Thursday, December 29, 2005

Europe Pledges $1.2 Million for KR Tribunal

The Cambodia Daily
Volume 33 Issue 38
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Lee Berthiaume
The European Commission announced Wednesday that it will provideapproximately $1.2 million to help cover the Cambodian government's shareof the Khmer Rouge tribunal budget, to be spent on the salaries ofCambodian judges and prosecutors.
The EC is hopeful an international tribunal will offer long-term benefitsin the form of an improved judicial system, said Daniel Costa, acting ECcharges d'affaires.
The money was originally pledged in April but, he said, it was unclear atthe time whether the money would be used to help cover the UN portion ofthe budget or the Cambodian share. "
In the end, it was more relevant to participate on the Cambodian side,"Costa said Wednesday after EC and UN Development Program representativessigned an agreement setting the details of the contribution. "
The UN is making some steps [towards fulfilling its budget requirements].On the Cambodian side there are still some question marks," he said.
According to an agreement between the government and the UN, theinternational community was to pay $43 million for the $56.3 milliontribunal and Cambodia was to pay the remaining $13.3 million.
However, the government has said it can only afford to contribute $1.5million and has been appealing to donors for help.
With Wednesday's announcement, the EC joins India as the only donor to havecontributed money for the government's share of the budget. Now $9.6million more needs to be found.
Costa said the EC grant, which will be dispersed when the starting date ofthe tribunal is officially announced, will not be administered in the sameway as the Indian contribution.
While the Indian money will be deposited into a Cambodian government trustfund, Costa said, the EC funds will be administered by the UNDP to ensuretransparency and accountability.
"We are contributing to the Cambodian side of the subject, but not directlyto the Cambodian government," he said. "We are cautious with this."
Some diplomats have expressed frustration at the government's requests formoney to cover its side of the budget, and its apparent unwillingness topursue alternative funding methods.
The EC's financial support will give it more leverage in pushing thegovernment to take action to start the tribunal, Costa said. "If we don'tsee any results in a few months," he added, "we will start puttingquestions to them.
"Tribunal coordinator Sean Visoth said he was too busy to comment, andtaskforce member Helen Jarvis could not be contacted.
Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia,who has called on the government to be more active in securing money forits share of the tribunal, welcomed the news. "It's great to see some support is coming," he said.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Press Release: European Commission contributes € 1 million to Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Phnom Penh 28 December 2005 – EC and UNDP Representatives have signed a Financing Agreement for the implementation of a €995,100 (approximately US$1.2 million) contribution to the Cambodian costs of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

The EC contribution will be made under the European Initiative for Human Rights and Democracy (EIDHR) and will go towards the salaries of the Cambodian judges, prosecutors and legal support staff serving at the Trial and Appeals Chambers of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The funds will be disbursed as soon as the starting date of the Tribunal is officially announced and will be administered by the UNDP on behalf of the European Commission.

The European Commission welcomes progress towards the establishment of the Tribunal as a major step forward towards bringing to justice and holding accountable those most responsible for committing crimes against humanity under the period of Democratic Kampuchea.

Vietnamese, Veteran Groups Hold Forum on Ending Communism in SE Asia

By Laura Hutton
Epoch Times Washington D.C. Staff Dec 27, 2005
ENDING COMMUNISM IN SOUTH EAST ASIA: Professor Bich Ngoc Nguyen, former director of the Vietnamese Division of Radio Free Asia, moderates the Vietnamese Nine Commentary Forum at George Mason University on Saturday, Dec 17th. (Gary Feuerberg / The Epoch Times).
Many Asian leaders, known locally and nationally in their communities, spoke at the Vietnamese Nine Commentary Forum at George Mason University (Arlington campus) on Saturday, Dec 17th. There have been ten Nine Commentaries forums in the Washington DC metropolitan area alone, and this eleventh one was the first of its kind in the Vietnamese language, with Southeast Asian and American veteran communities invited as special guests.
Professor Bich Ngoc Nguyen, former director of the Vietnamese Division of Radio Free Asia, moderated an afternoon of presentations and commentary by guests including author Dai Yang, freelance writer Duc Dong Tran, and Chief Editor of the Vietnamese Epoch Times website, Mr. L. Ton, to name a few. Vietnamese translation was provided for the English presentations, with an English transcript pending, to highlight the Vietnamese discussions.
This forum introduced the first printing in Vietnamese of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party ---"the book that is disintegrating the Communist Party," according to the book jacket-and discussed the impact that this new perspective would have for Southeast Asia.
Former POW Mike Benge and local community activist Wattana Bounthong, a spokesperson of Lao descent, addressed the question of how the Nine Commentaries applied widely to Southeast Asia, reaching beyond China. Bounthong cited the opening lecture of the Nine Commentaries , while explaining the impact that this book can have, worldwide:
"The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has close connections with the world's most brutal revolutionary armed forces and despotic regimes. In addition to the Khmer Rouge, these include the communist parties in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, and Nepal-all of which were established under the support of the CCP. Many leaders in these communist parties are Chinese; some of them are still hiding in China to this day."
Bounthong said that, as the Nine Commentaries has brought over 6 million withdrawals from the Chinese Communist Party, the spread of the Nine Commentaries in Vietnamese will provide great support for those in Vietnam, Cambodia, and in his home country of Laos.
American POW relates his experience of communist rule
American Mike Benge spoke of how the Vietnamese Communist Party was largely controlling the governments of both Laos and Cambodia. He told the story of a Laos general who had attended a meeting in Hanoi, last year. The general took the opportunity to express dissent with the Vietnamese Communist directives. He was carried out of the meeting, dead, with the announcement that he had suffered a heart attack.
Speaking Vietnamese, with apologies for his pronunciation, Benge shared that in Vietnam there is a saying among the young people, which comprise a vast majority of the population, "When the old men die off, we'll have liberation [from communism]".
Benge mentioned that along with the efforts of the younger generation, religion, economics, and democratic forces outside of the country--information was a key element greatly needed to bring an end to communism in Vietnam. He lifted up the Nine Commentaries for the participants of the press conference to see, "Hopefully, this can provide some very important information if we can get this inside of Vietnam."
Benge expressed that the great amount of work in this direction lay in the hands of the Vietnamese from outside of Vietnam who are able to reach those Vietnamese who are still behind the censorship and terror of communism in the Vietnam Socialist Republic (VSR). He urged a need for more work to be done, including the spread of the Vietnamese translation of the Nine Commentaries -the CuuBinh--in Southeast Asia.
Benge further asserted that the Nine Commentaries ' English translation provides information greatly needed by the policy-makers and business leaders in North America. He cites how many people in the West spoke of communism as having disintegrated with the fall of the Soviet communist bloc, while that is not actually the case.
Listing the many remaining communist countries in addition to China, Benge illustrated how the "free" countries as we know them have become complicit nurturers of the communist states, providing technology and trade which is used to fund communist policies of widespread human rights abuse.
Benge, who was a prisoner of war for 5 years in Vietnam, mentioned how Google search engines in Vietnam block key words such as "democracy" and "religion." "These are Americans," Benge reveals, corroborating the work of others to unveil this issue. "These are our companies here in the U.S., working with the communists to maintain power."
At this point, Benge explained that the official religion of communist states is communism, itself-a political religion requiring fervent belief and sacrifice. Because all traditional religions and spiritual beliefs threaten the "constructed, political religion of communism," communist societies are in opposition to any other beliefs and forcefully seek to eradicate them, no matter how peaceful the nature of these traditional religious and spiritual beliefs-or how deeply held they are by the people.
Such an unfortunate situation is also described in detail in the Nine Commentaries ; Benge has independently corroborated this through his own experience, and has been seeking to let others know this through speaking out in Washington.
Speaking candidly afterwards, Benge expressed his concern for the Hmong Protestants, a minority group in the northern highlands which effectively utilized protests to oust a communist Vietnamese leader in 2001. At this time, he said, armed soldiers are deployed during the holiday season to keep the Hmong from celebrating their Christian beliefs.
Support from Government of Laos Abroad
Three Co-Prime Ministers of the Government of Laos Abroad, Dr. William K. Bouarouy, Mr. Kossadary Phimmasone, and Dr. Charlie Chuecham Chongluexa, expressed their support for the Vietnamese Nine Commentary Forum through phone calls; they also expressed a wish to join, in person, a Nine Commentaries discussion in the future.
In a letter of salutation, 1st Prime Minister Dr. Bouarouy wrote, "On behalf of the Government of Laos Abroad, (GLA) would like to congratulate you and your team to conduct this activity. I am writing this letter in support of the Nine Commentaries Forum on the future of China, Southeast Asia, and the world at George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday, December 17th, 2005." Dr. Bouaroy added, "Now is the time to announce to the CCP to know that the communism will disintegrate, everywhere around the world."
Copyright 2000 - 2005 Epoch Times International

