Saturday, 28 March 2009

ASEAN rights body to be launched October

By Veronica Uy

MANILA, Philippines—The ASEAN Human Rights Body will be launched this October after the terms of reference for its creation is finished by July, Ambassador Rosario Manalo, head of the high-level panel preparing the document, told reporters Friday.

The enabling TOR has already been presented to the foreign ministers of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and is being revised following their proposals. The creation of the body has been controversial due to the sorry situation of human rights in some ASEAN member-states, particularly Myanmar.

While the TOR contains the purposes, principles of the body, mandates, and functions, defining it as consultative and integral to ASEAN and specifying that each member-state send a representative, Manalo said the body is “evolving” and would not have investigative powers, “not for the moment.”

Eventually, she said, the ASEAN Human Rights Body may develop into such a body. “It is not just there is no political will, there is no capacity to create a court presently. We are still getting acquainted with the idea of human rights. We are beginning to confront human rights issues and internalizing them in our own societies. The TOR is allowing for more evolutionary space,” she said.

Manalo said members of the panel are also preparing the programs of the regional body for the next five years, focusing on both promotion and protection of human rights.

She said they are also meeting next week in Cambodia to finalize funding of the body to support its operations and activities.

Initially, she said, the member-states will be required to give equivalent annual compulsory contributions, but those who can give more—within and outside ASEAN—will be more than welcome.

In the next five years, this TOR that would create the body would be reviewed.

Manalo said the body would not be retroactive, but “prospective.”

Earlier, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the European Commission said he is happy with the developments in the creation of the regional body. He said this is a big step from the original idea of simply creating a human rights mechanism within ASEAN.

ASEAN groups together Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Southeast Asian culture to receive warm welcome

The Daily Collegian Online
Posted on March 27, 2009

By Beth Kaiserman
Collegian Staff Writer

HUB Alumni Hall will be brightened by tropical Cambodian fruits and golden costumes at the 'Welcome to Cambodia' event Saturday night.

The evening, sponsored by the Khmer Student Society, will feature performances and drinks reflecting Cambodian and Southeast Asian culture in general, Sarun Chan (senior-sociology) said.

"Penn State is used to seeing East Asian which is China, Japan and Korea," Chan said. "This is a good Cambodian-American cultural experience."

The event's attendance has doubled every year since its inception, and about 400 people are expected for this year's event, he said.

The evening will feature "fruits people aren't used to eating," Chan said, as well as tropical fruit drinks.

Carrie Mak (senior-biobehavioral health) liked these drinks when she was younger, she said.

"I think other people will really enjoy it," she said. "It's something they never really had before, but for me I actually grew up with them."

In addition to refreshments, classical ballet and folk dances will be performed, and members of the Khmer Student Society will present video and stage skits, Chan said. A dance troupe is coming from Massachusetts, complete with elaborate Cambodian costumes.

"A lot of these are really technical and religious. Some are actually made of real gold," Chan said.

The Khmer Student Society is a diverse combination of cultures that includes Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Irish-American, Vietnamese and Korean members, Chan said.

"About one-third of the group itself is not Cambodian," Chan said.

Headquarters of Overseas Vietnamese Association in Cambodia inaugurated

VOV News

The Vietnamese consulate general in Sihanouk ville, Cambodia, on March 27 held an inauguration ceremony for the headquarters of the Overseas Vietnamese Association in the city.

Also on the occasion, the association inaugurated a primary school for children of Vietnamese nationals at a total cost of US$86,000, supported by the Vietnamese Committee for Overseas Vietnamese (COVA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The school has just enrolled 50 pupils studying from the 1st to 5th grades. The Vietnamese province of Kien Giang provided VND20 million to buy desks, chairs and books for the pupils there.

There are now 823 Vietnamese households living in Sihanouk ville.

Cambodia Tribunal Web Site to Host Video Footage of Trials

PR Newswire (press release)

Website also provides latest news, information and commentary about the trials

CHICAGO, March 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The Cambodia Tribunal Monitor web site - - will host ongoing video footage from the long-awaited Khmer Rouge trials, which are scheduled to begin Monday, March 30. On trial will be senior officials of the Khmer Rouge regime for atrocity crimes.

Launched in September 2007 in anticipation of the trials, the Chicago-based Cambodia Tribunal Monitor web site is considered the primary source for information on these historic proceedings. In addition to hosting tape-delayed video footage of the trials, the site will also provide the latest news updates, official documents regarding the trials and regular commentary from leading international experts on the court proceedings as well as on topics such as the recent history of Cambodia, politics, human rights and international law.

From April 1975 to January 1979, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodian citizens died under the Khmer Rouge regime. After nearly 10 years of negotiations, a special war crimes tribunal has commenced near Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The first to face prosecution is Kaing Geuk Eav, also known as "Duch", who allegedly oversaw mass torture and execution in prison camps, including Cambodia's notorious Tuol Sleng, or S-21, camp. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the special Cambodian court is formally known, will oversee the proceedings and is a joint partnership of the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia. The trials for additional senior Khmer Rouge officials have not yet been set.

The Cambodia Tribunal Monitor was developed by a consortium of academic, philanthropic and non-profit organizations committed to providing public access to the tribunal and ensuring open discussions throughout the judicial process. The site sponsors include Northwestern University School of Law's Center for International Human Rights, the Documentation Center of Cambodia and the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

The Web site concept was conceived by Illinois State Senator Jeff Schoenberg, a Chicago-area legislator who also advises the Pritzker family on its philanthropy.

For more information on the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor web site or to interview internationally renowned legal experts, please call Patrick O'Connor at 312.573.5510 or 512.659.0858.

The Education Sector Has No Quality because the Teacher’s Salaries Are Small and Insufficient to Cover their Daily Livelihood Expenses - Thursday, 26.

