Sunday, 27 June 2010

Children learn to game their way out of minefields

via Khmer NZ News Media

Sunday27/6/2010June, 2010

It is a familiar scene in many countries: Children huddled around a computer game, chipping in with instructions, competing and encouraging each other.

But this is no ordinary game. In a Phnom Penh orphanage, a dozen children are testing a unique US-designed programme its inventors hope would reduce deaths and injuries by landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Four decades of conflict have left Cambodia with an unenviable legacy of millions of such explosives. Last year, 47 Cambodians were killed and 196 injured by them. Around a third were children, most of them boys.

It would take decades to rid the country of mines, so educating people on how to recognize the risks they pose is vital. But these efforts are typically passive, using presentations or leaflets.

The computer game requires active participation, says Professor Frank Biocca of Michigan State University, where the game was developed.

Biocca was in Phnom Penh in June overseeing testing ahead of the game’s expected launch there later this year. He says active involvement in the game, which is targeted at 6- to 15-year-olds, means the children retain more information.

“We walk straight, and if we see the red danger sign, then we turn around and come back,” he says. “Or we can turn left or right to avoid the landmine.”

 The on-screen landscape is comprised of photographs of Cambodia’s countryside, which makes it both realistic for the children and cost-effective. The warning signs are also local: red signs with a white skull, a red-and-white striped pole, an inverted red triangle.

 When the player gets it wrong, an explosion fills the screen, accompanied by a loud boom. Both the dog and child avatars cower but are deliberately uninjured, and a man in a Cambodian demining uniform appears on-screen, blowing his whistle and explaining what happened.

 The game began its life as a request two years ago to the university in East Lansing, Michigan, by the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, a charity that provides technical assistance for international demining operations.

 The university’s final-year project for one of its undergraduate programmes sees students building so-called “serious games” - games with a purpose beyond entertainment. The mine education game struck a chord.

 “We decided this specific project was something to continue to pursue with a focus on making it work across different platforms and making sure it can be updated for different markets cheaply,” Biocca says.

 Allen Tan heads Golden West’s regional office, which provided the developers with technical information and images for the game. Tan, a former bomb-disposal expert in the US Army, says the game has the potential to benefit dozens of countries.

 “Certainly any post-conflict zone could be a target for this type of training and especially those with young populations that might not have been around when the conflict happened,” he says.

 The game runs on Windows, Mac OS and Linux operating systems, the last of which is the standard operating system for the One Laptop Per Child initiative, the effort to get computers into the hands of children across the world at a cost of $100 per laptop.

 But Biocca says developers started off assuming it had to work on other platforms too, including the internet and mobile phones.

 “We think that, ultimately, the true $100 laptop is the cellphone - some version of the cellphone is becoming the Third World computational device,” he says. “And those are selling for underneath $100.”

 He says that once the game has been launched in Cambodia, it would be adapted for other countries to reflect their culture, landscape, languages and even their landmine signs - all for $1,000 to 10,000 per country.

 Biocca says the game could even be altered to educate people about other health issues that require learning, such as influencing sexual behaviour or diet.

 So much for the brains behind the development - what did the kids think of the game? Fourteen-year-old Lai loved it.

 “If I were to go to the countryside and saw a landmine sign, then I would walk away from that place,” he says. “I wouldn’t go near it. I would take a different path.”

 Twelve-year-old Minea echoes those sentiments.

 “Walk far away from that place,” he says of the lessons learned from his 15-minute session. “Don’t touch anything, and don’t play anywhere near there.”

 Full marks all round then. DPA


via Khmer NZ News Media

Source: Asian Human Rights Commission

Date: 25 Jun 2010

Human Rights Groups call on the Cambodian Government to Comply with the UN Torture Convention

(25 June 2010, Phnom Penh), 26 June 2010 marks 23 years since the United Nations' Convention against Torture came into force. 146 States have joined up to this landmark Convention, undertaking to prevent, prosecute and provide reparations for torture and end impunity for one of the worst crimes known to mankind.

Today, we express our grave concern about the prevalence of torture and other prohibited ill-treatment, the lack of investigation, prosecution and punishment of such crimes. Today we show our solidarity with victims of torture here in Cambodia and around the world.