Toul Sleng Director: Museum Won’t Be Privatized

By Kuch Naren and Ethan Plaut
The Cambodia Daily
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Director Sopeara Chea moved Tuesday to quash rumors that a foreign company is slated to privatize the running of the former Khmer Rouge-era torture camp.

Sopeara Chea said that numerous people have approached him to ask about it, their concern probably due to a Japanese company recently taking over Choeung Ek, the “killing fields” genocide memorial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

A South Korean company did approach the government in the mid-1990s but was rejected, and there have been no serious discussions on privatization since, Sopeara Chea said.

“They could not privatize this,” he said. “It is a museum. It’s only a rumor, it’s not true.”

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said he too had heard rumors about Tuol Sleng’s privatization and that the issue should be addressed immediately. Commenting on the running of the museum, he said: “It could be a good museum. The state has the ability, it’s just a matter of improved management.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Kim Sok Vath was unaware of any current interest in privatization, but said he heard that foreign companies in the past had approached the government about developing the museum.

Management of the museum’s finances and preservation of its building and artifacts have been met with criticism in recent years. Renovations were halted in November 2004 after an outcry over sections of Tuol Sleng being whitewashed and modernized to provide gallery space for exhibitions and Western-style toilets.

Since the 2004 government-funded renovations were derailed, the museum has used money from tour agencies and donors to work on other projects, Sopeara Chea said. “Now the government only pays for electricity, water and salaries.”

He claimed there is no set fee to enter Tuol Sleng, but that visitors are required to make a donation. However, tourists visiting the museum Tuesday said they were required to pay $2 each for admission.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said that although the entrance fee is technically a donation, it is a “requirement set up by the local authorities, controlled by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.”

KR Trial and the Question of Funds

EDITORIAL
Bangkok Post

Wednesday 28 December 2005

The joint Cambodian and United Nations trial of the former Khmer Rouge leaders inches closer with many hoping that it may begin next year. The trial of the leaders of the worst genocide since World War Two is expected to cost $56.3 million, of which the UN sought, and obtained, promises of contributions from many other countries to cover $43 million. Cambodia has now said it needs to find a further $10.8 million of its portion and says it cannot pay this from its budget. Cambodia has slowly stumbled its way along the path towards establishing this tribunal. Its formulating of laws has taken years while visits by UN and other diplomats hoping to push the country along the path quicker have been futile.

Japan is already the major contributor to the trial, with Australia, Canada, Germany and France among the others. A notable absentee is the United States, whose Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts of 2004 prohibits American funding for any tribunal established by the government of Cambodia. The US, though, is the major financier of the famed Documentation Centre of Cambodia which has put together reams of detailed information about the Khmer Rouge regime. Its invested $2 million endowment provides more than half of the centre's annual operational expenses.

In the last half of this year the United Nations has taken deliberate steps forward, ignoring the procrastination of lawmakers in Phnom Penh. It has also overlooked Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's plea for foreign funding to cover his country's portion, moving ahead in the hope that this matter will be resolved later.

Cambodian Sean Visoth, formerly the executive secretary of the government's tribunal task force, has been appointed director of the office of administration of the extraordinary chambers, and China's Michelle Lee, the UN-appointed coordinator, is the deputy director. This month, the UN has been interviewing the 21 applicants who have applied to serve as international judges and prosecutors at the tribunal. According to the Cambodian Daily, those applicants include prominent justices from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Poland, Austria and Egypt. Some appear to have served at previous UN missions: Polish candidate Agnieszka Klonowiecka-Milart and Austrian justice Claudia Fenz in Kosovo, while US Judge Phillip Rapozo served in East Timor.

Cambodia's Supreme Council of the Magistracy must select two international judges for the trial chamber, three for the supreme court chamber and two for the pre-trial chamber, of which one will be a co-investigating judge and one a co-prosecutor. The May 2003 agreement between the UN and the government asserts that the trial judges must be ``of high moral character, impartiality and integrity'', be qualified as judges in their home countries and be experienced in criminal law, international law, international humanitarian law or human rights law. It appears that the UN is putting its jigsaw together and will soon have the pieces ready to fit into place. But yet again, the Cambodian government is proceeding at a crawl.

In late November Phnom Penh government task force adviser Helen Jarvis said the short-list of Cambodian judicial officers would likely be announced in December but we are already at the end of the month with no announcement made.
Internally, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been pushing the government to fulfil its obligations in regards to the trial but last week he too suffered from the country's judiciary when he was sentenced to 18 months' jail. Now expected to remain in exile in France, Sam Rainsy was found guilty in a trial international observers say was typical of that country's somewhat tainted judiciary and only loosely based on few substantiated facts.

