cambodia with Dudman and fellow American journalist Elizabeth Becker just as the true horror of the genocide was becoming apparent.
Caldwell had spent three weeks touring the country surrounded by Khmer Rouge minders but had seen and surreptitiously photographed the impoverished peasants. Dudman reported that in Phnom Penh he knocked on Caldwell's door as a young uniformed man appeared in the corridor with a machine gun on his shoulder and a pistol in his hand and fired at the two men. Dudman ran into his room and two shots were fired into the door. Then he heard more shots. 90 minutes later, a Cambodian security officer told Dudman that Caldwell was OK and he had to stay in his room. But, Dudman then said, "An hour later a high ranking foreign office official told me Malcolm Caldwell was dead and asked me to witness the scene."
Dudman went to look and saw the open door of Caldwell's room and saw his dead body "supine, eyes wide open and body soaked in blood". He estimated Caldwell had been hit at least three times. The official told Dudman that the dead gunman had shot Caldwell and then shot himself.
Becker's account indicates that the murder scene could have been staged. The Washington Post journalist found herself face to face with the killer and ran back into her room and hid in her bath. After the shots, she then heard bodies being dragged up and down stairs on three different occasions. Dudman and Becker later noticed that there were bloodstains on the stairs and corridor. The Foreign Office officials speculate that because of the time lapse and Becker's account, it was very possible that Caldwell's murder scene had been stage-managed.

More from Ampe Phnom

The sandbanks of the Prek Thnoat river, popular amongst the bathers at Ampe Phnom
One of two Neak Ta at the resort - this one looks very sporty
This is the last batch of photos from my visit to the Ampe Phnom resort a few kilometres outside Kompong Speu on Sunday. There were a few Khmer families enjoying the food and the fortune-tellers but it was pretty quiet, the noise intermittently broken by squealing monkeys as they fought over scraps. The water level of the Prek Thnoat river was low so not many people were bathing but splashing around in the water and eating snacks in small bamboo huts is a Khmer tradition, especially popular at festival time. The pagoda that crowns the island isn't much to look at, though a wat has occupied the site since 1632 and a large stupa in one corner was built in 1914. I counted no less than ten fortune-tellers dotted around the pagoda and though the Khmers I met didn't necessarily believe what they were told, they paid their money to receive the news anyway. To close, the sign at the front of the resort read Ompe Phnom, so I'm not really sure which spelling is correct - does it really matter? In future posts I will give the low-down on my prasat hunting in Kompong Speu province - not overly successful, but they are there if you look for them.

A family stupa built in 1914 next to the Wat Ampe Phnom
Ampy, the $2.50 a ride elephant that lives at the resort
The 500 riel per person suspension bridge over the river, looking out from the island

The Red Sense revealed

Tim Pek's directorial debut, The Red Sense, will get it's world premiere at a gala event in Australia at The Drum Theatre, Dandenong, Victoria, Melbourne on Saturday 8 March. Shot in Australia, the story centres around a young woman who discovers that the Khmer Rouge soldier who killed her father, is alive and well and living closeby. She is torn between wanting to take revenge or if in forgiving her father’s executioner, she could bring healing to herself and her people. The film features a Khmer cast, all of whom have their own connection to the Khmer Rouge genocide. Following the film's premiere in Melbourne, Tim Pek (right) will bring the film to Cambodia - very timely of course with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal currently occupying everyone's attention in Phnom Penh.

I spoke to the film's director Tim Pek by email today for an update:
Q. We spoke in Dec 2006 about your debut film The Red Sense, what's been happening to it, and you, since that time? A. Hi Andy, Nice to hear from you again. That was a long time since we spoke, yeah I did recall that since that Christmas time we’ve been really busy in post production, from editing, music composing, scene swapping and ADR (Audio Dialogue Replacement) which we weren't so happy about, and of course, heaps of fine tuning.
Q. What have you learnt about the film-making process in that time? A. It was the most eye-opening experience I ever had, its a mixture of fun and headaches. It was slow and very time consuming, if you really love your work and want to get it right. My principle in this nature is that the audience will give you one shot only when you are making your debut film, so you must follow the guidelines as close as possible. These are the experiences and knowledge I have adopted with my film and I will learn from them.
Q. Do you think the Khmer Rouge Tribunal taking place in Cambodia, will give the film a real currency for the audience? A. It’s hard to say, but I am sure for the western audiences this will be their cup of tea as well as Khmers living abroad.
Q. When's your target date for a Cambodian Premiere for the film? As 80% of the film's dialogue is in Khmer, do you believe this will encourage high audience interest in your homeland? A. I have lodged the paperwork for the film with the Cambodian Culture department for more than a month now, and am awaiting their approval. Once I have their approval then it shouldn't be too long and a month’s promotion will be enough. The dialogue in the film is still that figure, there will be English and Khmer subtitles, so everyone can understand it easily. As this film is classified as an Arthouse film, I hope this will prove popular.
Q. I see you have also produced two more films, Bokator & Annoyed, what are your future film plans? A. Well they are not yet released - Bokator is still in post production, while Annoyed will be out later this year. Talking about my future film plans, I have heaps in mind and already have a few film productions that have given me scripts though I haven't made any decisions yet, but I can assure you that Khmer history and heroes, legendary artists and singers are top of my priority list. Let’s see how The Red Sense goes first, and we take it from there.

