Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
As part of the celebrations for Norodom Sihanouk's birthday tomorrow, TV3 hosted a program tonight of music and of course, classical Khmer dance. In the red costume on the far left of this screen-grab is my pal Sam Savin with fellow members of the royal ballet peforming a dance in honour of the King Father. Savin was also performing for the King earlier this week at Chaktomuk Theatre.
Labels: Water Festival
Even more de Vries
Eric de Vries likes taking pictures in Cambodia. In fact, the native of Netherlands has spent the last nine years shooting photos throughout the kingdom. The acclaimed photographer is currently holding an exhibition at the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor in Siem Reap. "Retrospective Cambodia 00/09" features de Vries' work from when he was either living in or visiting Cambodia. "I chose the best pictures I took from that period," de Vries says.
The exhibition includes photographs that de Vries shot of various landscapes around the country, the Angkor temples and the standoff last year between Cambodian and Thai troops near the Preah Vihear temple. When de Vries visited Preah Vihear, there were not any clashes between troops, as Cambodia and Thailand attempted to resolve the dispute diplomatically. "We - my assistants and I - had a great time up there with the troops," he recalls. "It was more like boredom and spending time (for the soldiers) to grow vegetables, and they were happy that someone was around with a camera."
A resident of Siem Reap, de Vries does fine art, commercial, documentary and news photography. He and a business partner run a café/gallery in Siem Reap where much of his work is on display. The relatively slow pace of Southeast Asia and his view that "Cambodia is a photographic heaven" are among the reasons he originally decided to come to the country. His first encounter with Cambodia occurred in 2000, when he traveled around Southeast Asia for three months. When de Vries initially visited Cambodia, he recalls how "there was something" about the country that made him want to come back for a much longer stay. "The people, the countryside, and the temples ... I was surprised by (Cambodia's) beauty and all the smiling Khmers," de Vries says. He made annual visits to Cambodia before deciding to take up residence in Phnom Penh in late 2007.
Since relocating to Cambodia, de Vries has had more than a few memorable moments as a photographer. Not surprisingly, the temples around Angkor Wat were among those memorable experiences. The Preah Vihear standoff and his documentary series, Hello Darling, about the working girl bar scene in Phnom Penh, are other fascinating encounters he's had as a photographer in Cambodia.
Born in the Dutch city of Arnhem, de Vries developed a fascination with photography when he received a camera as a birthday present when he was 14. There were more and better cameras for presents on subsequent birthdays, and he eventually decided that he wanted to become a professional photographer. While de Vries studied at a photography school in the Netherlands for two years, he says many years of practice on his own were what really allowed him to hone his skills. After living in Phnom Penh, de Vries eventually moved to Siem Reap and got married to a Cambodian woman before he and his wife had a daughter named C'moon. The 49-year-old has lots of photography work in Cambodia lined up for the coming years, and he says he plans to stay in the country for the foreseeable future. "So I have no plans of going back to the Netherlands," he says. Links: Eric de Vries FCC's The Wires
Labels: Eric de Vries
Another musician I miss since my migration is Basil Gabbidon, a Steel Pulse founding member back in the day. Basil in his various guises, either Gabbidon, Reggaerockz, simply Blu, etc, etc, is still doing the business and the picture below was snapped by Tim Ellis at the Birmingham Arts Festival in September, when Gabbidon played the Fountain stage at Victoria Square. My thanks to Tim.
Watching our heritage
To catch a looter - by Roger Atwood (New York Times)
As United States troops begin withdrawing from Iraq, we should take stock of the staggering damage that Iraq’s ancient archeological sites have suffered from looting over the last few years. After the 2003 invasion, swarms of looters dug huge pits and passages all over southern Iraq in search of cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals. At Isin, where a Sumerian city once stood, I watched men sifting through tons of soil for 4,000-year-old objects to sell to Baghdadi dealers. It was mass pillage. The worst of the looting appears to be over, say the experts who monitor archeological sites with armed inspections and aerial photographs. With security improving, Iraqi authorities now have the chance to bring long-lasting protection to what’s left of the country’s ancient heritage. They could take some pointers from an unexpected place: Peru.