It has been an astute move by the UN to proceed on the assumption that Cambodia will fulfil its contribution pledge. The ex-Khmer Rouge leaders are ageing and justice needs to be done for the sake of all Cambodians as well as human rights sufferers from throughout the world.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

UN Cheers Khmer Rouge Trial Progress

By Charles McDermid
Phnom Penh Post, Issue 14/25
December 16 - 29, 2005

Brushing past questions concerning Cambodia's budget shortfall, and spending little time disarming inquiries into other potential pitfalls, the United Nations Khmer Rouge Trial (KRT) delegation ended its visit with a roaring affirmation that the trial process has taken tangible steps forward, and would continue to progress until the long-awaited trial becomes a reality.

"This week has gone very well; I'm satisfied," said UN KRT delegation Deputy Director Michelle Lee. "I understand that people are disappointed by the many years of delay, but believe it or not - we're here. There is no turning back - we're here now and we're here to stay."

It was announced this week that a facility in Kandal province had been selected for the UN team's headquarters, and that the group would begin operations there in February 2006. The UN also introduced its seven-member leadership team and unveiled a program of Regional Outreach Forums launched with a $36,000 grant from the Australian government.

Quite a dizzying week for observers accustomed to the generally glacial pace at which the trial had been proceeding since the 2003 agreement between the UN and the government, and the 1997 request by the RGC for UN assistance to conduct a trial.

"We're closer than we've ever been before," said Dr Helen Jarvis, an adviser to the Council of Ministers who has been involved in the trial process for over six years. "We have gone from planning into establishing."

Throughout the December 6-16 visit, senior delegates maintained unwavering - although never specifically explained - optimism about the long-stalled trial and declared that logistics would begin despite the government's shortfall of funding - a matter of nearly $11 million that would ostensibly delay any trial preparations.

"Although we still have the shortfall of $10.8 million on the Cambodian side, I can say that with the arrival of Michelle Lee we are highly optimistic," said Sean Visoth, administrative director of the Extraordinary Chambers, in response to repeated questions from the media regarding the shortfall. "We knew there would be challenges. The point is that we are committed. The process is moving on."

At no time did the delegation directly address how the trial would develop if the Cambodian government's $10.8 million budget could not be secured.

In spite of this, the stance of the delegation was so cocksure - and the tone of its statements so confident - that should a trial fail to materialize, the UN would certainly appear less than credible in retrospect.

But that will remain to be seen.

For now, Cambodians and international observers can watch the intriguing transformation of a complex legal concept into a functioning reality - one complete with security guards, computer systems and access for the handicapped.

Although Visoth made the opening remarks and handled the bulk of questioning at two separate news conferences, it was clear that Lee would be taking the project's point position. Lee, a United States-educated Chinese national who joined the UN in 1974, has worked on peacekeeping missions in Sarajevo, Kashmir and Sierra Leone.

"This trial is so important," Lee said. "The message is that impunity should not remain unchallenged - justice delayed doesn't mean justice denied. We believe that international justice can lead to peace and stability. We hope this process will contribute to democratic reform and have an effect on the region."

In an interview with the Post, Lee came across as professional and humorous. She extended both solemn reverence for the project's importance and quips about UN procedures.

"I feel very encouraged," she said. "It doesn't mean I don't think there will be hurdles but we're ready for the challenge - the whole team is. Lots of the [members of the delegation] have high positions and were willing to take pay cuts to take part in this historic and mournful task. We're making history."

UN Budget and Finance Chief Linda Ryan explained that although the UN's portion of the total $56.3 million budget - roughly $43 million - is entirely separate than the budget expected to be put forth by the government, there will be some necessary coordination.

"Our budget is an evolving document," Ryan said. "We'll be working hand-in-hand with the Royal Government of Cambodia, hopefully."

Jarvis, who read a prepared statement in halting but proficient Khmer, said that although the $10.8 million shortfall was the trial's "biggest challenge" it was no longer considered a deal-breaker.

"We're optimistic. Very optimistic," Jarvis said. "Our assumption is that the $10.8 million is not going to be the thing that holds us up."

A member of the Cambodian Task Force Delegation said it was "likely" that Jarvis would be named spokesperson for the KR trial.

News of the trial's progress was greeted with varying opinions by individuals affected by the regime. Sos Samann, who identified himself as former Khmer Rouge "spy," was especially candid with the Post.

"I am very happy to hear that there will be a real Khmer Rouge Trial," Samann said. "It will bring revenge for my family. The punishment must be execution. Just a life sentence will not be fair. They killed millions of people.

"My wife and I will go and see the trial with our own eyes," he added.
But So Socheat, wife of former Democratic Kampuchea head-of-state Khieu Samphan, greeted the news with a shrug.

"I have never thought about whether they'll have the [Khmer Rouge Trial] or not," she said. "I don't care."

Justice Past Due in Cambodia

By Nathaniel Myers
Saturday, December 24, 2005; Page A17
The Washington Post

PHNOM PENH -- Speaking to a Senate subcommittee two years ago, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that, given the level of "lawlessness and impunity" in the country under discussion, it made "no sense" to even consider convening a human rights tribunal to conduct trials on the heinous crimes of the ousted regime. The country he was referring to was not Iraq -- though it certainly could have been -- but Cambodia, where the United Nations had just finished negotiations with the government to establish a joint tribunal to prosecute surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

That tribunal is expected to open its doors soon, staffed by a mix of international and Cambodian jurists and funded by a group of states led by Japan. The United States, however, is not expected to be among the donors. The contrast is startling: The United States will spend some $75 million over two years to support the tribunal in Iraq, despite widespread concerns about its competence, security and independence, and yet it has budgeted not a dollar for the Cambodian counterpart, which will confront the worst genocide since World War II.

America's refusal to support the Cambodian tribunal has a personal history. It begins in 1997, when grenades were thrown into an opposition rally in Phnom Penh organized by the Sam Rainsy Party. Sixteen people were killed and many more injured, one of them a staffer from the International Republican Institute (IRI). Paul Grove, who had headed the IRI office in Cambodia a few years earlier, was among many who blamed the attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia's long-serving strongman. Today, Grove is the influential chief of staff for the Senate foreign operations appropriations subcommittee, and his distrust of Hun Sen is shared by his boss, Sen. McConnell, the subcommittee's chairman.

As a result of their efforts, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts of the past two years have prohibited American funding for -- as the 2004 version bluntly put it -- "any tribunal established by the Government of Cambodia." The senator and his staffer worried that because the tribunal would include Cambodian judges, Hun Sen would hijack the process.

