Coming to terms with sadism

  • Bo Uce holds a picture showing Lah Sok; brother… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

An orphan of the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge struggles to overcome his anguish.

He spent much of his life consumed by what the three men on the screen before him had done.

He stared at the glossy, bloodshot eyes of the man in the middle, the one who had so casually demonstrated how he slit his victims' throats, who explained how his hand grew so sore he often switched to stabbing them at the base of the neck.

They were gaunt figures now, impoverished men trudging the rice ponds of northwestern Cambodia. They had agreed to confess their roles in the Killing Fields, first for a documentary film, "Enemies of the People," and then here, in a video conference with survivors in Long Beach.

Bo Uce, 39, listened to them explain that they had to obey orders or they too would be executed. He knew they would say this, and they were right. But it didn't matter.

Uce wasn't there to understand their rationale. Since landing in New Jersey as a 12-year-old refugee in 1983 and going on to graduate from Dartmouth College, he'd scoured history and psychology books and world literature to try to comprehend the sadism and indifference he'd witnessed as a child in Cambodia. He read "Crime and Punishment" three times to understand Dostoevsky's character Raskolnikov, who cooked up wispy moral justifications to murder a pawnbroker, only to careen through a whorl of anguish after the act.

Uce came out on this damp Sunday night to make sure these men didn't think time had diminished their deeds, even as they roamed free after taking part in an atrocity that killed more than 1.5 million people. He wouldn't let them escape their own anguish.

But he would try to escape his own.

Bo Uce was 4 in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge, with its deranged vision of communism, took power. It purged the country of teachers, doctors, lawyers and writers and forced the population into hard labor on farming collectives.

Most of Bo's recollections are far-flung moments he struggled to string into coherence later.

He couldn't recall his father, Kharn, but preserved a few warm memories of his mother, Lah Sok. When the family was forced into the reeducation camps, she worked the rice fields in a women's brigade within walking distance of Bo's children's regiment. When they could, he and his older brother, Roth, would sneak away to see her. She looked emaciated and tired.

Cambodia HIV and Aids treatment programmes threatened

Abandoned HIV-infected baby, Phnom Penh Nutrition Centre, 1999
Cambodia has cut its rate of new HIV infections, but must reduce its reliance on foreign funding

Health workers have warned that Cambodia's success in reducing its rate of HIV and Aids may be at risk.

The US-based Results for Development Institute says that prevention and treatment programmes are too reliant on overseas donors.

If that money stopped coming through, infections and deaths might rise.

Cambodia used to be the HIV blackspot of Southeast Asia - in the late 1990s there were 15,000 new infections every year.

But in recent years, Cambodia has been the star performer, where the rate of new infections has fallen to around 2,000.

The country is also renowned for its treatment programmes for HIV-positive people.

More than nine out of 10 patients eligible for anti-retroviral drugs are getting the medicine.

But there may yet be unwelcome twists in both those success stories.


Anti-human trafficking laws have resulted in the closure of many brothels.

That has made it more difficult to reach sex workers to encourage the use of condoms.

And the drug treatment programmes are almost totally funded by foreign donors.

Robert Hecht of the Results for Development Institute says that is an unhealthy position.

"Foreign aid is quite uncertain, hard to predict.

"Cambodia is in a position to manage the costs of its Aids programme because it has been successful in reducing new infections.

"It has a good opportunity to expand its share of the total funding pot and in that way reduce its dependence on the outside sources of financing," he said.

Mr Hecht says that gradually reducing donations would allow Cambodia to take more control of its HIV/Aids programmes.

The government has welcomed the report.It says it will help to "sharpen its strategies".

Rice Husks Provide Alternative to Chinese Coal in Cambodia

BY Jenara Nerenberg

The Cambodian rice miller and exporter, Angkor Kasekam Roongroeung (AKR), is set to launch its rice husk-powered electricity generator at the start of next year, enabling the company to double its rice exports to 70,000 tons per year.

Electricity from the newly-built rice husk generator will be used to--you guessed it--process rice.