In 1994, residents of eight villages in northwestern Peru — a region of deserts and oases that looks much like Iraq — organized citizens’ patrols. The patrols weren’t out to stop house burglars or cattle rustlers. They were looking for looters, who, for several years, had plundered the area to feed the robust international market for pre-Inca artifacts. I spent a few days with one of these patrols in the village of Úcupe in 2002. The members were unarmed and well organized, and they knew the terrain as well as you know your dining room. When they spotted looters digging up the overgrown ancient burial mounds that dot the landscape, they surrounded them and called the police. In this way, I saw the patrols apprehend three potential looters without firing a shot.
Last year, archeologists excavated an intact tomb at Úcupe that contained the remains of a lord who ruled during the Moche civilization around A.D. 450. He was buried with golden headdresses, war clubs, silver rattles and opulent jewelry. If sold piecemeal on the black market, these objects could have fetched millions. Instead, their discovery opened the door to a new understanding of how power was exercised in the Moche world. Without the civilian patrols, this tomb would certainly have been emptied by looters. The people of Úcupe will now benefit from the archaeological tourism that often follows such discoveries and that, in Peru, is booming. They protected a community asset, and it paid off.
This kind of grassroots organizing — where local officials, police officers and archaeologists join forces with local residents — is the best way to combat looting and protect sites from being swallowed up by the illicit antiquities trade. A similar strategy has proved effective in Mali, a country that has little in common with Peru besides a rich archaeological heritage. It would work in Iraq and elsewhere. Surprisingly, though, relatively few governments have focused on getting rural people involved in protecting threatened sites. Most spend their energy pressing museums in the United States or Europe to repatriate looted artifacts, instead of focusing on safeguarding the archaeological riches still in the ground. Repatriation is a valuable goal, but an immense amount of historical information is lost whenever looting occurs and sites are damaged, even if the objects are later recovered. The government’s time would be better spent expanding the patrols to prevent looting in the first place.
In Iraq, the authorities could start by inviting provincial museums and archaeologists to work with local governments and police departments on organizing residents who live near key ancient sites. Rural citizens’ patrols aren’t expensive — they need binoculars, cellphones, maybe a few dirt bikes and some basic training. Financing could come from international conservation and community development organizations and should include money for education to encourage people to see the ruins in their midst as valuable community assets as much as potable water or clean streets. Once organized, the patrols need to be lightly armed if armed at all, and they have to be well regulated by the police. But as the good citizens of Úcupe have shown, they work. Roger Atwood, a contributing editor at Archaeology magazine, is the author of “Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers and the Looting of the Ancient World." Find out more about Heritage Watch, click here.
Labels: Heritage Watch
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Canoeing to Tatai
BIDC Cup draw
The draw for the BIDC Cup is as follows, with all games at the Olympic Stadium:
Sun 8 Nov: V Ninh Binh v Laos U23 (3.30pm): HAGL v Cambodia U23 (6pm)
Tue 10 Nov: V Ninh Binh v HAGL (3.30pm): Cambodia U23 v Laos U23 (6pm)
Thu 12 Nov: Laos U23 v HAGL (3.30pm): CambodiaU23 v V Ninh Binh (6pm)
Sat 14 Nov: 3rd place play-off (3.30pm): Final (6pm)
The Cambodian Under-23s played their 3rd practice match on Wednesday, drawing 0-0 with the Ho Chi Minh Under-21 team at The Thanh Long training centre. Coach Scott O'Donell commented on the game; "We dominated the first half creating a lot of chances but could not put them away. The 2nd half was more even but still we had some good chances. I was happy with most aspects of our game but our finishing was poor."
There are no injury worries to report from the squad's training camp just outside Saigon. The team are lining up two more practice matches to round off their month-long stint in Vietnam. The likely opponents are Can Tho, who finished 3rd in the V-League 1st Division last season and just lost out in the play-offs for promotion to the V-League proper. Their new coach is Lu Dinh Tuan, the coach at Ho Chi Minh City last season when they were relegated to the 1st Division. The Cambodian youngsters will return to Phnom Penh on 5 November and have two more training sessions before they compete for the BIDC Cup with an opening game against Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) on 8 November at the Olympic Stadium.