Their concern is well founded, given the politicized and corrupt nature of the Cambodian judiciary, but it misses the point: It is precisely this threat of political interference that should spur the United States to participate in the process. Consider the example of Cambodian civil society organizations. They share America's concerns about Hun Sen's intentions, but rather than boycotting the tribunal, they have resolved to do all they can to increase its effectiveness. U.S. engagement is desperately needed, in coordination with the other donors, to monitor the court, to pressure the government, to assist investigations, to support nongovernmental organizations and to otherwise regulate and support the process to ensure that those fears are not realized.

The United States is right to be skeptical of Hun Sen's intentions, but America's absence at the tribunal does nothing to weaken Hun Sen's grip on power and much to lessen the likelihood that the tribunal will realize its potential to help Cambodians -- all the while undercutting America's already battered global credibility on international justice.

Without strong international engagement, including an active American role, the tribunal is unlikely to succeed. And the stakes are high: Cambodia is still traumatized by the Khmer Rouge rule, which resulted in the deaths of 2 million people -- nearly a quarter of the entire population -- between 1975 and 1979. For a people still only beginning to recover, an effective tribunal process would represent a significant step toward achieving closure, marking a break with the past and the beginning of a new Cambodia that respects law and order. It would finally hold accountable many suspects who continue to live freely and openly in Cambodia.

Fortunately, it is not too late. The 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, signed by President Bush last month, omits any mention of the tribunal, thereby finally opening the door to American support. This tribunal, imperfect though it may be, is the last real chance to hold accountable the elderly Khmer Rouge leadership. It is time for the United States to get involved in ensuring the Khmer Rouge tribunal is everything Cambodians deserve. It is a gamble -- but a gamble worth taking.

The writer is former adviser to a coalition of Cambodian nongovernmental organizations on issues concerning the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal: The Support from the American people

December 27, 2005
In his op-ed of 24 January in The Washington Post (re-printed by The Cambodia Daily on Tuesday, December 27, 2005) "Justice Past Due in Cambodia," Nathaniel Myers states that the US has not budgeted a dollar for the upcoming tribunal of Khmer Rouge leaders. But Myers does not mention that all funds required for the United Nations' participation have already been raised. The gap that remains is to be filled by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) which
initially agreed to make 13 million dollars available from its own budgetary resources. While it is true that America has not provided direct support for the trials, Myers neglects to note a number of important contributions that America has made.

Since 1995, the US has poured millions of dollars into Yale University and several Cambodian NGOs for the collection of documents produced during the Khmer Rouge regime, as well as monitoring and public outreach during the trials. Without US funding, it is doubtful that enough evidence would have been collected and preserved to hold the trials at all. In addition, many Cambodian and US scholars, law and other students, filmmakers, archivists, and museums working on Khmer Rouge issues have benefited from the generous (and visible) support of the American people.

Myers also says that Senator Mitch McConnell and Appropriations Subcommittee Chief Paul Grove are opposed to the trials because they feel Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen might try to hijack them. Many in the Cambodian and international communities, including in the Cambodian Government itself, share this concern. Whether the US should contribute to the Royal Government of Cambodia's share of the costs is not clear in light of this uncertainty. But in his May 2005 visit to Phnom Penh, US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, Pierre Prosper made it clear that if the tribunal proves to be credible and transparent during its first year, the US would provide both political and financial support to help the killing field's survivors find justice.

The 17 nations that have provided direct financial support for the trials are taking the same position, and like the U.S., will be watching the proceedings carefully. In the meantime, the US Government is working to build Cambodia's civil society so that it can serve as the tribunal's watchdogs and help ensure its success.

The Unique Way the Khmer Rouge Used Language and its Challenges for

Bunsou Sour, LLM
University of Essex, UK

Since its inception in 1995, the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) has been collecting documents related to the history of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979). To date, the Center has amassed well over 600,000 pages of documentation from this regime, including text books, correspondence, cadre notebooks, diaries, telegrams, committee minutes, reports, and photographs and films. DC-Cam's collection also includes petitions and interview transcripts from the regime's survivors, and a variety of other materials.

The language the Khmer Rouge used in their communications - military, educational, propaganda, and civil administration - will likely pose challenges for both interpreters and translators because it varies greatly from standard Khmer.[1] It can be characterized in many instances as:

a.. Idiomatic. The CPK's documents contain many ambiguous terms and phrases that most people (including interpreters and legal practitioners) would find difficult to understand without an historical knowledge of Democratic Kampuchea. Examples include 'carry out shock assaults', 'smash', 'staunch revolutionary stand in terms of a clean morality of living and cleanliness in political terms', and 'consciousness illness'.

b.. Lacking in clear reference: The CPK's documents also employed many political figures of speech that are not intuitively obvious, such as: 'Burn the outside to a crisp, but pull it out while the inside is still raw'; and 'Small-fry eats a little, big-shot eats a lot'. Some are metaphoric, such as 'Angkar [the CPK Central Committee, but commonly understood as the Khmer Rouge] has the eyes of the pineapple' (this phrase implied that Angkar was watching people wherever they were).

c.. Maoist. The leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea adopted an extreme form of Mao's doctrines. They employed such common Communist phrases as 'dialectic materialism', but also added a distinct twist of their own. Some examples include: 'only when the requirements of cleanly sweeping away the concealed enemies boring from within are consistently grasped will it be possible to sweep them out absolutely cleanly and successively'; 'reorient ideological and organizing views and stances in time'; 'the dictatorship of proletariat of the party'; and 'strengthen the stance of absolute and hot class struggle'.

d.. Adjective- and adverb-based. The Khmer Rouge used adjectives and adverbs heavily, and translators will be hard pressed to find their equivalents in English. For example, 'felicitously welcome the second anniversary of national independence: The super-fantastic 17th of April';
'eliminate absolutely immaculately the ideology of individual and personal property rights'; 'sweep cleanly away'; and 'let's congratulate super-excellently the glorious Communist Party of Kampuchea'.

e.. Administrative. The CPK organized its administrative system very differently from those used in previous regimes, and its language reflects this. Examples include such administrative terms as 'squad', 'fifty-member unit', 'mobile work brigade', 'Economic Support Unit', 'Hot Group' 'Cool Group' and 'Chewing Group'. The latter three are understood to refer to the CPK units responsible for conducting torture and extracting confessions.

Such atypical language has been interpreted and understood differently by Cambodian and international scholars alike. This could pose problems for translators in terms of accuracy and the time needed to produce a correct and nuanced translation. The key to understanding the CPK's use of Khmer lies in understanding Khmer Rouge history, administration, and terminology (an intimate knowledge of Cambodian culture is important, too).

