Monday, 21.1.2008: Gate of Tuol Sleng Memorial Closed; Darfur Issue Causes Controversy in Phnom Penh

Posted on 22 January 2008. Filed under: Week 544 |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 544

“Phnom Penh: More than 100 representatives of civil society organizations led by the executive director of the Center for Social Development and by the American movie star Ms. Mia Farrow , wanted to gather on 20 January 2008 at the entrance to Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial in order to hold a ceremony to commemorate victims in Darfur and survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, but the attempt to lay flowers in commemoration was prevented by the authorityies, stating that this was not permitted by the government.

“Ms. Seng Theary, the president of the Center for Social Development, who led an American Hollywood actress, two Sudanese nationals, and civil society officials from human rights organizations, was barred while they were trying to go to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial to present lotus flowers. Police had deployed forces and blocked the roads around Tuol Sleng Museum from early in the morning of 20 January 2008, preventing the march of civil society members. It was known that this might happen, because the Royal Government had immediately rejected this plan after permissions had been issued by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and by the manager of the Genocide Memorial.

“Hollywood actress Mia Farrow said, ‘We do not understand why the authorities do not allow us to commemorate the dead by laying flowers at Tuol Sleng, to remember the victims and to promot an end to genocide worldwide.’ She continued that they had been to everal other countries where genocide had happened, and they advocate that genocide should not be allowed to happen any longer.

“Ms. Seng Theary went on to say that the genocide memorial is not a place of anybody specific only, and it must not be linked to politics. She continued, ‘Tuol Sleng is where my father, my mother, and my siblings’ death is commemorated.’ She added, ‘I call on our Khmer Royal Government on behalf of survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime to stop using politics to interfere in humanitarian actions.’

“However, police officials said, ‘Tuol Sleng is closed and visitors are not allowed to enter.’ Therefore Boeng Keng Kang Bei Subdistrict authorities ordered the civil society group to leave the Tuol Sleng area, because they were not allowed to enter to lay flowers on that day. Eight representatives of civil society organizations with lotuses in their hands, who planned to take the flowers and lay them in front of Tuol Sleng Memorial, were also not alloweded to proceed, even only two of them, who finally asked the police to allow them in, were not permitted to proceed.

“According to the letter of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, dated 24 December 2007 which also Koh Santepheap has seen, sent to Ms. Seng Theary as president of the Center for Social Development, the ministry agreed that the site of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial may be used by the Center for Social Development, to hold a ceremony to honor the Darfur citizens and the survivors of the genocide, based on a request for the plan for 20 January 2008. Nonetheless, the permission was canceled, but the organizers still claim that they did not get any information about this change.

“Ms. Alison Johnson, a representative of the ‘Dream for Darfur,’ said at a press conference that they had laid flowers in several countries before, where genocide had happened. She continued that on the morning of 20 January, they wanted to lay flowers at Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial also, but the authorities barred them.

“Ms. Seng Theary continued, ‘The Tuol Sleng Memorial belongs to the citizens and the world, to those who want to share in the sufferings with the victims who died, and to share hope with the survivors.’ She went on to say, ‘The Tuol Sleng Memorial is not a market to sell tickets for profit.’

“The Tuol Sleng memorial is known since 1979 as the four buildings which are a former high school; they were used by the regime of Democratic Kampuchea as administrative offices, as rooms for cross-examinations, and as rooms for torture. In 1975 there had been 154 prisoners, in 1976 2,250, in 1977 2,330, and in 1978 there had been 5,765 prisoners.

“The Center for Social Development said that in the planned ceremony, after laying flowers, there would also be the lighting of an Olympic-style torch, where the flame would symbolize the commemoration of those who died and of those who suffer. The flame is to shine on the bravery of the survivors. The flame represents our hope that there will be an end to genocide everywhere.

“Ms. Seng Theary added, ‘What does this activity of the police mean, that we – only eight of us – six women and two men, are humanitarian representatives who quietly and peacefully hold white lotuses, wanting to commemorate the victims and lay flowers at Tuol Sleng?’ She continued that they are Khmer people, but many officials with weapons prevented them. Previously, there had been a straight warning issued by some officials that the ceremony would not be allowed, because it would serve the politics of one country against another country, by using Cambodia as the location. The authorities will not allow the use of Cambodia to go against another country.