Posted on 27 March 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 605

“The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association conducted a survey in mid 2008 in nine of the 24 provinces around the country with 430 teachers, among whom 23.91% are female, 46.37% of them are primary school teachers where 30.37% are female, 28.26% are secondary school teachers where 23.84% are female, and 25.21% of them are high school teachers where 12.60% are female. All responses honestly expressed accurately the actual facts in their situation as teachers, and the responses leave concerns for youth and for the nation in the future.

“The president of the Cambodian Independent Teacher’s Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, said during a press conference in the morning of 25 March 2009 that according to the findings of the survey about the conditions of teachers and the education sector, the association is worried about the inactivity of about 53.91% of teachers who do not teach regularly. 93.04% of teachers said that the rate of students dropping out of school is high and, 45% consider that the education sector has no quality, and only 52.39% said that the education sector has pretty good quality.

“Mr. Rong Chhun asked the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to solve some issues as follow:

1- Increase the value of a basic teaching unit for teachers from Riel 720 to Riel 2,000 per unit in 2009 in order to eliminate irregular teaching.

2- Promote quality education to be as good as education elsewhere in the region.

3- Eliminate corruption and poverty to cut down the rate of students dropping out of schools.

4- Create sufficient schools and employment for teachers and for graduate students.

“Mr. Rong Chhun told reporters that based on the findings of the survey, 48% of teachers care to teach their students regularly. They said that they must be responsible for their obligation and role toward students and must have conscience and pity toward Khmer students of the next generations despite facing difficulties in their livelihood and earning improper salaries, making them unable to live and worker better.

“Mr. Rong Chhun stated that 53.91% of teachers are not attending school regularly, and they do not care about their students. As their justification for this unqualified teaching, teachers put the blame on the government that does not increase their salaries enough, so that their daily lives challenge them with difficulties and they have to take part of their time to do other jobs to earn money to support their families. 1.08% do not attend school regularly and do not care about their work and student’s future at all, and they just try to find another job and make some arrangement with school administrators or district and provincial education officials by paying them some kickbacks monthly.

“Mr. Rong Chhun added that in that survey, 6.95% of teachers responded that students do not drop out of schools, claiming that students understand the value of education to be important for their future and that they want to be good citizens in society. He went on to say that 93.4% of teachers said that the rate of students dropping out of school is high and the survey found that 40.85% of primary students drop out of school, 38.55% of secondary students, and 32.64% of high school students. This percentage shows that the education sector falls into a hazardous condition.

“Teachers claim that students drop out of school because of poverty, lack of means for traveling, or finding jobs at factories. Students spend much time to buy lesson handouts, test papers, sweet snacks, and candy from their teachers. Because some teachers take money from students and most teachers do not teach regularly, students drop out of school and lack self-confidence.

“Mr. Rong Chhun continued to say that 2.60% of the teachers responded that the quality of education is good because of the attention of students and because of the efforts of teachers who work without caring about their small or big salaries.

“He added that 52.39% of the teachers assessed that the quality of education is pretty good, and problems exist because students are absent a lot, and take their time out to earn money to support their living.

“45% of the teachers considered that the quality of education is poor, or that it has no quality, because at the schools, there are no proper exams following a set standard plan which would require 95% of the students from a class, in addition the number of students per class is too high, there is a lack of books for students, and there are many types of gambling sites around schools. Teachers earn low salaries, are not satisfied to teach, and spend time to teach additional private classes. The social environment is bad and this attracts students to be corrupt in their education [e.g. They pay some money to their teachers so that not all days when they were absent will be noted down]. If students are poor, teachers do not teach them and care only about their stomach, students are frequently absent and do not want to study because they think that they will not get jobs after they have graduated. This disappoints them.

“At the end the survey pointing out that the [second] principle of the Millennium Development Goals is not followed successfully, which has the aim to ‘ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling,’ though this is also set as the national plan of the Royal Government. To achieve this strategic goal, education for all, and with quality, the Royal Government has to provide proper salaries for teachers, and has to provide sufficient study materials and schools.”

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, 46, 26.3.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 26 March 2009

Status of refugees in Cambodia: the government takes over


By Duong Sokha

In the near future, the procedure which consists of granting the status of refugee to foreigners in Cambodia will not come under the competence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as it was the case until now, but under that of the Royal government. As a signatory state of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to refugees, the Cambodian authorities have a duty to grant political asylum on the Cambodian territory to foreigners who seek it, under certain conditions. Since 1992, the Supreme National Council (SNC) of Cambodia, then presided over by Norodom Sihanouk, delegated that mission to the HCR. The latter “temporarily” took the responsibility of welcoming refugees (Vietnamese, Chinese but also nationals from African states...) on the Cambodian territory. In order to comply with the convention it signed, the Cambodian government has just finished the first draft of a sub-decree, in collaboration with the Phnom Penh office of the HCR. The text, however, will not apply to Vietnamese Montagnards who are now placed under the protection of the HCR in a camp in the Cambodian capital.

A governmental sub-decree issued to conform to the Refugee Convention
Late 2008, the head of the Cambodian government and the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR), based in Geneva, agreed on the elaboration of the draft sub-decree to determine the procedures related to the granting of the status of refugees in Cambodia. The decision allows the Cambodian state to conform to the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees , which it signed in September 1992, as detailed by the national Cambodian police deputy general commissioner Sok Phal, in charge of the dossier.

The Convention, elaborated in the aftermath of World War II, defines the terms according to which a signatory state must grant the status of refugee to people who seek it, as well as the rights and duties of those persons on its territory.

According to the Cambodian high-ranking official, the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Cambodia entrusted the department of immigration of the national police general commissariat with the drafting of the sub-decree, the first draft of which was completed on March 17th with the participation of the Phnom Penh office of the HCR. “The important points which must be addressed in this draft sub-decree aim at harmonising [the welcoming procedures for foreigners in Cambodia] with the 1951 Refugee Convention. For instance, asylum seekers have a right to ask for some help in order to know the legal aspects in force in Cambodia, they are entitled to ask for a translation as well as means of communication with the Cambodian authorities with a view to seek the status of refugee. The implementation of all those rights are therefore stipulated in the text”, Sok Phal details, adding that the first draft will soon be submitted to the national police general commissariat and the Ministry of Interior for examination, before being sent to the Council of Ministers for adoption.