Cambodia acceded to the Convention in 1992. In 2007, it ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, a positive step through which it took on the added obligation to set up an independent national preventive mechanism to monitor detention centres to help prevent torture in Cambodia.

26 June is also exactly one month before the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is due to deliver its first judgment in Case 001, a case which concerns the notorious and wide scale use of torture at Tuol Sleng, the S-21 security prison used during the time of the Khmer Rouge regime.

By agreeing to be bound by the Torture Convention, the Cambodian Government has taken an important step to end torture. In the spirit of this commitment, we now call on the Government:

- To cooperate fully with the United Nations Committee Against Torture, which will consider in November 2010 Cambodia's second periodic report on the measures it has taken to give effect to its obligations under the Convention and to comply fully with the Committee's concluding observations;

- To declare in accordance with Article 22 of the Convention that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation of the provisions of the Convention;

- To ensure that the national preventative mechanism established in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture is independent and impartial and also capable of receiving individual complaints about torture and other prohibited ill-treatment which it can then convey to the competent authorities for follow-up action;

- To ensure that torture is recognized as a crime in Cambodia in accordance with the definition set out in Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture. The Cambodian Government should make an official declaration that the definition of torture set out in Article 1 of the Convention, as well as all other provisions of the Convention, are directly applicable in Cambodia, in accordance with the laws of Cambodia. In addition, to provide the utmost clarity for all Cambodian authorities, the Cambodian Government and the National Assembly should take the necessary steps to ensure that the definition of torture in the Penal Code is made to conform with the definition in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture. Legislation to criminalize torture should be swiftly put in force;

- To establish an accessible and effective means for victims to register complaints of torture and other prohibited ill-treatment with the competent authorities and to ensure that such authorities promptly investigate such complaints in accordance with the Convention, and where sufficient evidence exists, to ensure that those accused of torture are prosecuted;

- To make certain that adequate physical and psychological services are in place for victims of torture, as well as adequate and effective measures of reparation.

Further information, please contact:

Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, Acting Chairman of CHRAC/Director of CDP, Tel: 012 901 199

Mr. Thun Saray, President of ADHOC, Tel: 016 880 509

Ms. Sun Chansen, President of KYA, Tel: 017 788 955

Ms. Say Vathany, Executive Director of CWCC, Tel: 092 993 558

Ms. Carla Fershman, Director of REDRESS, Email:

Mr. Basil Fernando, Director of AHRC, Tel: 852 26986367

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

AHRC New Weekly Digest - an easy way to receive all your Human Rights news in just one weekly email - subscribe here.

Asian Human Rights Commission

19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,

998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.

Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367 About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

Cambodia’s Angkor archaeological park

via Khmer NZ News Media

June 26, 2010

My Island in the Sun
by Dr Sanjiva Wijesinha

Cambodia’s Angkor Archaeological Park which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992 can be easily accessed from the international airport in the town of Siem Reap – and is a destination that is well within reach of the Sri Lankan traveller.

The Park contains well preserved archaeological ruins from between the 9th and 15th century, when the Khmer Empire extended from the tip of the Malayan peninsula in the south to what is now China’s Yunnan province in the north - and from the eastern shores of Vietnam to the Bay of Bengal in the west.

The highlight of a visit here is the magnificent temple whose image is featured on the Cambodian national flag - Angkor Wat (whose literal translation means the City which is a Temple). Approaching from the east, the sheer size and grandeur of this monument cannot fail to move the visitor. The whole complex extends over 500 acres and is protected by a 200 metre wide moat. Its central towers – thought to represent Mount Meru - rise to a stupendous 65 metres. Originally constructed in the early 12th century as a Hindu temple by King Suryavarman II, it became a place of Buddhist worship under his successors. Sadly, most of the Buddha statues were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in the nineteen seventies – but the extraordinary well preserved bas relief carvings in Angkor Wat’s galleries are still so intricate and beautiful that it is hard to imagine they were created centuries ago.

Probably the most photographed monument in the Angkor complex is the south gateway to Angkor Thom, the original fortified city of King Jayavarnman VII (1181-1215). This gopura (tower) bears four enormous faces believed to represent the King himself, facing the four cardinal directions. At the centre of Angkor Thom is the famous Bayon temple with its 54 towers decorated with over 200 serene stone faces, again thought to represent the omnipresent King.