To cope with such challenges, especially as the tribunal for senior Khmer Rouge leaders draw near, DC-Cam's Tribunal Response Team has developed an English language glossary that defines the terms the Khmer Rouge used. In addition, they have developed a transliteration system that encourages consistency in translating the names of people, places, and the like.

The glossary and transliteration systems were developed after careful readings and intensive research on the CPK cadres' diaries, notebooks on political sessions or trainings, and propaganda texts, which have given us insight into the obscure meanings of the language employed by the Khmer Rouge. Finally, our experience in interviewing former lower-level CPK cadres has added greatly to our understanding of the unique terms found in a variety of CPK documents.

Before the tribunal begins, it is important that the tribunal's translators and investigation teams understand the meanings of the terms found in CPK documents. This will require that they first study the historical context of the regime, which will give them a better background in understanding how the Khmer Rouge employed their unique language. Otherwise, many important points of evidence could be missed.

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[1] "Khmer Rouge" is a term coined by King Sihanouk to refer to Cambodian leftists. It has come to be associated with the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK).

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Justice Past Due in Cambodia

THE WASHINGTON POST
By Nathaniel MyersSaturday, December 24, 2005; A17
PHNOM PENH -- Speaking to a Senate subcommittee two years ago, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that, given the level of "lawlessness and impunity" in the country under discussion, it made "no sense" to even consider convening a human rights tribunal to conduct trials on the heinous crimes of the ousted regime. The country he was referring to was not Iraq -- though it certainly could have been -- but Cambodia, where the United Nations had just finished negotiations with the government to establish a joint tribunal to prosecute surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge.That tribunal is expected to open its doors soon, staffed by a mix of international and Cambodian jurists and funded by a group of states led by Japan. The United States, however, is not expected to be among the donors. The contrast is startling: The United States will spend some $75 million over two years to support the tribunal in Iraq, despite widespread concerns about its competence, security and independence, and yet it has budgeted not a dollar for the Cambodian counterpart, which will confront the worst genocide since World War II.America's refusal to support the Cambodian tribunal has a personal history. It begins in 1997, when grenades were thrown into an opposition rally in Phnom Penh organized by the Sam Rainsy Party. Sixteen people were killed and many more injured, one of them a staffer from the International Republican Institute (IRI). Paul Grove, who had headed the IRI office in Cambodia a few years earlier, was among many who blamed the attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia's long-serving strongman. Today, Grove is the influential chief of staff for the Senate foreign operations appropriations subcommittee, and his distrust of Hun Sen is shared by his boss, Sen. McConnell, the subcommittee's chairman.As a result of their efforts, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts of the past two years have prohibited American funding for -- as the 2004 version bluntly put it -- "any tribunal established by the Government of Cambodia." The senator and his staffer worried that because the tribunal would include Cambodian judges, Hun Sen would hijack the process.Their concern is well founded, given the politicized and corrupt nature of the Cambodian judiciary, but it misses the point: It is precisely this threat of political interference that should spur the United States to participate in the process. Consider the example of Cambodian civil society organizations. They share America's concerns about Hun Sen's intentions, but rather than boycotting the tribunal, they have resolved to do all they can to increase its effectiveness. U.S. engagement is desperately needed, in coordination with the other donors, to monitor the court, to pressure the government, to assist investigations, to support nongovernmental organizations and to otherwise regulate and support the process to ensure that those fears are not realized. The United States is right to be skeptical of Hun Sen's intentions, but America's absence at the tribunal does nothing to weaken Hun Sen's grip on power and much to lessen the likelihood that the tribunal will realize its potential to help Cambodians -- all the while undercutting America's already battered global credibility on international justice.Without strong international engagement, including an active American role, the tribunal is unlikely to succeed. And the stakes are high: Cambodia is still traumatized by the Khmer Rouge rule, which resulted in the deaths of 2 million people -- nearly a quarter of the entire population -- between 1975 and 1979. For a people still only beginning to recover, an effective tribunal process would represent a significant step toward achieving closure, marking a break with the past and the beginning of a new Cambodia that respects law and order. It would finally hold accountable many suspects who continue to live freely and openly in Cambodia.Fortunately, it is not too late. The 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, signed by President Bush last month, omits any mention of the tribunal, thereby finally opening the door to American support. This tribunal, imperfect though it may be, is the last real chance to hold accountable the elderly Khmer Rouge leadership. It is time for the United States to get involved in ensuring the Khmer Rouge tribunal is everything Cambodians deserve. It is a gamble -- but a gamble worth taking.The writer is former adviser to a coalition of Cambodian nongovernmental organizations on issues concerning the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Khmer-American recalls life under Khmer Rouge

Daughter of the Killing Fields
By Theary Seng
(Fusion Press)
Available at Monument Books

Reviewed by Ayelish McGarvey

Though first-time author Theary Seng did not include an official epilogue chapter in her new family memoir Daughter of the Killing Fields, the book's Cambodia launch at the FCC in Phnom Penh on the breezy evening of December 11 might as well have been a real-life substitute.

Nearly one hundred people packed the rooftop restaurant as the 35-year-old Khmer-American attorney and Phnom Penh resident gave a reading and signed a neat stack of books.

The audience - full of Seng's own friends and relatives - was a convivial jumble of young and old; chic and plain; Cambodians, Europeans and Americans.

Perched on a stool overlooking the crowd, the petite Seng was serene as the wind whipped her hair around her face. In Daughter of the Killing Fields, published in September in Britain, Seng sedulously recounted her family's travails - including her parents' murders, and her own eventual escape to the United States - during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Just four years old when the Khmer Rouge forcibly evacuated Phnom Penh's residents to the countryside in 1975, Seng's recollections from that period are those of a young child; sometimes incomplete, and often rooted in emotional impressions. She addressed this challenge - the tricky nature of early memory - at the book's outset.

"In recalling my early memories, I found that many times, rather than sequential and profound recalling of situations, stray memories floated in and out of my head, giving me a glimpse here and there of my past," she wrote.

To fortify her childhood memories for the book, Seng became an informal archivist and virtual ethnographer for her family, tape-recording interviews with relatives and long-lost acquaintances in Cambodia, France and the US. Her efforts yielded richly detailed accounts of her parents' courtship and marriage, in one example. (That particular chapter is one of the book's finest.)

Seng's words also paint a vivid, often gruesome, picture of her time as a child laborer in Cambodia's killing fields. After her father's death in 1975, Seng and her siblings stayed with their mother in a Khmer Rouge prison in Svay Rieng province.

At age seven, Seng's day job outside the prison was to collect buffalo dung among the hastily covered mass graves. Each day en route to the fields, she passed by a tree strung with various body parts from people murdered the day before.