HCR satisfied with new dispositions
The Phnom Penh office of the HCR, Lieutenant General Sok Phal says, contributed to the elaboration of the draft of the sub-decree and added comments, drawn from the experience of the office, to clearly define terms and establish acceptable procedures, as much for the Cambodian side as for the international side. The representative of the HCR in Phnom Penh, Thamrongsak Meechubot, who took part in the examining of the text with the Cambodian authorities, logically welcomed the draft of the sub-decree, through which Cambodia intends to respect its commitments and duties, as defined in the 1951 Convention. “We are happy about the content of the draft and did not see any problem in it, the Thai representative for the UN organisation in Phnom Penh explains, eagerly waiting for the adoption and enforcement of the text.

Nick Henderson, a jurist working for the NGO Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international organisation which provides refugees with legal help and has been in Cambodia for fifteen years, was aware of the draft sub-decree, but did not have a chance to discover the content of it. “We requested a copy of the completed sub-decree from the government, with a view to provide the Cambodian authorities and the HCR with constructive recommendations, if necessary, and to establish the future law, the best possible one. We are hoping that the sub-decree will offer protection and real rights to refugees in Cambodia”, the Irish expert commented.

Decision-making power in the hands of the government
As it is generally the case in other countries, the final decision to grant asylum to refugees will come, if this text is adopted, under the competence of the Cambodian government and not that of the HCR. Conditions for the granting of the status of refugee are clearly defined in the 1951 Convention and the Cambodian state will therefore comply with it, as stated by Sok Phal. “This sub-decree is simply the implementation of the right of Cambodia as a sovereign country, to autonomous decision making. The only persons entitled to the status of refugee are those who suffer from persecutions in their own country, such as victims of political pressure; but victims of economic problems are not entitled to that status”, the deputy general commissioner, who is also a personal adviser to Cambodian prime Minister Hun Sen.

According to the application procedure for refugee status stipulated in the draft sub-decree, foreigners who enter Cambodia with a valid visa will be allowed to contact the department of immigration of the national police general commissariat, where they will obtain an application form they will be asked to fill in. “Once the sub-decree is in force, the government will ask the Ministry of Interior to issue this form, which [asylum seekers] will fill in like they would fill in a wedding form, without going via the HCR. After the dossier is submitted, we will send a copy of it to the HCR, with the applicant’s biography and wishes, because the HCR has expertise [on those questions] and provides financial aid for the settlement [of refugees]”, Sok Phal details.

Which refugees?
The policeman adds that the text will not apply to Khmer people from Kampuchea Krom, a region which is now located on the Vietnamese territory and where most of the population speaks Khmer. They are fully considered as Khmer ever since former King Norodom Sihanouk signed a Royal decree. “Khmer people from Kampuchea Krom who come to settle in Cambodia do not need to apply for the status of refugee”, he says, “but they have a duty to conform to laws, as Cambodians, particularly by having a family record book”.

This was a subtle allusion to criticism which the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments are faced with, on the part of organisations for the defence of Human rights. A Human Rights Watch report released in 2009 denounced the useless obstacles which Khmer Krom encounter when they try to legalise their status in Cambodia, and the violence suffered by those who express their criticism of the Vietnamese authorities. The report particularly pointed out repression carried out during demonstrations against Khmer Krom monks who denounced the infringement of their Human rights in Vietnam, and the arrest of a Khmer Krom activist monk in June 2007, followed by his deportation to Vietnam where he was condemned to a year of imprisonment.

Vietnamese Montagnards not concerned
Still according to Sok Phal, the draft sub-decree will not apply to Vietnamese Montagnards – the name often given to local ethnic minorities living in the plateaus of central Vietnam - , now placed under the protection of the HCR in Phnom Penh, but whose fate will be determined by further discussions between the Cambodian authorities and the HCR.

In February 2001, several thousand members of local minorities in those mountainous regions of Vietnam, mostly Christians, launched a series of peaceful demonstrations claiming their independence and the return to their ancestral land and the freedom of religion. Thos demonstrations were violently suppressed by the Vietnamese government. It is from then on that these Vietnamese Montagnards started crossing the North-East border with Cambodia (Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri) to escape persecutions by the Vietnamese authorities. Some of them were finally repatriated by force after they were denied the status of refugee.

“Concerning Montagnards, we have a memorandum or understanding which was signed in [January] 2005 by Cambodia, Vietnam and the HCR in Hanoi. It is implemented in a very efficient way. This is why there is not a single divergence between Vietnam and the HCR”, the Lieutenant General says.

With this memorandum of understanding, Vietnam commits not to mistreat or discriminate repatriated Montagnards and allow HCR delegations to visit them in the Plateaus region, in central Vietnam, so their living conditions could still be followed-up after their repatriation, whereas before, Human rights observers, journalists or private investigators used to be denied access to that region as it was strictly controlled by the Vietnamese authorities.

Straight towards the United States
“The number of entries for Montagnards [in Cambodia] has being going down since mid-2008. We now know that the HCR has the possibility of going directly to Vietnam, which is a lot more open to them. [Montagnards] do not need to flee Cambodia but can directly be in touch with the HCR to go to the United States. It is better like this”, Sok Phal says. The personal adviser to prime Minister Hun Sen asserts that therefore, this is not a “sensitive” topic.

According to HCR representative in Phnom Penh Thamrongsak Meechubot, 148 Vietnamese Montagnards are still installed today in a HCR camp in Phnom Penh, and among them, most have obtained the status of refugee. Since 2001, more than a thousand Montagnards have gone to the United States.