Other sites – the miniature temple complex of Banteay Srei with its delicately carved pink sandstone motifs, the lake temple of Preah Neak Pahn ("Coiled Serrpents") with its four sculpted waterspouts in the form of human and animal heads, the aerial palace of Phimeanakas – are well worth seeing. However, to get a real feel for these ruins, which until a few decades ago had been engulfed by the tropical jungle, visit the monastery of Ta Prom or the temple of Ta Som. They are a living example of the power of nature to smother man-made buildings.

Here, massive fig and silk cotton trees can be seen growing out of the very walls of the buildings. In some places the tree roots cling to the sides of the buildings, in others the huge roots bind the crumbling edifices together. Germinating as tiny seeds dropped by birds into the crevices of these buildings, the massive trees have grown and flourished over the centuries, allowing the encroaching jungle to slowly swallow up the works of man.

The engulfing trees serve as a reminder of the impermanence of man’s creations – even those as painstakingly crafted as these temples - and the inexorable power of Nature, assisted by Time, to reclaim them for herself.

Government Targets Red Shirts with Harsh Law, Propaganda

via Khmer NZ News Media

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, June 26, 2010 (IPS) - With the force of an emergency law behind it, the Thai government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is tightening the screws on an opposition protest movement that, if mishandled, could extract a heavy political price.

On Jun. 28, the powerful department of special investigations (DSI) will begin to question 83 individuals and companies named as the alleged funders of the protesters, known as the ‘red shirts’ for their signature protest colour, who had occupied iconic areas of Bangkok for over two months, till May 19.

The wide-ranging powers of the emergency law is pivotal to trace the flow of money linked to the red shirt movement, admits Tharit Pengdit, the DSI’s director-general, who plans to summon the clan of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, former cabinet ministers, retired senior military and police officers and leaders of the red shirts.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, served as the political godfather of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the now silenced red shirt movement that attracted tens of thousands of supporters drawn to pressure the Abhisit government to dissolve parliament and call for an early election.

Violent clashes between heavily armed Thai troops and an armed wing of the UDD in April and mid-May resulted in 88 deaths, 80 of whom were civilians, and the injury of some 1,800 people during the period when the troops were ordered to clear Bangkok’s streets.

The emergency law was first invoked in early April to deal with the red shirt dissidents in Bangkok and nearby provinces, and expanded weeks later to cover provinces in the rural, rice-growing provinces of north-east Thailand, where the UDD enjoys wide support.

"We want to make sure that the situation returns to normal. To do so, key security factors and concerns must be met," says Panitan Wattanayagorn, the government spokesman, in justifying the emergency law. "We are looking into the money used to support illegal activities, the use of media to create confrontation and the use of arms and weapons."

"The money trail the DSI is investigating is part of the security factors," he tells IPS. "The emergency law enables us to use many agencies to work together before all the cases are forwarded to the courts."

The emergency law, which has a three-month duration, has enabled the government to wage a lopsided propaganda war against the dissidents to ensure that the Abhisit administration’s version of events is reinforced in the mainstream media.

On the funding front, for instance, the government initially declared that the list of suspects responsible for providing assistance worth millions of dollars to the red shirts had 170 names of people and companies, before it was slashed to 83. Newspapers gleefully splashed these private banking details, made possible because the emergency decree overpowers other laws.

And to drive home the message that the red shirts were more interested in sowing violence on the streets of the Thai capital, 39 leading figures of the UDD have been detained on terrorism charges. Thaksin, in absentia, was slapped with a similar charge in accordance with the government’s narrative – that the red shirts have to shoulder the blame for torching at least 30 buildings and using weapons during the confrontation with the troops.

The red shirt media – built around a wide network of television stations, community radio stations, a clutch of magazines and websites – have been unable to counter this state propaganda drive with their customary bellicose rhetoric. Many have been muzzled by the emergency law, while other operators of the red shirt media admitted to IPS that they have been compelled to remain silent or risk being arrested.

"The emergency law is problematic. It does not allow for the freedom of the press," says Pitch Pongsawat, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. "The law has helped to create the image of the protesters as violent."