The plant comes with community perks, too. AKR will sell its excess electricity to nearby villagers at $0.22 cents per kilowatt, lower than the $0.27 per kilowatt price they would normally pay for power from the national grid.

“We will take this opportunity to process more rice for export in an attempt to help our rice producers earn more income,” said AKR director, Chieu Hieng, as reported by the Pnom Penh Post.

The innovative power source is a welcome addition. Cambodia spent $59 million last year importing electricity from Thailand and Vietnam and is currently co-constructing a coal-fired plant with China at a cost of $362 million. Concerns are being raised about Cambodia's increasing demand for power and the trend toward using eco-un-friendly coal-fired power.

And like other developing countries in Asia--such as Nepal, with its vast Himalayan-sourced rivers and significant dependence on Chinese and Indian investment--the natural resources for natively-generated power exist domestically, but the country lacks the necessary funds for infrastructure development.

Cambodia. Already, Golden Rice Cambodia is investing $2 million into a rice-husk power plant to power nearby mills. AKR's total cost for its plant was $6 million, including the land.

Man Jailed for Sharing Web Articles With Co-Workers

Charging someone with incitement for sharing web articles is a profound setback for free expression in Cambodia.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) - The Cambodian government's use of its new penal code against a man who shared web articles with his co-workers is a huge step backward for free expression in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said today. The man was quickly convicted on incitement charges and sentenced to prison.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to amend the penal code, which went into effect on December 10, 2010, to remove provisions that limit the peaceful expression of political views so that the law fully complies with international standards. "Charging someone with incitement for sharing web articles is a profound setback for free expression in Cambodia," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Cambodia's new penal code should have put an end to abusive practices, not encouraged new ones." On December 17, Seng Kunnaka, a Cambodian employee with the United Nations World Food Program in Phnom Penh, was arrested on charges of incitement under article 495 of the new penal code after he shared an article with two co-workers. While the contents of the article are unclear, it was printed from KI-Media, a website that publishes news, commentaries, poetry, and cartoons that are sharply critical of the government, including a recent series of opinion pieces lambasting senior officials regarding a border dispute with Vietnam. On December 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court hastily tried and convicted Kunnaka, sentencing him to six months in prison and fining him 1 million riels (US$250). December 19 was a Sunday, when the courts are normally closed.

During the last two years, more than 10 critics of the government, including journalists and opposition party activists, have been prosecuted for criminal defamation and disinformation based on complaints by government and military officials under the former penal code.

The new penal code places greater restrictions on free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Responding to media inquiries about the case, Cambodia's information minister, Khieu Kanharith, said: "Before, using the argument of ‘freedom of expression' and opposition party status, some people could insult anybody or any institution. This is not the case now."

"A dubious arrest so soon after the new penal code came into effect shows that the Cambodian government is ready to use its new legal powers to criminalize peaceful expression and political dissent," Robertson said. "And Cambodia's pliant courts seem all too willing to throw any perceived government critic in prison after a rushed trial." Under the new penal code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates "serious turmoil in society" through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication that are shared with, exposed to, or intended for the public. It does not require the alleged incitement to be effective for penalties to be imposed, which include prison terms of six months to five years and fines. The new penal code also allows criminal prosecutions for defamation and contempt for peaceful expression of views "affecting the dignity" of individuals and public officials, as well as of government institutions. It makes it a crime to "disturb public order" by questioning court decisions. "The new penal code makes it more risky for civil society activists to criticize corrupt officials, police, and military officers who commit abuses or question court decisions," Robertson said. "This is particularly troubling in Cambodia, where the judicial system is weak and far from independent, with court decisions often influenced by corruption or political pressure." KI-Media is a controversial website that describes itself as "dedicated to publishing sensitive information about Cambodia." The website's editors, who have never publicly identified themselves, compile information from a variety of sources, including leaked and public government documents, Cambodian-language newspaper articles, and Chinese, Cambodian, and Western wire service reports. It also posts hard-hitting commentaries, blog articles, cartoons, and poetry from its readers - most of whom are sharply critical of the government.

The December 23, 2010 news release "Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech" incorrectly noted that Seng Kunnaka's trial date was December 20. The trial actually occurred on Sunday, December 19. The news release also stated his date of arrest was December 18, when in fact, he was arrested on December 17. These dates have been corrected accordingly.