Seng's recounting of details like these - and wrenching stories such as the one about her mother's murder while her daughter slept at her side - is heartfelt without ever becoming treacly. She has a gift for recalling her innocent, sometimes petulant, responses to the dire hardships she faced during her early childhood.

Though stories like Daughter of the Killing Fields continue to reverberate across Cambodia, relatively few survivors experienced such a rapid, disorienting transformation as the Seng children: Orphaned at seven after months of work in the prison camp, Seng and her three older brothers landed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in late 1980 after an uncle there co-sponsored their immigration with a local church.

Just two decades later, a fully Americanized Seng had earned prestigious degrees from Georgetown and the University of Michigan law school. But Cambodia was never far from her mind. She began work on the book in 2000, and returned to Cambodia for 2002's commune elections as a consultant to the International Republican Institute.

Seng shrewdly closed the book with an extraordinary encounter that took place during that trip. Nearly 21 years after her mother's murder, Seng came face to face with Khieu Samphan, the aging former head of state under the Khmer Rouge, at his home in Pailin. She holds him accountable for the death of her parents, as well as countless other relatives.

"I stood face to face with evil incarnate, my parents' murderer," she wrote about the meeting. But Samphan surprised Seng. "[I found that] evil was not mad, but charming, gracious and grandfatherly," she wrote.

"Do I look like a mass murderer?" Samphan smiled.

Remarkably, Seng remained composed, even detached, throughout her audience with Samphan.

"It wasn't as if I was going to be the sleuth or the person to stump him," she wrote.

"I wanted to show him I was a survivor of his Khmer Rouge, not a victim, but an equal," she continued. "I felt morally superior."

In the face of raised eyebrows from certain close friends and relatives, Seng returned to Cambodia permanently in 2003 and made her home in an apartment overlooking the riverfront. She completed work on her memoir in 2004, and since then has set about to establish herself as an attorney in Phnom Penh. Though she is accredited by the New York State Bar Association, which boasts perhaps the toughest entrance requirements in the US, she continues to wait on the Cambodian Bar Association to grant her the necessary credentials to practice law in Cambodia.

"I came back to Cambodia for no other reason than to be a good citizen in my home country," she said recently.

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 14/25, December 16 - 29, 2005
© Michael Hayes, 2005. All rights revert to authors and artists on publication.
For permission to publish any part of this publication, contact Michael Hayes, Editor-in-Chief
http://www.PhnomPenhPost.com - Any comments on the website to Webmaster

Soldiers remains returned

Thursday, December 22, 2005

TAY NINH - The remains of 56 Vietnamese army volunteers who died during the war against Cambodia's Khmer Rouge have been repatriated to their home country.

The volunteers' remains were recently reburied at the cemetery in Tan Bien District, Tay Ninh Province.

Special working groups K70 and K71 of south-western Tay Ninh Province's Military Command exhumed and transported the remains during the past two weeks, and will continuing their work in Cambodia's Kompongcham province until the end of January next year.

In co-operation with Cambodian forces, the two groups have repatriated more than 1,500 sets of remains of Vietnamese volunteers. - VNS


'Killing Fields' cast dark shadow over return to Cambodia

Monday, December 19, 2005 - Last Updated: 5:57 AM

BY R.L. SCHREADLEY

In the summer of 1998, I made my first trip to see the thousand-year-old Angkor temples that lie just north of the then sleepy little town of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The hotel I booked rated, at best, one-star, which meant it was very cheap. I always traveled cheap in those days, especially when on my own. The Grand Hotel D'Angkor, which at the time seemed to be the only luxury hotel near the temple complex, was way out of my price range.

I've just returned from a second visit to the temples and, my, how things have changed. Today there are 30 or more elegant hotels in or nearby Siem Reap, which now boasts a population rapidly approaching a million. The tourism industry has exploded. Angkor Wat, the largest and most magnificent of the temples, is said to attract some 800,000 visitors a year. On my first trip, I literally could explore many ruins on my own. Not any more.

My wife, who is more particular than I when it comes to choosing a place to sleep, was with me on this trip and I had booked, well in advance, a room at the five-star Angkor Century. She liked it.

Though this was my second visit to Siem Reap, it was my third to Cambodia. And thereby lies a tale, a tale about "collateral damage" inflicted on Cambodia as a result of the Vietnam War.

In the spring of 1970, shortly after President Nixon gave a green light to U.S. and South Vietnamese forces to invade Cambodia, I traveled by boat up the Mekong River as far as the Neak Luong ferry crossing, just south of the capital Phnom Penh. My notes from this excursion compare the land on the Vietnamese and Cambodian sides of the border, respectively, to Dorothy's Kansas and the Land of Oz in the classic film The Wizard of Oz - the former black and white, the latter emerald green. For years, river banks on the Vietnamese side of the border had been heavily sprayed with defoliants; those in Cambodia had not. The difference was startling.

The purpose of the Cambodian invasion was to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, thereby disrupting the flow of men and material from North Vietnam into the Three and Four Corps regions of South Vietnam. Massive bombing of the communist supply line had failed to do the job. As it turned out, the uproar the invasion provoked at home, and the meager results it achieved on the ground, in fact hastened the withdrawal of American forces from both Cambodia and Vietnam.

In 1970, we knew relatively little about the Khmer Rouge. Our invasion, and the bombing that preceded it, gave a powerful boost to the KR struggle to overthrow Cambodia's sometimes neutral and sometimes pro-American government. Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge on April 16, 1975. Two weeks later, the North Vietnamese Army took Saigon.

If things were grim for our abandoned allies in South Vietnam, they were unimaginably horrible for those who sided with us in Cambodia. On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh's more than one million inhabitants were ejected from their homes and marched into the countryside. Hospitals were emptied, some of their patients wheeled away on gurneys. No preparations were made to receive them, no food, no water, no shelter.

The black pajama-clad Khmer Rouge, many of them mere teenagers, hurried and harassed the evacuees. Those who lagged behind were shot or clubbed to death. "The American B-52s are returning to bomb the city!" the KR screamed. "You will be allowed to return in three days!" They were not. Many would never return at all.

The insane dream of Pol Pot and other leaders of the Khmer Rouge was to create a socialist, agrarian society of the type they imagined had existed in Cambodia's distant past. To that end, between two and three million of their countrymen, nobody knows precisely how many, were murdered. Singled out were the upper classes, the educated - doctors, lawyers, teachers, military officers and policemen, all who had served in any capacity the fallen government.

Almost all Cambodian cities were emptied, even Siem Reap. All had their "killing fields," which have now become popular stops for visiting tourists. Japanese investors are said to have plans to "upgrade" them.