That the government is sticking to such a tough line while also promising to heal this South-east Asian kingdom’s political divide through a reconciliation initiative is leaving it open to charges that it is undermining its repeated claims of being a standard bearer of liberal democratic values.

Critics say that the 18-month-old Abhisit administration is proving what the red shirt protesters had said all along – that it was a military-backed administration reluctant to go to the polls to secure its legitimacy. The latter view stems from the role the country’s powerful army chief played in shaping a backroom deal in a military compound in December 2008 to ensure that Abhisit had an alliance of parties to secure a victory in a parliamentary vote.

The government is talking of reconciliation, but the country is witnessing a political transition since the crackdown that points to signs of an "authoritarian regime" emerging, says Chaturon Chaisaeng, a former cabinet minister in a Thaksin-led administration and a regular speaker at red shirt rallies. "There is a close alignment between the civilian government, the military, the elite and the mainstream media."

Even newspapers traditionally sympathetic to the Abhisit administration have begun to sound the alarm that the current use of the emergency laws – giving the military, police and the DSI extraordinary powers to target the red shirts – could prove counterproductive.

"To continue (with the emergency law) now that the (red shirt) rally has been dispersed only raises the question of whether the government wants to hold on to these extra powers simply to quell its ‘enemies’ and strengthen its political advantage," the English-language daily ‘Bangkok Post’ commented Friday in an editorial.

Cambodian refugees thank Canada

via Khmer NZ News Media

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mao Ly is the proud partner in an Ottawa cleaning business, three decades after he fled the Cambodian countryside with his wife and baby. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Ottawa's Cambodian-Canadians are thanking the community for the opportunity to start over after they fled civil war and starvation in their home country decades ago.

The Cambodian Association of the Ottawa Valley has invited hundreds of private sponsors and members of the public to eat, dance and experience Cambodian culture as part of an event Saturday commemorating the 30th anniversary of the arrival of the first Cambodian families in Canada.

Mao Ly is the proud partner in an Ottawa cleaning business, three decades after he fled the Cambodian countryside with his wife and baby. At the time, people were starving under the regime of Pol Pot, leader of the communist Khmer Rouge.

Each day, people would disappear, he recalled.

Ly and his family made it by truck to a United Nations refugee camp in Thailand.

His friend Sath Kam took a different route through the mountains, navigating by the sun towards the west.

Both were eventually sponsored by the Canadian government. They said they remember the patience Canadians showed as they learned to ride an elevator and cash a cheque for the first time.

Ly said while Cambodia is the place that gave birth to him, "Canada [is] the place that gave me a life. We are proud and we want to say thanks to Canada. But the word we say is almost not enough."

When a Problem Comes Along, You Must Whip It

Director of the health division at Human Rights Watch

Posted: June 26, 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

"[H]e started to whip me on my back with twisted electrical wire," said Kakada, recalling his detention in a so-called "youth rehabilitation center" in Cambodia. "I was in such pain. Sometimes I cry alone, after the beating, because it was so painful. I did not commit any mistake: why did they beat me like this?"

Picked up, suspected of using drugs, confined to a drug dependency "treatment" center without a trial, judge or jury, Kakada was forced to do unpaid labor and vigorous exercise to "cure" him of his addiction. Any violation of the rules - stepping out of line, not moving fast enough, smoking a cigarette - can lead to being whipped, beaten or given an electric shock.

Kakada is just one of hundreds of thousands of people in one of a number Asian countries locked in so-called drug "treatment" or "rehabilitation" centers. Inside these centers, at best, the treatment is ineffective. At worst - physically and psychologically scarring - it drives people to use drugs.

The fact that June 26 is both "International Day against Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking" and "International Day in Support of Victims of Torture" has become more than a coincidence. Evidence from around the world indicates that people who use drugs are all too often victims of torture.

A number of governments in Asia run drug detention centers where people are at risk of routine mistreatment or torture in violation of international human rights law. Authorities in these countries often consider drug use a moral failing that must be "disciplined out" of people. Run by public security, military or other forces, such centers strive to build up discipline through marches, strict internal rules, and long hours of compulsory labor. In such settings, further abuses are inevitable and medically trained experts in drug dependency treatment are not a feature or a requirement.