The status of “refugee” clearly managed
According to the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), a refugee is classified as a person who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country (…)”

The full text of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is available on the website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Ballet flourishes once again in Cambodia

Submitted by Sahil Nagpal
Fri, 03/27/2009

Phnom Penh - The elegant woman has dainty hands and long, narrow feet. Her limbs are incredibly limber - she easily bends back her fingers until they touch her forearm, her toes at a 90-degree angle - the results of decades of training and dedication.

Vong Metry, 56, has been a classical dancer since the age of 5, an occupation that carried a death sentence after 1975, when Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge regime overran the country, killing almost everyone who was not a farmer or worker.

Centuries of knowledge about Cambodia's traditional dances, which are full of history and legend, were almost buried with the victims in the Khmer Rouge's mass graves.

Vong Metry was one of the few survivors of the purge. Today, working with the Apsara Dance Association, she helps to continue the tradition of Cambodia's dancers.

Back then, she was part of the country's dance elite, studying and dancing in Cambodia's royal palace in the 1960s.

"For the Khmer Rouge, our talent was an aesthetic waste," she said about the horrifying rule of the communists who killed almost 2 million people by torture, executions, starvation and forced labour during their four-year rule.

"When they marched into Phnom Penh, they immediately chased us out of the palace, and we ran for our lives," she recalled.

At that time, Vong Metry was heavily pregnant and lost her baby after the forced march to the provinces. But there was no time to mourn.

"I had to work like a horse," she said, wringing her slender hands over the memory. The dancer pretended to be a farmer and ploughed fields, pulled weeds, planted crops and milked livestock.

Training, even secretly, was out of the question. "There were Khmer Rouge spies everywhere," she said, sitting up ramrod straight and rapping her chest. "I carried the music and the dance only here, in my heart."

Cambodia's classical dance is also called Apsara, after the nymph-like beauties who, according to legend, danced in the palaces of the gods and are immortalized in thousands of carvings at the temples of Angkor Wat.

Srilang, 7, one of Vong Metry's favourite pupils at the dancing school, wants to become just such a nymph.

Well-behaved, she knelt, only her toes supporting her feet and the soles of her feet upright and perfectly straight.

Vong Metry sat behind her and moved the girl's arms into the typical graceful movements of the dance.

"More tension," she murmured in her pupil's ear again and again and touched her thighs.

With the play of those muscles alone, the best dancers can create a subtle swaying movement when in that position.

"Srilang has a lot of talent," Vong Metry said. "She learns fast, remembers a lot and works hard. If she keeps learning for another five or six years, she can get really good."

Choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro has dedicated herself to the preservation and revival of Cambodian classical dance, too. A half-hour drive out of Phnom Penh, she and her troupe offer ballet at its finest.

Performing on an open-air stage under five towers in the Angkor-style, the dancers wear golden costumes and the typical elaborate headdresses.

Their movements - deliberate and at the same time light as feathers - are a feast for the eye.

Their expressive hands alone, the blossom-like fingers bent backwards at incredible angles, hypnotize the audience.

Cheam Shapiro created a version of Mozart's Magic Flute, Cambodian style. Surrounded by a small orchestra of xylophones, drums and oboes, the Queen of the Night becomes Sayon Reachny, Prince Tamino turns into Preah Chhapoun and Papageno into Noreak.

But apart from the names, the love story unfolds along the well-known lines.

Cheam Shapiro angrily rejected claims by purists that this constitutes treachery against the classical art.

"Cambodian dance is like a mother who has many children," she said. "We can protect the traditional repertoire as well as create new dances in the classical style and experiment with contemporary pieces."

She and her US-born husband founded the Khmer Arts Institute, which aims at researching and archiving the still existing repertoire.

"But, of course, we don't know how much was lost," Cheam Shapiro said. (dpa)

Missing soldier's family finds clues to his fate in Cambodia

Mary Nolan holds a photo of her husband, McKinley Nolan, as son Rodger looks out the door of his mother's home in Texas. McKinley Nolan vanished from his Vietnam unit on Nov. 9, 1967.


On Nov. 9, 1967, weeks from completing a two-year hitch in the Army, McKinley Nolan disappeared from his 1st Infantry Division unit. Communist Viet Cong propaganda broadcasts and leaflets later featured him urging fellow black soldiers to lay down their weapons.By Gregg Jones
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — McKinley Nolan's letters from South Vietnam to his wife in Texas hinted at his anguish. He wrote of playing dead to survive on the battlefield and the suffering of Vietnamese civilians.

"He was just telling me how bad it was over there, all the fighting, all the killing," Mary Nolan said.

There was no clue of what was to come.

On Nov. 9, 1967, weeks from completing a two-year hitch in the Army, McKinley Nolan disappeared from his 1st Infantry Division unit. Communist Viet Cong propaganda broadcasts and leaflets later featured him urging fellow black soldiers to lay down their weapons.

The Army branded Nolan as one of the war's two confirmed defectors but offered no explanation as to why he deserted or what happened to him.

Joining forces

McKinley's younger brother, Michael, has joined forces with a New Jersey journalist, a Vietnam War veteran, a New York filmmaker, a Hollywood star and a Houston congresswoman in hopes of unraveling the mystery.

Their efforts last month pushed the Pentagon's MIA search unit, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), to act on a witness's account and dig for McKinley Nolan's remains in a Cambodian village.

Michael Nolan, of Austin, flew to Cambodia to watch the U.S. team chip away at the Cambodian clay. It was the latest stop in a long journey to understand who his missing brother was: a deserter who turned his back on his country and his family or a hero who stood up to the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge and paid with his life.

The Nolan case long has fascinated POW-MIA aficionados. It spawned such varied tales as Nolan quietly slipping home to Washington County, Texas, to his living the high life in Cuba as a guest of Fidel Castro.