The Khmer Rouge ruled for nearly four years. They were then defeated by an invading Vietnamese army that occupied Cambodia for four more years.

Today the country is struggling to put the bloody heritage of the 1970s to rest. It was impossible for this visitor to forget, however, that the smiling and oh-so-polite middle age Cambodian man or woman met today might well have been, 30 years ago, one of the ruthless young killers who formed the rank and file of the most murderous ideological movements ever to rise in the delightful lands of Southeast Asia.

R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.


If Cambodia Can Learn to Sing Again

December 18, 2005

By PATRICIA COHEN

IT seems fitting that Arn Chorn-Pond should take on the inordinately ambitious goal of trying to rescue Cambodia's nearly extinct traditional music. After all, it was the music that rescued him.

His talent for playing the Khmer flute is the reason he survived the genocidal four-year reign of Pol Pot; the chief of the children's labor camp liked the way the 9-year-old Arn played the military and patriotic anthems that were based on familiar Khmer songs. Few were so lucky: among the estimated 1.7 million murdered by the Khmer Rouge were more than 90 percent of the country's artists and performers. For centuries, musicians had passed down their knowledge and skill orally, without recordings or transcriptions; now there are hardly any left. "We are on the brink of extinction," Mr. Chorn-Pond said. "This incredible culture has been reduced to the Killing Fields."

Mr. Chorn-Pond, 39, was stopping briefly in New York during a fall fund-raising tour. There was a few days' growth below his sharp cheekbones and soulful brown eyes. Sitting next to him in a small booth at a downtown diner was John Burt, a longtime friend and a partner in the effort to preserve Cambodia's thousand-year-old arts. "John is like my brother," Mr. Chorn-Pond said, throwing his arm around Mr. Burt's skinny frame. "He believes like I do."

For seven years now, the two have been working to record and teach Cambodia's arts, in part by finding performers and putting them to work as mentors for a new generation. So far they have tracked down 20 master musicians in 10 provinces, who are working with 300 students. A Cambodian Buena Vista Social Club.

Yet the men quickly realized that simply preserving the ancient arts wasn't enough, that without creating original work, the music would be like a pinned butterfly. They needed to provide new commissions, inspire new young artists. Mr. Burt recalled hearing that the ruins of Angkor Wat had become the largest single tourist destination in Asia. "Arn said it was fine that people were going to see these rocks," Mr. Burt explained, "but what about the living arts?"

So Mr. Burt, who is a producer as well as a philanthropist, came up with the idea of commissioning a new kind of opera that would shift the familiar focus from the Killing Fields and embody their project; it would integrate Cambodian and American, modern and traditional music, instruments and styles. He chose opera because it is one of the most popular forms of musical theater in Cambodia.

"We've never had a Cambodian-American opera," Mr. Chorn-Pond said. It is an example of "new musical forms growing out of the traditional."

It was also Mr. Burt's idea to base the story partly on Mr. Chorn-Pond's preservation efforts. In the opera, "Where Elephants Weep," Sam, a Cambodian refugee who escaped to America as a child, returns years later to salvage his country's ancient music (only to fall in love with a pop karaoke star).

Mr. Chorn-Pond's story, unhappily, differs in many important details from Sam's. Mr. Chorn-Pond did not escape the Khmer Rouge, who took over in 1975. Most of his family, which had run a musical theater for four generations, were murdered, including 9 of his 11 siblings. Sent to a labor camp with 700 others, Arn was one of five children picked to learn an instrument to play military songs. An old man with white hair taught him the khimm, a dulcimer, warning: "I'm not going to be here long. Learn well, this is your life." Arn never knew the man's name. After five days, he was taken to a mangrove field and killed.

When three of the five boys turned out to be insufficiently skilled, they, too, were taken to the mangroves.

Arn met another music teacher, Yoeun Mek, who taught him the flute, and the two helped each other stay alive. "I stole food for him," Mr. Chorn-Pond said, although the penalty for such a crime was death.

Arn's musical ability did not exempt him from the Khmer Rouge's other requirements: killing, observing daily executions, even witnessing occasional cannibalism. When the Vietnamese invaded in 1978, he was forced into the army. "Some refused to take the gun," he said, "but if they don't take it, they shoot them."

He eventually slipped away and made his way through the jungle to a refugee camp across the Thai border. Plucked from thousands of desperate children, Arn and a few others were adopted by the Rev. Peter Pond, a Congregationalist minister who worked at the camp. In a 1984 interview in The New York Times Magazine, when he was about 18, Arn told Gail Sheehy, "I am nobody before"; now, he said, "I am human."

For a few years after coming to the United States, he battled violent rages and suicidal feelings. Gradually those passed, but he was still haunted by terrible nightmares and guilt. He related a recurring dream to Sheehy: he is in a field holding a gun. On one side, the Khmer Rouge are beating an old woman; on the other, children are playing in a swimming ditch. He longs to join the children, but he knows that if he doesn't join the beatings, he himself will be punished.

Mr. Chorn-Pond has probably told some version of his experiences hundreds, if not thousands, of times during his 20 years of human rights work as a kind of perpetual expiation. He has raised money for Amnesty International, helped found Children of War to aid young survivors and started an anti-gang program in Lowell, Mass., and a community service program in Cambodia. His work has put him in contact with people like President Jimmy Carter, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel and, most important, Mr. Burt.

In 1996, Mr. Chorn-Pond returned to Cambodia to work on a theater project for Children of War and to locate Mr. Yoeun. They had not seen each other since the Vietnamese invaded. Now Mr. Chorn-Pond found him, drunk, on the streets of his own hometown, Battambang, cutting hair for money.

"He's a big guy, looks like gorilla," Mr. Chorn-Pond said, recalling the reunion. "He cried like a baby. His wife told me he never cried even when his mother died." When Mr. Yoeun met the Children of War group, he told them how Arn saved his life - the first time he revealed that part of his past to anyone. Later the two played together. That was when Mr. Chorn-Pond got the idea for the Master Performers Program. "Our project gave him a life," he said.

In 1998, Mr. Chorn-Pond and Mr. Burt, along with the nongovernmental organization World Education, helped found Cambodian Living Arts, which includes the master mentoring. The following year he took another trip to Phnom Penh. "I met a girl who reminded me of Lucy, Lucille Ball, you know, 'I Love Lucy'?" Mr. Chorn-Pond said. "She sells Chuckles, the candy, and wine on the street, but no one bought the wine, so she drank it herself."

The woman was Chek Mach, one of the country's most famous opera singers. "I had heard her on the radio as a child," Mr. Chorn-Pond said. "I was looking for her for many months." She, too, became a master, earning $80 a month teaching before she died in 2002.