Even children are not safe from risk of torture in so-called treatment and rehabilitation centers. M'noh, a 16-year-old detainee in Choam Chao Youth Rehabilitation Center in Cambodia, told Human Rights Watch that a staff member "would use the cable to beat people... On each whip the skin would come off and stick on the cable." Other child detainees said they had been shocked with electric batons and experienced sexual violence by staff members.

International health and drug-control agencies, such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, UNAIDS, and the World Health Organization, all endorse comprehensive, evidence-based drug dependence treatment services, including opioid substitution therapy, harm reduction, and psychosocial support. An important aspect of these services - from both an ethical and effectiveness perspective - is that people should have a choice of whether to use them. But in many countries, treatment - such as it is - is involuntarily.

In China, one former detainee said, : "I've tried to get clean and have been in compulsory labor camps more than eight times. I just cannot go back to a forced labor camp - [it is] a terrifying world where darkness knows no limits."

In Vietnam, 600 detained drug users recently escaped from a rehabilitation center. Vietnamese officials endorse a treatment regimen of "therapeutic labor," in which detainees work for long hours and are severely punished if they do not meet production quotas. "[T]hey beat people up, kicked the face, kicked the chest," a former resident of a rehab center near Hanoi told the BBC in 2008. "Later, people were made to work very hard. They said work to forget the addiction, work is therapeutic." These centers involuntarily detain people for up to four years.

These abuses are starting to get the attention of global leaders. The UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture recently visited three drug detention centers in Cambodia; the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has made detention of drug users a key focus for 2010. What is really needed, though, is clear, unequivocal statements by world leaders that these countries should ensure that drug users are never subjected to torture and that involuntary drug detention centers should be closed.

Unlike prisons, involuntary and abusive drug "treatment" centers can be abolished: they operate outside of the law and play no role in an evidence-based approach to drug issues. Detention and discipline are not a means of drug treatment- and allowing such centers to remain open ensures they will continue to abuse people whenever the monitors leave. These centers do not need to be revamped or modified; they need to be shut down.

On June 26, the UN should do more than recognize that drug policy and human rights abuses are overlapping issues; it should instruct governments to close involuntary drug detention centers where the rights of drug users are routinely violated, to end the abuse inherent in such settings.

Follow Joe Amon on Twitter: - Enjoy Balloon Ride Over Angkor Wat During Stay in Siem Reap

via Khmer NZ News Media

The historical site of Angkor Wat can be viewed from above via an air balloon ride.
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA, June 26, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Travellers who are staying in Siem Reap hotels towards the end of July can explore the fantastic scenery and architecture of the area with a balloon journey over the nearby temples.

Angkor Wat, the famous temple complex which is Cambodia's biggest tourist attraction, looks amazing from the ground, so imagine how impressive it is from above.

Balloon tours over the tenth century structure are available daily throughout the peak tourist months, meaning that anyone who is staying in Siem Reap hotels at the end of next month should be able to fit one in to their schedule for the trip.

The aerial perspective on Angkor Wat really allows people to appreciate the complexity of the surrounding temple site and the way in which its numerous waterways fit together.

Journeys up in the balloon typically last for around ten minutes, which is long enough to appreciate the splendour of the area without taking up too much of the day.

The site that it launches from is situated around 500m to the west of Angkor Wat, where tickets can be purchased. These should not cost much more than $11 (GBP7), while an English speaking guide should also be laid on to ensure that participants fully appreciate what they are looking at.

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Cambodia Retired Officer, Son Charged With World Cup Betting

via Khmer NZ News Media

PHNOM PENH, June 26 (Bernama) -- A retired Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) officer and his son were charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday, for betting on World Cup games, Xinhua news agency reported Saturday citing a local daily.

Deputy District Police Chief Chiv Vibol said the suspects Long Sophan Dara, 57, and his teenage son 17, were arrested at a private residence during a raid on last Monday afternoon.

A search of the residence discovered some US$30 and a book of betting receipts related to World Cup matches.

Deputy prosecutor Koeu Bunnara said the bookmakers could face fines of between US$1,250 to US$5,000 and a maximum sentence of five years in prison if they are convicted.

On June 9, Prime Minister Hun Sen told Cambodians to refrain from betting on World Cup matches and instructed police to crack down on football-oriented gambling operations.