"In the world of the conspiratorial POW-MIA guys, McKinley Nolan is like Bigfoot," said journalist Richard Linnett, who has spent years tracking missing Americans in Cambodia. "He's spotted everywhere."

As a rifleman in the Army's 16th Infantry Regiment, Nolan was based in Tay Ninh province, near the border with Cambodia. A Pentagon document shows he earned a Purple Heart and a Combat Infantry Badge.

The Army didn't respond to questions for this article.

By November 1967, Nolan was one of about 500,000 U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. A poll that fall found that 46 percent of Americans believed U.S. military involvement in Vietnam was a mistake. Black soldiers openly questioned why they should die for South Vietnamese freedom when they were denied equal rights at home.

If McKinley Nolan shared those sentiments, he didn't tell his wife.

"If he had a job, he did it," she said.

But Nolan's commitment to the Army was flagging. He was AWOL — absent without leave — from Sept. 7 to Nov. 6, 1967, according to the Pentagon document.

He was jailed for two days. Then, on Nov. 9, the 22-year-old disappeared.

Mary Nolan said the Army revealed little about her husband's disappearance. Months passed before she received a letter stating that Nolan had defected to Viet Cong forces, she said.

In January 1975, three months before the war ended, the Army notified her that her husband had been seen alive in Cambodia.

In 1992, a U.S. military team thought it had found Nolan's remains in Cambodia. But DNA tests proved negative.

Eight years later, Linnett, of Newark, N.J., stumbled onto Nolan's trail. Linnett was working on a book about a 1970 mutiny aboard an American freighter transporting napalm to U.S. forces in Thailand. One of the two mutineers, Clyde McKay, sought refuge with Khmer Rouge guerrillas and later was executed.

Linnett was searching for McKay's grave site in eastern Cambodia when a local resident pulled him aside. The villager told Linnett an intriguing story about a black GI who supposedly lived in the area during the time of the Khmer Rouge.

A Pentagon investigator told Linnett the villager was talking about McKinley Nolan.

"I thought this story was truly amazing," Linnett said. "This guy had lived with the Viet Cong and the Khmer Rouge."

Linnett pried loose U.S. military-intelligence documents and began sharing information with Michael and Mary Nolan.

Mysterious appearance

In 2006, Michael Nolan phoned Linnett with incredible news.

"He said, 'Richard, someone saw McKinley in Vietnam,' " Linnett recounted.

That someone was a Vietnam veteran named Dan Smith, and he had contacted the Washington County sheriff in search of Nolan's family.

Linnett was skeptical. He phoned Smith, a retired Pacific Northwest 911 operator who said he had lost a leg serving with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. In 2005, he made one of his periodic trips to Vietnam to deliver medical supplies.

In the city of Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border, Smith encountered a black man, about 60, with rotted teeth and jaundiced eyes. The man said he had served with the 1st Infantry Division in 1967.

When Smith mentioned he was going home soon, the stranger sighed.

"Man, I wish I could go home," he said.

"Where's home?" Smith asked.

"Washington, Texas," the man replied.

Smith reported the encounter to U.S. officials, and the Pentagon MIA search unit sent an investigator to his home. Smith said he picked two photographs of McKinley Nolan out of a mugshot book.

Afterward, Smith said the investigator refused to take his calls. So did the MIA unit.

But Linnett heard him out, and he arranged for Smith to tell his story in person to the Nolans.

Meanwhile, Linnett had piqued the curiosity of New York documentary filmmaker Henry Corra. When Smith arrived in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas, to meet the Nolans, Corra's camera was rolling.

After a tearful meeting with the Nolan family, Smith vowed to return to Southeast Asia to find the GI.

Trips to Cambodia came next, first Smith alone, then with Michael Nolan, Linnett and Corra. Smith became convinced the man he encountered in Tay Ninh was another U.S. deserter who had assumed Nolan's identity.

But the search continued, financed in part by actor Danny Glover, who agreed to produce Corra's documentary on the search for McKinley Nolan.

The group tracked the GI to a village outside the town of Memot, in eastern Cambodia, where a man named Cham Son recalled Nolan's life during the tumult of war and Khmer Rouge genocide.

Nolan's missing years emerged from the mists.

Friendly guy

When he arrived in Vietnam in 1966, Nolan was happily married, the father of a 2-year-old son. He was a friendly, muscular guy who loved baseball and horses.

By the time he disappeared in 1967, he had grown disillusioned with the war, said Linnett, citing interviews with Nolan's friends in Vietnam and Cambodia.

A Vietnamese girlfriend "convinced him to go with her," Linnett said.

It's unclear whether Nolan willingly worked with the Viet Cong, Linnett said.

In any event, Nolan grew disenchanted with the group and in 1973 slipped into Cambodia with his Vietnamese wife and their baby, Linnett said.

In eastern Cambodia, Nolan drove a truck and farmed, local residents told Linnett and Smith. When the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975 and emptied cities to return Cambodia to "Year Zero," Nolan was forced to move to a village deeper in the jungle.

"Because of his size and strength, they made him pull an ox cart loaded with people being taken to an interrogation center," Smith said. "Villagers said he would beg for their forgiveness."

Nolan told jokes and sang songs in pidgin Cambodian to lift people's spirits.

"He would literally step in front of guards to keep them from beating people," Smith said. "McKinley was a hero. Everybody there loved him."

In 1977, the villager Cham Son recounted, Khmer Rouge soldiers took Nolan away.

"He saw McKinley being marched off," Linnett said, "and knew when the soldiers came back without him that he had been killed."

Comfort in answers

In April 2008, after hearing that account, Linnett and his comrades gave the Pentagon's MIA search unit precise information on the suspected grave site.

Last month, after the Nolans enlisted the help of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a JPAC team began excavating the site identified by Cham Son.

The team dug for two weeks in February but found no remains, said Air Force Lt. Col. Wayne Perry, JPAC spokesman. Cham Son, noting the terrain had changed, said he wasn't sure of the precise burial spot, Perry said.