Below are the two new additions to the Cambodian U-23 training squad currently in Vietnam. Both players, Ieng Piseth and To Vann Thann, joined the squad last weekend and both play their football for the Ministry of National Defense team in the CPL.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
No tensions at Ta Muen Thom
Labels: Ta Muen Thom
Somaly Lun's story
Cambodia's killing fields 30 years on: 'They will kill our parents tonight...we must escape' - by Ros Wynne-Jones (Mirror.co.uk)
It is 30 years since John Pilger revealed the existence of the Cambodian Killing Fields in the Daily Mirror. For Somaly Lun, the anniversary is bittersweet. Today, customers at the Oxfordshire supermarket checkout where she works have no idea of her extraordinary story. How she escaped US B-52 bombers as a child, a Khmer Rouge concentration camp as a teenager, and Vietnamese soldiers as a young woman. How she lost her father and six brothers to the Khmer Rouge. Somaly owes her life in the UK to Oxfam's Marcus Thompson, then a young humanitarian worker who had become friends with Somaly and her husband Borithy. "England gave me the first safe place I had ever lived," Somaly says.
By the time she was 10, her home town of Kratie was under attack, even though Cambodia was neutral. Kratie was close to the border with Vietnam which was at war with the States, and US President Richard Nixon ordered 100,000 tonnes of secret bombings. "The B-52s came every day," Somaly recalls. "Every day, shooting and bombing and running." One day a man grabbed her as an F-11 US fighter jet swept low and held her in front of him as a shield. "The plane was so low I could almost see the pilot's face," she says. It permanently damaged her hearing. Somaly's family fled to Phnom Penh, but by 1975 it had fallen to Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. Backed by the US against the Vietnamese communists, the Khmer Rouge were determined to return Cambodia to Year Zero, to a time before industrialisation. "My father, a doctor, was in the middle of an operation the day the Khmer Rouge came," Somaly says. "He said, 'What about the patient?' They pointed a gun at him and asked, 'Do you want to die?'"
Somaly's family were herded out at gunpoint with two million other people. The family was taken to Pursat, a concentration camp in the remote countryside. Then the Khmer Rouge came for Somaly's father. "They said, 'We know you are a doctor'." The first time, they wanted him to treat one of the leaders. But the second time, "they took him away and he never came back". Somaly was forced to spend 20 hours a day as a slave doing hard labour in the rice fields despite starvation, exhaustion and malaria. Her older brother was caught saving his food rations for her. "They made him confess he was a US spy," she says. "They kept beating him until he died. Then my younger brother was taken. They put him in a prison with other children, and burned it to the ground. The screams have haunted me ever since. "One day, they came and took 2,000 people. One of the girls came back like a zombie with blood all over her. She said, 'They killed everyone'." Then, one day a pal whispered: "They are killing our parents and we have to escape now, tonight." Somaly says: "After dark we went to where people were gathered with three big boats." The Khmer Rouge chased them along the river, firing at the boats. She says: "We hid in the mangrove and caught fish and ate it raw as we didn't dare to make a fire. We drank muddy water. We all became sick - just skin and bones." Everyone on Somaly's boat was drifting in and out of consciousness. "But somehow it arrived by itself at Kampong Chhnang, where the Khmer Rouge was driven out," she says. "They gave us food, water, shelter."New escapees from Pursat told Somaly that thousands had been taken to a cliff and forced off at gunpoint. Yet, somehow her mother, sister and brother had escaped. "The day I saw them again was the happiest day of my life," Somaly says. When they returned to Phnom Penh in 1979 they found a ghost city occupied by the Vietnamese liberators. Somaly took a job at the hotel Samaki - now Le Royale - as a receptionist, where she met Borithy, who was working for the Cambodian foreign office as a translator. She also met Marcus Thompson, a 34-year-old British aid worker sent by Oxfam to set up a humanitarian programme. "We became friends," he remembers. "We were all stuck together at the hotel." But Cambodia was still dangerous - and Borithy was warned to leave Phnom Penh. "He said he was in love with me and refused to leave without me," Somaly says. On March 16, 1980, the couple married in secret inside a destroyed pagoda. The next day, they escaped. Passing through fields of landmines, they made it through Vietnamese, then Khmer Rouge territory and even past the Thai border guards to Khao I Dang, a squalid refugee camp on the border. Somaly wrote to her family and to Marcus to tell them they were alive. "I needed to go to those camps as part of my work," Marcus says. Somaly says she will never forget seeing Marcus walking through the camp. "I cried out 'Marcus!' and just hung on to his neck," she says.