Man jailed for sex with 2 underage girls, 15 & 12

Kok was sentenced to 15 months' jail and will start his sentence on Jan 4, 2011. -- PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A MAN who had sex with two underage girls a few years ago was sentenced to 15 months' jail on Tuesday.

But Aaron Kok Chun Cheong, 23, will only start his sentence on Tuesday, Jan 4, 2011, as he wanted to spend the New Year with his family.

Kok, now a trainee at National Institute of Education (NIE), was in national service at the time of the offences in 2007 and 2008.

The court heard that he got to know the two girls through an Internet chatline in 2006.

He had sex with a 15-year-old student at a toilet for the handicapped in West Mall shopping centre on April 20, 2008, a day after his return from NS training in Taiwan.

Earlier in September 2007, he had invited the other girl, then 12, to his flat where he had sex with her in his bedroom.

The offences came to light when the younger girl was found to be pregnant and was warded in hospital in July 2008. The girl, who terminated the pregnancy, had told the police that she had engaged in sex with several male persons.

Kok was not the biological father of the foetus.

Three other charges were taken into consideration during his sentencing.

Defence counsel Amolat Singh said Kok - who had a good record in polytechnic and during his national service - would have to pay liquidated damages amounting to $50,000 to $60,000 to the NIE for breaching his training contract.

Singapore Zoo breeds more giant river terrapins

By Linette Lin

The Singapore Zoo has successfully bred four giant river terrapins. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS

THE Singapore Zoo has successfully bred four giant river terrapins. These terrapins are native to Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Sumatra, with more expected to join the family of eight in the months to come.

Both female terrapins at the zoo were recently found to be with eggs, due to be laid at any time.

X-ray examinations on Dec 13, 2010 revealed that they were carrying over 40 eggs between them. The incubation period for these rare and elusive terrapins ranges from 68 to 112 days.

Giant river terrapins lay their eggs only once a year and the Singapore Zoo has successfully had four hatchlings to date in 2007 and 2009 - two of which are now on display at the Proboscis Monkey pool, while the others are in the turtle hatchery facility.

The park is currently home to the two adult females, two adult males and the four hatchlings.

Considered an extremely rare species, this breed, also known as Batagur affinis, is listed as critically endangered in the 2009 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and in one of the appendixes under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Nurse volunteering in Cambodia

Josephine Gillespie

FOR nursing student Elissa Jackson, spending her holiday volunteering in a Cambodian health clinic is a dream come true.

University of Queensland Ipswich nursing student Elissa Jackson will volunteer at a Cambodian military clinic at the foot of Phnom Bok Mountain from January 5.

Sarah Harvey

IT is a world away from the quiet streets of Flinders View, but for nursing student Elissa Jackson, spending her holiday volunteering in a Cambodian health clinic is a dream come true.

The 23-year-old is among a group of 15 University of Queensland (UQ) students who, accompanied by three clinical lecturers, will depart on January 5 for a new military clinic at the foot of Phnom Bok Mountain, near Siem Reap in Cambodia’s north-west.

For Elissa, the trip will be her first overseas.

“I think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ms Jackson said.

“Not everyone gets the chance to go to a developing country and help them in a medical way.”

Ms Jackson, who hopes to work in paediatric or community health, said the placement would help her gain valuable skills.

“It is all the basic skills nursing is about,” she said.

“Generally in the clinic where we will work the equipment will be pretty basic.

“We will be using basic equipment such as thermometer and stethoscopes to diagnose and treat.”

Clinical lecturer Peta Crompton said the students would attend the official opening of the clinic by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen before beginning a four-week community health placement.

“Given the history of the site as a military camp, the students are expecting to treat many returned soldiers, their wives and children as well as local villagers,” she said.

“We envisage the most common health issues will include chronic pain and infections associated with older wounds such as amputations and landmine injuries as well as tropical illnesses.”

In January this year, the first group of UQ nursing students volunteered at the New Hope Cambodia community centre and orphanage in one of Siem Reap’s poorest areas.


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