The Nolans and Linnett, with Lee's help, are trying to force the Pentagon to release McKinley Nolan's personnel file and classified documents on the case. Linnett and Corra are tracking leads that they believe will lead to Nolan's remains in eastern Cambodia.

Mary Nolan, 62, never remarried. She believes the government should compensate her for her husband's loss.

"I should have been given a good explanation as to what happened, when, why," she said.

After years of anger at "the system" for taking his brother away, Michael Nolan said he found peace retracing McKinley's footsteps and seeing him through the eyes of Cambodian villagers who revered him.

"Whether he's dead or alive," Nolan said, "I feel he would be happy that we're bringing the truth to light."

Freedom sought for villagers

Photo by: TOM HUNTER
Villagers, shot during an eruption of violence in a land dispute in Siem Reap, in Provincial Hosptial on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Michael Fox
Friday, 27 March 2009


THE defence lawyer for nine Siem Reap villagers arrested during violent confrontations with police Sunday has asked the court to release the men pending trial.

Defence counsel Kao Soupha said Thursday he requested that the provincial court release the nine men, accused of committing robbery during the weekend's events, because they are innocent of wrongdoing.

In a letter to the court, Kao Soupha pledged that the detained would fulfill all necessary release conditions and would not complicate any of the court's investigations into the matter.

The nine were arrested when police clashed with villagers in the province's Chi Kraeng district Sunday following the escalation of a local dispute over 92 hectares of farmland contested by groups of villagers from two neighbouring communes.

"They have been wrongly accused," he said. "The most important thing is for the authorities to determine who is the owner of the land."

Luon Meat, 29, who was shot in the leg by police during the weekend's confrontation, said the land dispute erupted around four years ago.

"Villagers each claimed to occupy the land, and the dispute simmered until violence erupted when the police fired," he said, while recovering at Siem Reap Provincial Hospital.

Ty Sovinthal, a prosecutor at the Siem Reap provincial court, confirmed it had received the release request and said the investigating judge would rule on it within five days. "If [he rejects it] the defence lawyer has the right to appeal," he said.

Am Sam Ath, a monitor for the Cambodian rights group Licadho, said on Thursday 44 Chi Kraeng villagers traveled to Prime Minister Hun Sen's house in Takhmao, Kandal province, seeking his help to resolve the land dispute and expel Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin.

New UN rights envoy chosen

Photo by: FILE PHOTO Former UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai, who resigned his post in September after an acrimonious three-year posting.

IN FOCUS UN envoys

- 1993-1996 Michael Kirby (Australia)
- 1996-2000 Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden)
- 2001-2005 Peter Leuprecht (Austria)
- 2005-2008 Yash Ghai (Kenya)
- 2009- Surya Prasad Subedi (Nepal)

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Neth Pheaktra
Friday, 27 March 2009

THE United Nations has formally appointed its new special rapporteur for human rights to Cambodia, prompting civil society concerns that the official will face the same hostile reception as his predecessor.

At a meeting in Geneva Wednesday, the UN's Human Rights Council chose Nepal's Surya Prasad Subedi to fill the post, which has been vacant since his predecessor Yash Ghai's bitter resignation in September. Subedi will be the fifth person to occupy the position since 1993.

In a statement issued by the council on Wednesday, Sun Suon, head of the Cambodian Permanent Mission to the UN, was reported as saying the government welcomed the appointment of Subedi - a former Oxford professor and recipient of the Order of the British Empire - and expressed hopes he will perform his duties in "a spirit of cooperation and good partnership".

But following government dismissals of the US State Department's annual rights report, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this month slammed as hypocritical and politically motivated, rights groups say Subedi's treatment will be a litmus test of the government's credibility on human rights issues.

"If the government has the good will to respect human rights, they should cooperate with the new representative," said Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha.

"I supported Yash Ghai, and I hope that [Subedi] can work with the government to improve human rights."

During his three-year stint as envoy to Cambodia, Ghai - a lawyer from Kenya - was publicly attacked by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials for his unusually blunt critiques of the government's rights record. In September, he resigned his post in anger, harshly rebuking the government for its lack of commitment on human rights issues.

But Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that each of the UN's human rights envoys had received similar treatment from the government, and that anything different would be a break from standard practice.

"I'm not sure how they will treat the new representative, but I would imagine that [treating him] like that again would be a bad reflection on [the government]," he said.

He added that the government's calls for "dialogue" were increasingly meaningless, and said that it seemed to allow nothing but the mildest criticisms about human rights violations.

"If that's what the government expects, it's not what they're going to get from the US State Department or any UN body," he said.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the ruling party was very open to working with Subedi, but warned that he should "check his information" before writing reports criticising the Cambodian government.

"He should not write reports based on information from opposition parties or NGOs that don't like the Cambodian government," he said Thursday, adding that Yash Gai's criticisms - distributed around the world - had tainted the government's image.

"We would not like people to admire us, but we would like them to write the truth about Cambodia. We will welcome his recommendations if they are correct and help Cambodia in the best possible way."

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and Om Yentieng, senior minister and head of the government-run Human Rights Committee, were not available for comment Thursday.

But Lao Mong Hay of the Asian Human Rights Commission said the terms of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords pledged the government to work with the UN to improve the human rights situation throughout the Kingdom.

"Through hostility towards the field office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and ... the special representative, Cambodia showed that it is not sincere in its pledges to the Paris Peace Agreements," he said in an interview with the Post last month.

International obligations aside, he said that having a neutral voice could help push forward human rights issues in Cambodia.

"The Cambodian nation can swing like a pendulum from one extreme to another," he said.

"A third party can help restrain us."

Further Thai troop incursions in Veal Antri

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 27 March 2009

A GROUP of 30 Thai soldiers withdrew Thursday from Veal Antri near Preah Vihear temple just four hours after crossing the disputed border, an officer with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) told the Post.