Visit the film's website for more and also read my original interview with Tim Pek here.

Exciting opportunities

Today's Cambodia Daily, the popular English-language newspaper, carries this advert for new staff at Hanuman. We are finding it very difficult to recruit suitable people possessing the necessary qualities to flourish in a go-ahead company like ours. There's a wealth of people leaving the universities armed with degrees for this and that but few are able to convert those degrees and the knowledge they've amassed into convincing me at interview that they have what it takes. Working in our environment, written and spoken English is absolutely paramount but the absence of practicing their English with native English speakers leaves many of the applicants struggling at the interview and testing stage.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Remembering the victims

An all too common a sight in Cambodia at one of 70+ memorials across the country
The genocide memorial at Wat Ampe Phnom, next to the river
Wat Ampe Phnom is a holiday resort for Cambodians, usually resounding to the squeals of laughter, the patter of the fortune-tellers and the smell of cooked food, but it also has a dark history, as a killing zone of the Khmer Rouge. Between 1975-79, the KR used Wat Ampe Phnom as a prison and the area surrounding the pagoda as a mass gravesite, containing an estimated 4,000 victims. A lovely old nun, Reung, told me that many of the pits containing the bodies were dug up as desperate locals searched for gold in the aftermath of the Vietnamese invasion before the local authorities began exhuming the bodies properly in the early 80s. She said that a large number of pits remain untouched. The genocide memorial stands close to the riverbank and has skulls on the top level, with leg and arm bones, and clothing, on the lower level. Another witness was Un Hak, who showed me a tree where women were tied or nailed to the trunk and their stomachs slit open and their bodies buried at the base of the tree. Scratch the surface anywhere in Cambodia and these stories are common place. That's why a trial, even after all these years, is important for Cambodians to feel as though all that pain and suffering has not been forgotten, and those who gave the orders, are brought to justice.

Leg and arm bones, and clothing, on the lower level
The skulls are kept on the upper level of the memorial
The frail but lively nun named Reung

Let's talk Tribunal

Tonight's panel: LtoR: Tom Fawthrop, Peou Dara Vanthan, Ray Leos, Benny Widyono
Tom Fawthrop gives his usual incisive views
Tonight at Pannasastra University, the 4th in a series of half a dozen forums on the Khmer Rouge Legacy, hosted by Meta House and Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, covered the period after UNTAC's presence in Cambodia and the changing situation that eventually resulted in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal that we see taking place at the moment. On the panel were two men who saw it all happening, namely veteran journalist Tom Fawthrop, and a man at the centre of much of what took place with a UN badge on it in the 90s, Benny Widyono. Dr Benny gave us a history lesson in UN power-politics, having been a key UNTACist and then returned as the UN's envoy in Phnom Penh, whilst Tom gave his usual forthright views on events as he saw them. Joining them were the DC-Cam's deputy director Peou Dara Vanthan and moderator Ray Leos. As you might expect there were a few plugs for Benny's new book, Dancing in Shadows, available at Monument Books and which I'm currently half-way through, in which he gives the inside story of what took place during much of that decade. I also grabbed the opportunity for a photo with the joint authors of the excellent book Getting Away with Genocide?, the story of the struggle to bring the KR to justice by Tom and the Tribunal's public affairs chief Helen Jarvis, who is a regular at these forums.

Benny Widyono spent much of the 1990s in Cambodia
Tom Fawthrop and Helen Jarvis, co-authors of Getting Away with Genocide?

Ampe Phnom resort

The suspension bridge across the Prek Thnoat River
It costs 500 riel to cross to the island of Wat Ampe Phnom
The Ampe Phnom resort near Kompong Speu is a locals-only resort in the main, as its about 50kms from Phnom Penh and very few foreigners bother to spend any time in the city or its nearby attractions. That was my impression after spending a couple of hours at Ampe Phnom yesterday. For Cambodians it holds the usual fascination of a myriad number of bamboo huts and food-stalls, a river to bathe in, a swinging suspension bridge, elephant rides, feeding bananas to monkeys and more fortune-tellers than tourists! It gets incredibly busy at the new year holiday time so I was told, when traditional games and dances are held, though the music blaring out of the massive speakers was loud enough for me to avoid that corner altogether. The island housing the pagoda of Wat Ampe Phnom, where the fortune-readers do a roaring trade, is reached by the suspension bridge across the Prek Thnoat river which has a toll of 500 riels per person and has a few planks missing, so watch your step. There is a troop of monkeys present - isn't there always - and an elephant that will give you a tour of the island on his back for $2.50 per ride. There's also a quiet spot amongst the trees where a genocide memorial contains the remains of victims of the Pol Pot regime. Here's a few photos with more to follow.

This is what will happen if you commit a deadly sin of adultery, lying, etc
This monkey was guarding the bridge against toll dodgers!
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