So far, there were nine Cambodians arrested for running a gambling ring.

UN denounces torture, drug crimes

via Khmer NZ News Media

Posted : Fri, 25 Jun 2010
By : dpa

New York - Many states have continued to use torture in their law enforcement systems even though the practice is banned under international law, the United Nations said ahead of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Saturday.

"Torture is a crime," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a message. "The prohibition of torture is absolute and unambiguous."

"And yet, torture is still practiced or tolerated by many states. Impunity persists for the perpetrators. The victims continue to suffer."

Ban urged states that have not yet ratified the UN Convention against Torture and its provisions to do so and to allow a UN special rapporteur on torture to visit their prisons.

The UN has established international days to highlight the importance of various issues throughout the year. Those issues include human rights, slavery and economic development.

June 26 each year is also International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

A separate message was issued reminding the world that drug abuse poses significant health challenges and that drugs are a threat to the environment.

"The illicit drug trade also undermines governance, institutions and societal cohesion," the message said. It said drug traffickers typically seek routes where the rule of law is weak and drug crimes have exacerbated instability and poverty.

Image courtesy of: UN

AMBODIA: Action Needed To Eliminate Torture

via Khmer NZ News Media

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

CAMBODIA: Cambodia Needs To Take Effective Action To Eliminate Torture And Improve Policing

As the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is commemorated globally, the people of Cambodia continue to face serious problems relating to guaranteed rights against torture. As far as legislation is concerned, Cambodia has been a party to all UN conventions relating to civil rights and rights against torture. Recently, it also ratified the optional protocol relating to prevention of torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment and punishment. However, the common saying in Cambodia is that while all these documents are being signed, these have little practical value for the people.

Cambodia’s judicial and rule of law system are wholly inadequate to deal with this problem. In the recent visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Professor Surya Prasad Subedi, highlighted the inadequacies of the judicial system in Cambodia. Unfortunately, the only response to this from the country’s prime minister was "don't tell me it is raining when I am standing in the rain." His comments were interpreted by the media to mean, 'don’t state the obvious.' Clearly, the government shares the view that the country’s rule of law and judicial system are inadequate. However, there are no plans of any sort for the improvement of these systems.

As far as torture is concerned, Cambodia still does not have a proper definition of torture incorporated into its domestic legislation. The penal code recognizes torture as a crime, but it has not incorporated a clear definition of torture into its legal framework. It has been the recommendation of the CAT committee, as well as local and international human rights organizations, that the government should bring about legislation which incorporates a clear definition of torture. Without clear definitions, it is not possible for courts to properly implement the constitutional and penal code provisions relating to torture in Cambodia.

The problem of torture in Cambodia is similar to those in neighboring countries, and is rooted in Cambodia’s policing system which is seriously lacking in every way. Criminal investigations still use old methods and there has been no attempt to modernize the policing system of Cambodia. There have been no investments in the improvement of this system. The training of the police as well as the facilities available to the police are entirely inadequate for dealing with criminal investigations in a rational manner. The under-development of the policing system results in the constant use of coercion on people who are arrested by the police.

A characteristic of well-developed policing systems is to have a comprehensive system for receiving complaints against the police and dealing with such complaints in a satisfactory manner. In Cambodia, such a system of public complaints does not exist; it has not developed any internal controls to deal with complaints made against the policing institution. As such, the people have no avenues to make complaints.

The only limited avenue available involves making such complaints to the courts. However, when the alleged victims of torture make complaints, courts inquire from the victims as to whether they want to make a complaint against the police. At this stage, according to lawyers, the general reply of victims is that they do not wish to make any formal complaint. This is due to the fear of serious reprisals following the complaints. The complete absence of any kind of protection for those making complaints prevents people from making such complaints. Bitter experiences of the cruel systems that Cambodia has faced in its recent past act as a psychological and emotional barrier for making complaints. While Cambodia is committed to breaking away from its past, and the constitution itself recognizes this commitment, no measures have been taken to ensure protection for torture victims so that they can make complaints without fear of reprisals.