That followed an incident on Wednesday when military officials said about 100 Thai soldiers crossed into Cambodian territory before heading back to Thailand.

"Our soldiers urged them to go back, and they finally left at midday," Khim Eung, an officer in RCAF's Brigade 8, said, referring to Thursday's incident.

"They asked us if they could set up a base at the White Zone where they had set up tents on Wednesday, but our soldiers refused permission," he said.

"We told them their tents would be removed, either by us or they could take them away themselves. They took them back to their base," he added.

The White Zone is an RCAF term for the disputed parts of the border between the neighbouring countries.

‘Always' trying to set up base
An RCAF officer stationed at Preah Vihear temple, who said he was not authorised to talk to the press about the border issue, told the Post by phone on Thursday that the Thai military "always tries to set up bases here and there along the border - they continually do this".

Yim Phim, the commander of Brigade 8, confirmed Thursday that all of the Thai soldiers had left and the situation was back to normal in the area surrounding Preah Vihear temple.

He said the Thai soldiers had only briefly entered the White Zone.

US, Australia assist in drugs case

UN and government officials set fire to the last major batch of seized drugs and precursor chemicals in 2008.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 27 March 2009

Foreign anti-drugs specialists come to Kingdom to help national police identify ten chemicals found after two tonnes of illegal substances seized in raids on four drugs laboratories.

UNITED States and Australian police are working with Cambodian anti-drugs specialists to test illicit substances seized in a major drug raid last weekend, officials said Thursday.

In one of the most significant raids of the past two years, national police confiscated more than 2 tonnes of illegal substances from four drugs laboratories over the weekend in three different provinces. Four people were arrested.

Moek Dara, the director of the Anti-Trafficking Department at the Ministry of Interior, said the laboratories were in possession of nearly a dozen different illicit chemicals.

"This raid didn't happen by chance. Cambodian police have investigated this for three months, but now we need the assistance of US and Australian anti-drugs experts because there are up to 10 different kinds of chemicals that are outside our testing capacity," he told the Post Thursday.

Ephedra seized
Moek Dara said the most common chemical seized was ephedra, a precursor chemical used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Moek Dara said the precursor was probably imported in December from either China or the Middle East.

"What we are doing now is separating likely hazardous chemicals from knownhazardous ones because we don't know what kinds of chemicals they are, " Moek Dara added.

John Johnson, a spokesman for the US embassy, confirmed Thursday that an agent from the US anti-drugs agency was headed to Phnom Penh to assist with the investigation.

"At the request of the Cambodian government, the Drug Enforcement Agency is sending an agent to provide support to the national police, who are taking the lead in this investigation," he said. "[But] as this is an open investigation, we can't discuss any other details at this time."

Fiona Cochaud, deputy head of mission and first secretary at the Australian embassy, told the Post that five experts from the Australian Federal Police were working to "assess and dismantle clandestine chemical laboratories located in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Takeo [provinces]."

Cambodians Sieng Lonh, 52, and Khun Sam, 53, were arrested last weekend along with two Chinese men, Mi Guang, 52, and Gao Xiao Ging, 36, in three different drugs laboratory raids in Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh. Police also raided a laboratory in Takeo province, but the suspect had already fled.

Local media sources reported Thursday that the laboratories had the capacity to produce drugs with a street value estimated at some US$3 billion, but Moek Dara refuted that.

"We cannot estimate the value [of the haul] because we don't yet know how many kilograms of chemicals there were," he said.

KRT judges post old documents on web

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 27 March 2009

In response to criticism that it was not allowing for transparency, judges have posted old filings.

INVESTIGATING judges at Cambodia's war crimes court have made several old documents public in response to criticisms last month that their office was not maximising transparency at the court.

The documents, all of which relate to the legal doctrine of "joint criminal enterprise", were placed on the court's official website Thursday along with a number of other documents filed at the court.

In a press release the same day, judges said the documents were made public "with the aim of improving public information while respecting the protection of privacy and the presumption of innocence", and that there would be more available in the future.

Response to criticism
Last month, judges threatened lawyers for former leader Ieng Sary with sanctions if they did not remove documents, most of them marked "public", from their website.

In response, the lawyers accused judges of using the court's confidentiality rules to deliberately suppress documents, saying the public had the right to be informed of every step the court makes.

Michael Karnavas, a co-lawyer for Ieng Sary, said the judge's most recent response was a case of "too little, too late".

"Obviously, the [Office of Co-Investigating Judges] fails to grasp the essence of transparency," he told the Post via email.

"When you see what is now being made public, one has to question their reasoning for keeping these submissions hidden from public scrutiny. Also, why has the OCIJ not moved to make truly non-confidential submissions public?" he added.

SRP letter calls for investigation into alleged electrity theft

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 27 March 2009

Three parliamentarians say three branches of an ice supplier have been underpaying for electricity used to run their machines.

IN A letter addressed to Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem, three parliamentarians from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have called for an investigation into the ice supplier Super Ice, which they said has been stealing state electricity.

In the March 16 letter, the parliamentarians - Ly Sreyvyna, Khim Laky and Men Sothavarin - allege that the owners of three different branches of the ice supplier have been underpaying for the electricity used to run their machinery.

Two of the branches are located in Phnom Penh, in Tuol Kork and Russey Keo districts, and one is located in Takhmao district, Kandal province. The letter does not identify the owners, and efforts to obtain these names from Super Ice were unsuccessful.

Officials from Super Ice have repeatedly refused to speak to Post reporters.

The letter alleges that Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) officials are complicit in the ongoing theft.

The letter does not say when the alleged theft began, nor does it place a specific monetary value on the electricity allegedly being stolen, asserting only that "thousands" of US dollars have been stolen per month.

The SRP parliamentarians first sent the letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, who signed it on March 23. A copy of the letter was given to journalists Thursday.

