First Verdict for Top Khmer Rouge Leaders Handed Down at the ECCC

I wrote a blog post on the guilty verdict announced this morning at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – also known at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – on the Sithi Blog.

This morning, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – better known at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – handed down its first verdict in Case 002, against two of the most senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge: Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Both were convicted of crimes against humanity – including murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts – undertaken as part of a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) and sentenced to life in prison.

The guilty verdict is a welcome step forward in achieving justice for the victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge. But with the first verdict against senior leaders* coming down over 35 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, there are concerns that justice will mean too little at this point in time, especially as many of the Khmer Rouge’s survivors have passed away in the meantime.

Read more here.


2 must-watch videos: forced evictions in Cambodia & the road to the ATT

Directed by Christine Chansou and Vincent Trintignant-Corneau, “Even a Bird Needs a Nest” (or “Même un oiseau a besoin de son nid” in French) won the prize for best documentary at the 35th Annual Films de Femmes Festival. The documentary focuses on Boeung Kak Lake and the activism of women like Tep Vanny – who by the way just won the 2013 Vital Voices Award!

Here’s to hoping French politicians are paying attention to what’s going on in Cambodia …

ps: props to Keo Chan on Khmeropean for writing about this first.


Just a few days ago, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Amnesty International produced a video highlighting the Control Arms campaign that helped us get here. The ATT has been a long-time coming and I think there’s a lot to be learnt from that campaign for similar efforts in the future.

Happy International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action!


France & Cambodia – continued

France has released a short video summarizing the Prime Minister’s (Jean-Marc Ayrault, or JMA as I’ve decided to nickname him) visit to Cambodia to attend the funeral of former King Sihanouk (read this post for background information and some more random thoughts). I tried (multiple times) to embedded the video but apparently I’m not as tech-savvy as I thought I was. In any case, the video is available here: Voyage au Cambodge: l’essentiel – Vidéo Dailymotion.

A few interesting things about the video:

  • The emphasis is on France’s interests in engaging with the region/ASEAN and strengthening links with Cambodia.
  • JMA mentions that France is the only Western country to have been invited to the funeral – but mentions that in the context of France wanting to engage with the region – as if that was why France was invited and not because it’s the former colonial power ….
  • The few shots of French-funded projects are basically like a commercial for French foreign aid.
  • Aside from shots of the funeral clearly gleaned from Cambodian state TV (you can hear Khmer in the background), there’s almost no talk of King Sihanouk, his legacy, his relationship with France, etc. I know it’s a touchy subject but I would have expected JMA’s visit on this occasion to … well … talk about the occasion a bit more.

Nevertheless, the Cambodia Daily (update 8 Feb 2013: available here) is reporting that JMA raised human rights issues during his meeting with Cambodian PM Hun Sen – specifically bringing up the cases of Sam Rainsy and Mam Sonando! He apparently also discussed the case of Daniel Laine, a French journalist (who is still in France) who convicted on charges of sex trafficking after having made a documentary on the sex trade in Cambodia and sentenced to 7 years in prison, in a case widely thought to be baseless.

According to the Cambodia Daily, JMA “stressed the French nationality of the three men, and told Mr. Hun Sen that France was awaiting ‘positive future developments’ regarding the cases.”

Of course, Information Minister and Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith responded, saying that:

For the government, these issues are under the jurisdiction of the courts and have nothing to do with politics or with French nationality. [Sam Rainsy and Mam Sonando] were accused of criminal offenses, not involving political activity or journalistic work.

It would be nice to see France raising human rights concerns with Cambodia on a more regular basis and not just when it concerns individuals with French citizenship – but at least this is a step in a right direction.

Update 8 Feb 2013: there’s another video available where JMA talks a bit more about the French-Cambodia relationship and colonialism.

On Cambodia, the Death of a King and France

Apologies in advance for what is more a random set of thoughts stringed together rather than a proper blog post with an overarching point …

Back in October 2012, former King Norodom Sihanouk passed away in Beijing at 89 years old. King Sihanouk’s rule – which lasted decades and is rather controversial – is summarized well by the New York Times:

King Sihanouk was crowned in 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and held on to some form of power for the next 60-plus years. He served as monarch, prime minister, figurehead of the Communist revolution, leader in exile, and once again as monarch until he abdicated in 2004. He handed the crown to one of his sons, Norodom Sihamoni, after which he was known as the retired king, or the king-father.

He survived colonial wars, the Khmer Rouge and the intrigues of the cold war, but his last years were marked by expressions of melancholy, and he complained often about the poverty and abuses of what he called “my poor nation.”

Alternately charming and ruthless, he dazzled world leaders with his political wit and, in the process, raised the stature of his small Southeast Asian nation. He won independence for Cambodia from the French colonial rulers in 1953, using diplomacy and repression to outmaneuver his domestic rivals but without resorting to war, as his neighbors in Vietnam had done.

After a three-month mourning period, the funeral is now taking place on Monday (February 4th). Between 1 and 2 million people are expected in Phnom Penh. This morning (Friday), the King’s body was moved from the Royal Palace to the, where he will be cremated on Monday. There had been talk that there would be elephants in the procession but that turned out to be just a rumor. I for one avoided the procession given Cambodia’s poor record with crowd control. For those of us missing out, the Cambodia Daily is providing pretty good coverage. There’s also some good photos on CNN.

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