Marcus was shocked by their plight. "They couldn't go back to Cambodia," he says. "The Thais wouldn't accept them. We had to do something." Back in England, Marcus and his Oxfam colleagues went through official channels to ask whether Britain would accept the family as refugees. "We had no expectation anything would happen," Marcus says. "But then we got a letter saying 'Yes'." Somaly, 22 and pregnant, arrived in the UK on May 12, 1981, with Borithy, Somaly's mother Moeun, brother Rithy and sister Virak - and settled close to Marcus and his family in Witney, Oxfordshire. "People at the Oxfam offices donated all kinds of furniture, saucepans, an old TV, carpets," Somaly remembers.
Today, the couple's daughters are success stories in their own right. The youngest, 23-year-old Bophanie, is a teacher in Brighton, while her sister, Mary Thida Lun, 27, is Assistant Private Secretary to the Minister of State for International Development, Gareth Thomas. At 64, Marcus still works as an adviser to Oxfam, and the charity remains working in Cambodia, still tackling the legacy of the dark days of the Khmer Rouge and facing new challenges from climate change, typhoons and flooding. Today, 30 years on, when she goes to and from work at the local supermarket, living her British life, Somaly sometimes remembers the words her father said to her before they took him away. "He said, 'You are going to survive. You are going to go places'." She shakes her head slowly. "I think that was what gave me the strength to survive."
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Ynav and Bosseba
Suited and booted
Labels: Ynav and Bosseba
Pilger & Cambodia recalled
Beyond the imagination of mankind: Cambodia killing fields recalled 30 years on (mirror.co.uk)
Thirty years ago, the Daily Mirror's John Pilger revealed to the world the horrors of Cambodia. Two million people had died in Pol Pot's killing fields and hundreds of thousands were starving. Pilger's award-winning reports warned there was just six months "to save three million people". Mirror readers raised enough money for a plane load of aid, and the reports kick-started a global humanitarian response. Here he recalls his horrifying trip into a country that had been closed to the outside world for four years.
The aircraft flew low, following the Mekong THE aircraft flew low, following the Mekong River west from Vietnam. Once over Cambodia, what we saw silenced all of us on board. There appeared to be nobody, no movement, not even an animal, as if the great population of Asia had stopped at the border. Whole villages were empty. Chairs and beds, pots and mats lay in the street, a car on its side, a bent bicycle. Behind fallen power lines lay or sat a single human shadow; it did not move. From the paddies, tall, wild grass followed straight lines. Fertilised by the remains of thousands upon thousands of men, women and children, these marked common graves in a nation where as many as two million people - or more than a quarter of the population - were "missing". At the liberation of the Nazi death camp in Belsen in 1945, The Times correspondent wrote: "It is my duty to describe something beyond the imagination of mankind." That was how I felt in 1979 when I entered Cambodia, a country sealed from the outside world for almost four years since "Year Zero".
Year Zero had begun shortly after sunrise on April 17, 1975, when Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrillas entered the capital, Phnom Penh. They wore black and marched in single file along the wide boulevards. At 1pm, they ordered the city be abandoned. The sick and wounded were forced at gunpoint from their hospital beds; families were separated; the old and disabled fell beside the road. "Don't take anything with you," the men in black ordered. "You will be coming back tomorrow." Tomorrow never came. An age of owned cars and such "luxuries", anybody who lived in a city or town or had a modern skill, anybody who knew or worked with foreigners, was in grave danger; some were already under sentence of death. Of the Royal Cambodian Ballet company of 500 dancers, perhaps 30 survived. Doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers were starved, or worked to death, or murdered. For me, entering the silent, grey humidity of Phnom Penh was like walking into a city the size of Manchester in the wake of a nuclear cataclysm which had spared only the buildings. There was no power, no drinking water, no shops and no services. At the railway station trains stood empty. Personal belongings and pieces of clothing fluttered on the platforms, as they fluttered on the mass graves beyond.