The deficient facilities of police stations and prisons mean that properly securing detainees is difficult, which further engenders torture. In police stations, there are no proper lockups, and as a result, people are often shackled to chairs by their legs or arms. Sometimes detainees are shackled for several months; a practice that is commonly discussed in Cambodia. This practice has evolved in order to prevent people from escaping. It is also common knowledge that people who make attempts to escape are punished severely. The development of adequate safeguards for arrested people is a primary need for the protection of victims and prevention of torture at police stations and detention centers.

Forensic pathology has not yet been introduced to Cambodia. Victims of torture are not been examined by doctors. The result is that no medical reports are made out on torture victims. The government of Cambodia and United nations agencies operating in Cambodia should collaborate in introducing medical and forensic facilities. Foreign donors should promote education of forensic pathologists. This will be a great contribution to prevention of torture as well as improvement of criminal investigations.

The Cambodian government has not acknowledged its duty for the compensation of victims of human rights abuses, including victims of torture. There is no possibility for victims to bring about suits so as to receive compensation for torture or cruel, inhuman treatment. Providing legal redress for torture remains a requirement that needs to be developed.

There are no facilities for psychological assistance, such as trauma counseling for torture victims. Some human rights organizations are attempting to provide such help by their own initiatives. However, due to inadequate support from the state and funding agencies, a system of providing psychological rehabilitation for victims has not been developed as yet.

Other inadequacies for the legal system for proper investigations into abuses, such as sexual harassment of women and children, are also serious flaws in the Cambodian legal system. In the absence of proper complaint and investigation mechanisms, many crimes are committed in this area and they go unaddressed. Thus, from the point of view of guaranteeing the rights of women and children, the government’s compliance with the convention against torture, cruel and inhuman treatment remains a necessity.

Ball state grad commits to service in Cambodia

Tribune Photo/JIM RIDER
Heather Blanch, 24, shares her experiences doing service work in Cambodia. She returned to the United States last week, but plans to return again in August.

24-year-old commits herself to service in Cambodia.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tribune Staff Writer

The young girl was just 12. Sullen, unkempt and small.

She arrived at the rescue shelter in Phnom Penh with little else but the clothes on her back, and a sad but common story in Cambodia.

It was late November 2009.

Years earlier, the girl had somehow slipped into the country's burgeoning sex trade, or been raped, or nearly raped in her community.

She had been rescued by another organization and sent to She Rescue Home, a shelter for girls, in Cambodia's largest city.

Twenty-four-year-old Heather Blanch, an American who had just begun a six-month volunteer position at the shelter, shuddered at the sight.

"She was so skittish," Blanch recalled. "At the sound of anything loud — a car horn, loud music, a door slamming — she would curl up in a ball and cry."

Such are the side effects of a childhood of sexual exploitation.

And such are the stories Blanch encountered as a volunteer at the shelter.

Blanch, an Argos native and Ball State University graduate, was the only American volunteer at She Rescue Home in Phnom Penh.

She worked beside Australian volunteers and dozens of natives. She counseled, did paperwork, taught English and did whatever else was needed.

The shelter had 24 girls living there, all victims or at-risk of sexual exploitation and violence.

The youngest was 5, the oldest 17.

But what brought Blanch to Asia, to chip away, for no pay, at a massive global problem?

It was something within, she said, something intuitive.

"There are plenty of people who can stay here (in the U.S.) but there’s a very small minority willing to go overseas (for service),” she said. “But it’s natural for me to go overseas.”

“There is so much work to be done. … So many problems that are being ignored,” she said.

Blanch plans to return to Cambodia in August and stay for at least 18 months.

She receives no money for her work, relying on her savings and support from friends and family.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, she will speak about her experiences at Argos United Methodist Church, 570 N. Michigan St.

Cambodia is considered a destination for women and children trafficked from Vietnam and China for sexual exploitation, according to

Blanch said she was struck by the resiliency of the girls in the shelter.

She avoids calling them “victims.”

“They are survivors,” she said. “They forgive and move on and are excited about the future.”

Among the survivors is the quiet 12-year-old, who no longer cringes at loud noises.

When the girl arrived at the She Rescue Home, she gave little thought to her appearance, hiding in ordinary clothes, and refusing a fashion staple in Cambodia: earrings.

When Blanch left six months later, the girl had her smile back, and plastic blue studs fastened on her ear lobes.