As Mr. Chorn-Pond was walking or bicycling miles to remote villages looking for musicians, Mr. Burt was searching for someone who could make his idea for a Cambodian-American opera come to life. He found his librettist in 2000 at a performance of one of her plays at the Asia Society in New York. Catherine Filloux, a Canadian who once worked with Cambodian refugees, had written three plays about Cambodians and a libretto for a Chinese-American opera. (Her latest work, "Lemkin's House," about Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word "genocide," opens Off Broadway in February.)

Ms. Filloux began working on Mr. Burt's idea, but it took him two more years to find a composer. He met Him Sophy, who comes from a family of musicians and was visiting New York from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Cambodia on an artist exchange grant. Like Mr. Chorn-Pond, he was a child when the Khmer Rouge took over. Somehow he survived a labor camp and eventually returned to study at the Royal University. In 1985, he won a scholarship to study at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory, and he stayed 13 years before returning home as one of only three professional, classically trained Cambodian musicians who could write music.

For three years, Mr. Him has been working on the score for "Where Elephants Weep," combining Western rock, classical music and rap with Cambodia's music. It is a meeting of two worlds - like the libretto, which tells a story of Romeo and Juliet (or Tom and Taev, in the Cambodian version), of East and West, of the ancient and contemporary.

IN July, Mr. Burt, who lives part-time in Vermont, brought Mr. Him to New York, and set him up in his own West Village apartment to finish the score, while Mr. Burt continued to look for backers.

One afternoon this summer, Mr. Him and Ms. Filloux were working in her cozy Upper West Side apartment.

"I can sing, but my voice is not a singer's," Mr. Him said apologetically, tapping his chest. He was sitting at a wooden table in front of a laptop and two small Sony speakers, the cord stretching across the tiny kitchen like a tripwire.

On his keyboard, Mr. Him sounded a tinny pling: a computerized approximation of the chapey, a two-string lute. Like the traveling musicians who used to play as they improvised poetry and social commentary, Mr. Him began to sing the prologue in a high, warbling voice. His left hand fluttered up and down at his stomach, as if he were playing:

"You must listen to my story.

I start in the year 63 ...

Halfway around the world, a man called 'King' has a dream

And musicians called the Beatles make the ladies scream."

Mr. Him stopped singing and explained with a satisfied smile, "I make the chapey player imitate the 'ladies scream.' "

After the prologue, the two went over the libretto line by line. As Ms. Filloux read, Mr. Him (who learned four languages before English) marked in his copy which syllable of each word should be stressed so that the music would match.

At one point, Ms. Filloux asked: "Can we go back to 'ancestors'? I worry about putting the emphasis on '-cestors.' "

He played it again.

"Our language is easy," he said with a laugh. "You don't need any stresses."

The complexities of the cross-cultural collaboration were also in evidence at a workshop this month in which the full opera was sung for the first time. Robert McQueen, the director, Scot Stafford, the music director, and Steven Lutvak, the musical adviser, painstakingly combed through the score, analyzing the lyrics, the concepts and the music. They suggested further Americanizing Sam's part, adding rock 'n' roll syncopation and some cursing. The musical changes were all right, but Mr. Him wasn't sure about the Cambodian audience's reaction to the swearwords. They spent 90 minutes working on four lines.

Later, Kay George Roberts, the conductor of the newly created New England Orchestra in Lowell, arrived. Home to Mr. Chorn-Pond half the year and to a large Cambodian population, Lowell seems a logical place for the American premiere (after the opera's scheduled opening in Phnom Penh next fall), and Mr. Burt was hoping that Ms. Roberts would agree to lead a performance of "Where Elephants Weep." She listened to the tenor and the soprano sing one of the songs, "No Mothers."

"These two different traditions have come together in an organic way," Ms. Roberts said later. As for performing it, she added, "I'm definitely interested."

Mr. Burt was at the session, but Mr. Chorn-Pond was not. He is back in Phnom Penh. With the opera on its way to completion and the masters program up and running, he has begun to close chapters of his past. A few years ago, he was able to find his mother and spend some time with her before she died of kidney failure. "She was a fireball, always talking," he said. She made everybody laugh, he added, even the doctors who treated her.

And four months ago, Mr. Chorn-Pond found Sokha, the only other boy of the original five chosen by the Khmer Rouge to be a musician who is still alive. "I've been searching for him for a long time," Mr. Chorn-Pond said. "Then, out of nowhere, I went to this mountain. He still worked for the Khmer Rouge for 50 cents a day, breaking rocks." (The Khmer Rouge control some disputed areas near the Thai border.)

"This guy is still a jungle boy," Mr. Chorn-Pond said. He took Sokha, seriously ailing from tuberculosis, and his wife and three children to live and work in his house, which is on a half-acre plot along the Mekong River.

During the trip to New York, Mr. Chorn-Pond talked about how much this home meant to him. "It's very difficult for me to put roots down," he said. He was turned toward Mr. Burt, his surrogate brother, looking imploringly at his face and holding his hand, seeming to forget that anyone else was at the table. "Hopefully, someday I can commit to somebody. I'm still scared."

Yet after talking about his large extended family, Cambodian and American, noting that he has lived longer than any male in his family and that, for the first time, he owns his own home, he pronounced: "At this moment, I'm a very happy man. This land, this house, I don't want anything more."

But actually, he does want something more: to explore his own art, to discover "who I would have been if it hadn't happened." He laughed, thinking of Cambodia's pop culture. "I want to be a karaoke star," he said. "I'm learning hip-hop, I'm learning break dancing, although I have problems with my body" - a result of repeated injuries during his youth.

Then, somewhat unexpectedly, he said, "I would like to be an artist instead of a human rights activist" - a sign, perhaps, that he might be ready to take a break from his self-imposed atonement.

During a recent cellphone conversation from Phnom Penh, he talked about how everyone can be redeemed, everyone can be forgiven. Did that mean he was finally able to forgive himself?

There was a long pause, and it was hard to tell if it was the bad connection or a hesitation. "Not totally," he replied. "It is very easy to get caught in your own wounds." But with his human rights work, he said: "There is a possibility I could do that. It is not easy, but I am doing it now."

So did he still have the dream, the one about the children playing on one side and the Khmer Rouge on the other?

"Yes," he said, but "I have it less now." He was explaining more, but the cell reception was poor and his voice kept fading out. In the dream, he said, he is still "caught in the middle."

"I know I will be shot if I turn away" from the Khmer Rouge, he added, but at least now a newfound confidence replaces the familiar terror. "I have no fear and no reluctance." He drops the gun and runs to the boys, to a lost youth, to innocence, to redemption.