I walked along Monivong Avenue to the National Library which had been converted to pigsty, as a symbol, all its books burned. It was dream-like. There was wasteland where the Gothic cathedral had stood - it had been dismantled stone by stone. When the afternoon monsoon rains broke, the deserted streets were suddenly awash with money. With every downpour a worthless fortune of new and unused banknotes sluiced out of the Bank of Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge had blown up as they fled. Inside, a cheque book lay open on the counter. A pair of glasses rested on an open ledger. I slipped and I fell on a floor brittle with coins. For the first few hours I had no sense of even the remains of a population. The few human shapes I glimpsed seemed incoherent, and on catching sight of me, would flit into a doorway. In a crumbling Esso filling station an old woman and three emaciated infants squatted around a pot containing a mixture of roots and leaves, which bubbled over a fire fuelled with paper money. Such grotesque irony: people in need of everything had money to burn. At a primary school called Tuol Sleng, with that this I walked through what had become the "interrogation unit" and the "torture and massacre unit". Beneath iron beds I found blood and tufts of hair still on the floor. "Speaking is absolutely forbidden," said a sign.
Without milk and medicines, children were stricken with preventable disease like dysentery. It seemed that the very fabric of the society had begun to unravel. The first surveys revealed that many women had stopped menstruating. What compounded this was the isolation imposed on Cambodia by the West because its liberators, the Vietnamese, leaves over of paper had come from the wrong side of the Cold War, having driven America out of their country in 1975. Cambodia had been the West's dirty secret since President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger ordered a "secret bombing", extending the war in Vietnam into Cambodia in the early 70s, killing hundreds of thousands of peasants. "If this doesn't work, it'll be your ass, Henry," an aide heard Nixon say to Kissinger. It worked in handing Pol Pot his chance to seize power. When I arrived in the aftermath, no Western aid had reached Cambodia.
Only Oxfam defied the Foreign Office in London, which had lied that the Vietnamese were obstructing aid. In September 1979, a DC-8 jet took off from Luxembourg, filled with enough penicillin, vitamins and milk to restore some 70,000 children - all of it paid for by Daily Mirror readers who had responded to my reports and Eric Piper's pictures. On October 30, 1979, ITV broadcast Year Zero: The Silent Death Of Cambodia, the documentary I made with the late David Munro. Forty sacks of post arrived at the ATV studios in Birmingham, with £1million in the first few days. "This is for Cambodia," wrote an anonymous Bristol bus driver, enclosing his week's wage. A single parent sent her savings of £50.
People expressed that unremitting sense of decency and community which is at the core of British society. Unsolicited, they gave more than £20million. This helped rescue normal life in a faraway country. It restored a clean water supply in Phnom Penh, stocked hospitals and schools, supported orphanages and re-opened a desperately needed clothing factory. Such an extraordinary public outpouring broke the US and British governments' blockade of Cambodia. Incredibly, the Thatcher government had continued to support the defunct Pol Pot regime in the United Nations and even sent the SAS to train his exiled troops in camps in Thailand and Malaysia. Last March, the former SAS soldier Chris Ryan, now a best-selling author, lamented in a newspaper interview "when John Pilger, the foreign correspondent, discovered we were training the Khmer Rouge [we] were sent home and I had to return the £10,000 we'd been given for food and accommodation".
Today, Pol Pot is dead and several of his elderly henchmen are on trial in a UN/Cambodian court for crimes against humanity. Henry Kissinger, whose bombing opened the door to the nightmare of Year Zero, is still at large. Cambodians remain desperately poor, dependent on often-seedy tourism and sweated labour. For me, their resilience remains almost magical. In the years that followed their liberation, I never saw as many weddings or received as many wedding invitations. They became symbols of life and hope. And yet, only in Cambodia would a child ask an adult, as a 12-year-old asked me, with fear crossing his face: "Are you a friend? Please say."
Labels: John Pilger