I left Phnom Penh and started my long journey home, via Battambang, a provincial town near the Thai border. I spent the day on the back of a moto, seeing the countryside and local sights, which include the Bamboo Train…
“Train” is a rather grand name for a piece of wood on top of some wheels, connected by a bit of plastic. Oh so safe. However, you couldn’t go very fast, or get very far, as whenever you met someone coming the other way, you had to dismantle the carriage and exit the tracks.
Then, after a long uncomfortable bus ride, I made it to Bangkok with just enough time before my flight for a beer, some pad thai, and a massage! The perfect way to end my South East Asian adventure.
I went with one of our Trial Monitors to the Phnom Penh Court. It was a rather bare room, but apart from that, the process seemed similar to, if less procedural than, the UK Courts (apart from the Judge answering her mobile phone during the hearing). Although seeing as it was all in Khmer, not sure I am the best judge…
I don’t want to go on about the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. But watching old and frail witnesses trying to remember what it is they are supposed to be saying about something that happened nearly 40 years ago, is truly heartbreaking. As their memories (and health) fade, so do the chances of any verdict being reached.
I have written an article about the Court and the potential legacy, if you are interested…
I had an action-packed last weekend in Phnom Penh trying to “do” everything that I hadn’t quite got around to. Highlights include a cooking course: I was really quite impressed with my skills, and the food seemed really easy. Although I remember doing something similar in Thailand, buying fish sauce, and never using it!
We also went to see a friend fight in a Khmer boxing match,which was televised on national TV. She was amazing (if a little scary)! The Khmer men didn’t quite know what to make of her, but after the second round, there were lots of bets placed, and then the whole audience was supporting her. The TV cameras were also loving the barang (Westerns) in the audience, and I fear there may be a lot of footage of us screaming…
It was a great weekend.
My parents arrived in Phnom Penh after a “worldwind” tour of Vietnam. It was great to be able to show them the city where I have been living – including the local food (and beer).
We went up to Siem Reap, via Tonle Sap lake and a rather noisy and less-than-safe boat ride. I then took Mum and Dad on a quick tour of Banteay Srei – the intricate ‘Temple of the Women’ that David and I visited – and Phnom Bakheng for sunset. Felt like quite the local.
All in all, I think they have enjoyed their tour of South East Asia, and it was fun to spend the weekend with them. But with the last of my guests safely waved off home, it feels as if I am coming home very soon…
The main proceedings in Case 002 started this week, and I went to the Court to hear the opening statements by the Defence. The accused themselves also delivered a statement, and it was fascinating to hear them justify and respond to the allegations in their own words. However, they are very old, and visibly found speaking out loud difficult, and had to be helped by a number of guards to stand and move around the courtroom.
The evidence of the allegations set out by the Prosecution is very generalised and unspecific at this stage, so we didn’t learn many details from either side during the opening arguments. However, the fact that the accused are prepared to offer their own explanations of the events must surely be positive.
Again, the Court was packed; so much so, they had to alternate the groups of school children during the break. Although I am unsure what I think about the trial, and question what justice can be served so long after the event, it is clear that it means a lot to the Cambodian people. Surely, that alone means that the process is worthwhile.
Again, more information can be found at the ECCC, and on the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor. The photograph is of Nuon Chea making his statement to the Court (the former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, better known as Brother No. 2).
I have been working on a report investigating a deadly crush on a bridge in Phnom Penh last year, where over 350 people died. Yesterday, 22 November, was the first anniversary of the crush, and I attended the remembrance ceremony. I felt a bit out-of-place, as it felt like a private and personal memorial. However, after knowing so many details of what happened that night, I was glad to be able to pay my respects.
If you are interested, the (80 page) report is on the CCHR website. The photograph above is from the Phnom Penh Post.
P.S: The Report got picked up by the Wall Street Journal!