Limited information
Khim Laky told the Post Thursday that he did not know when the alleged theft began or the value of the electricity that has allegedly been stolen.

Suy Sem could not be reached for comment Thursday. Two secretaries of state at the ministry, Ith Praing and Khlaut Randy, both said they could not comment on the letter because they had not seen it.

EdC Director General Keo Rattanak declined to comment. But a senior EdC official who spoke on condition of anonymity said he would not be surprised if such a theft was being perpetrated, though he said he doubted the theft, if it was indeed occurring, was very large.

Questions on HIV added to driver's licence examination

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Cambodian Sport Compact Club, who's motto is "Drive Safely, Sex Safely", are ahead of an ADB effort to add HIV into driving tests.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and Mom Kunthear
Friday, 27 March 2009

As Cambodia's roads improve, efforts are being made to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, particularly among truck drivers.

THE government later this year is to add questions about HIV/AIDS into the written driver's licence test, in a project backed by the Asian Development Bank. The goal is to increase AIDS awareness among professional drivers, particularly truck drivers.

The test will contain a dozen questions about the virus. Around 2,000 people apply to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport for driving licences each month, said Keo Savin at the Land Transport Department, adding that there are 1.14 million registered cars and motorbikes, and 405,000 registered drivers.

Ung Chun Hour, the Public Works Ministry's director general of transport, said Wednesday that his ministry, in collaboration with the National AIDS Authority at the Ministry of Health, is working to finalise the questions.

"This marks the first time questions about HIV/AIDS have been included in a driving test," he said. "It is important that drivers - particularly professional drivers - know about HIV/AIDS. Professional truck drivers live far from home and are more likely to use sex partners."

The current driver's licence test has questions on driving techniques and the rules of the road, and others on first aid to help accident victims.

AIDS Authority: ‘logical step'
Dr Teng Kunthy, the secretary general of the National Aids Authority, said the decision to include questions about the disease into the driving test was logical given that the country's roads were improving, and that meant more truckers would be using Cambodia's roads and those of neighbouring countries.

"We are worried that when they stop along their route, they often look for sex partners - that's why we want to educate them during their driving test, so they know to take care of themselves," he said.

Teng Kunthy said that the next stage would be to educate the people who live on the busiest trucking routes.

"We want them to protect them from getting infected with HIV because although we don't have brothels, most sex workers now work at nightclubs or other places that we worry will offer sex services on the route," he said.

The country's HIV prevalence has declined in recent years and was 0.7 percent in 2008, said Dr Teng Kunthy.

SRP to mark bloody attack

SRP leader Sam Rainsy at a memorial last year for victims of the 1997 grenade attack. On Monday, the SRP will mark the 12th anniversary of the attack, for which no one has yet been brought to justice.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 27 March 2009

Opposition representatives say 1997 grenade attack will be marked with a commemorative ceremony at the site of the bloodshed Monday morning.

THE opposition Sam Rainsy Party is to hold a memorial Monday to mark the 12th anniversary of the 1997 grenade attacks that left at least 16 dead and more than 100 injured at a peaceful rally in Phnom Penh.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary General Ke Sovannroth said the event would help highlight the fact that more than a decade since the attack, the Cambodian government has made no progress in bringing its perpetrators to justice.

"Twelve years on, no one has been tried for their crimes against [the SRP's] peaceful demonstration, and the government has never identified the perpetrators or found justice for the victims," she said.

Ke Sovannroth said the commemorative rally, to be held at the memorial stupa marking the place where the attack took place, would include victims of the attacks and their families.

On March 30, 1997, a crowd of about 200 supporters of the opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP), led by former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, gathered in the public park across the street from the then National Assembly to denounce the corruption and lack of independence of the judicial system.

In a coordinated attack, four grenades were thrown into the crowd, killing protesters and bystanders, including children, and blowing limbs off street vendors.

After the first grenade exploded, Sam Rainsy's bodyguard, Han Muny, threw himself on top of his leader. He took the full force of a subsequent grenade and died at the scene. Rainsy escaped with a minor leg injury.

The KNP had received official permission from both the Ministry of the Interior and the Phnom Penh Municipality to hold a peaceful demonstration on the day of the attack.

Sustained impunity
Sam Rainsy, now president of the SRP, said that the attackers, like the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, had enjoyed total impunity for their actions.

"The leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime killed millions of Cambodian people and the tribunal has still not found justice for the victims," he said, adding that there was little hope of bringing the perpetrators of the grenade attack to justice.

"But we will not forget it. We will hold memorials every year in order to ensure that justice is done," he added.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that three suspects were identified by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which reported that one died and one disappeared during the factional fighting of July 1997, while another remained on the run from authorities.

"The FBI is still helping us, and we have never closed the case," he said. "As long as we can wait, we will try to shine a light on the perpetrators."

But Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that the government had no real commitment to bringing the perpetrators to justice because the victims were largely supporters of the SRP.

He added that the government's behaviour had also done nothing to pry apart the legal impunity that still plagues Cambodian society.

"We found that few crimes against the opposition have seen the perpetrators brought to justice," he said.

EC begins workshop for NEC officials

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 27 March 2009

THE European Commission began a two-day training workshop Thursday for NEC officials working in a public information capacity.

The aim of the workshop is to increase public awareness at the polls, said Set Van Doorn, the EC's political adviser to Cambodia.

"In a democratic country, an election is not [fair] if information is hidden or not accessible," he told 40 officials from the National Election Committee.

Last week, the EC signed a memorandum of understanding with the NEC to send two experts on media and law to Cambodia to help the election body's staff strengthen the election system in Cambodia.

"This workshop will improve election officials' capacity to provide information to the voters," Tep Nytha, the NEC's secretary general, said during the launch, adding that the NEC had experienced problems regarding their dispersal of information in the past.

"Some politicians and other activists always accuse us of discriminating over who we provide information to, saying that we discriminate between political parties," he said.