“It is noticed that during the actions of pushing against each other [between the police and those who wanted to go to the Toul Sleng Menorial], no one was injured, and the civil society group withdrew at the order of hundreds of armed Chamkarmon district police officials. However, on 19 January 2008, this group of activists had once already visited the Tuol Sleng Memorial, but they were not barred, until the afternoon of the same day; police also deployed forces guarding the Chinese Embassy, as it had been said that the activists planned to march to the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh.” Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6250, 21.1.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 21 January 2008

Chuoy Khmer, Vol.2, #28, 21.1.2008

  • Hun Sen Government Does Not Allow Ms. Seng Theary [executive director of the Center for Social Development] and Hollywood Movie Star Mia Farrow to Put Flowers at Tuol Sleng, Considering the Attempt to Use Cambodia as a Battlefield against China
  • Keo Remy [vice-president of Human Rights Party] Reacts against Yuon [Vietnamese] Tan Bien Rubber Plantation Company That Blocks Roads of Thousands of Families [Santuk, Kompong Thom]
  • Kem Sokha [president of Human Rights Party] Accuses Cambodian People’s Party of Not Attending to Solve Spreading Land Disputes
  • Yuons [Vietnamese in Cambodia] Prepare to Vote for Cambodian People’s Party So that Laws on Nationality and Immigration Will Not Be Carried Out

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1550, 20-21.1.2008

  • Cambodia Must Not Become a Battleground against Any Country
  • 14 Vietnamese Soldiers’ Remains Returned [from Siem Reap] to Vietnam

Khmer Amatak, Vol.9, #549, 21.1.2008

  • Hun Sen Authority Forces Prevent [Olympic-style] Torch Event and Flower Laying for Genocide Victims
  • Hun Sen’s Shouts Ordering Closure of Gambling Sites – It Is Just to Deceive Voters
  • Forest Crimes Still Destroy the Nation; Hun Sen Does Not the Leave Power as He Promised

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #95, 21.1.2008

  • Prevention [of Darfur event] Reflects that Sudan and Cambodia Are Equally Dictatorial
  • Strong Powerful Prime Minister Hun Sen Makes Promises Empty as the “Wind” [responding to Prime Minister Hun Sen who had warned people not to be deceived with empty promises]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6250, 21.1.2008

  • Gate of Tuol Sleng Memorial Closed; Darfur Issue Causes Controversy in Phnom Penh
  • Sokha Hotel Company Invests $1 Billion in Bokor National Park [Kampot]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3369, 21.1.2008

  • Hun Sen Government Forces Prevent Flower Laying at Tuol Sleng Museum
  • Vanvimex Company [under the control of a child of Pheapimex Company director Cheung Sopheap] Wins Ministry of Health’s Bids for Supplying Medicines 2008 because of Corruption [bribes – according to some businesspeople who participated in the bids]

Rasmei Angkor, Vol.15, #1270, 21.1.2008

  • Holding Lotus March to Tuol Sleng Memorial Prevented
  • Siem Reap District Military Police Are Notorious for Extorting Money from Trucks Transporting Wood; Svay Leu District Military Police Are Notorious for Operating Illegal Wood Workshops [Siem Reap]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4494, 20-21.1.2008

  • Election Season Is Time of Making Empty “Wind” Promises [Prime Minster Hun Sen warns Cambodian people to be cautious not to be deceived into losing property or choosing wrong politicians to be their representatives]
  • Samdech Dekchor [Hun Sen] Calls for Political Parties Not to Deceive People Any Longer [with empty promises]
  • Siem Bouk District Military Police Official [Chea Samnang] Takes Radio Free Asia Reporter [Ratha Visal] and Human Rights Official [Chhay Reth from ADHOC] to Stung Treng Court [on accusation of false report on 2 January, that ‘a military police official in Stung Treng is accused of beating a villager for not being able to get his daughter to marry, and making unjust investigations]
  • Government Leases Three More Islands [in Sihanoukville] to Private Companies [Angela Real Estate, RPB Investment, and Twin Golden]
  • Ly Yong Phat Company Builds Bridge Across Tonle Sap River [at Prek Pnov, Ponhea Leu, Kandal – under build-operate-transfer policy]
  • Bush Calls for Reduction of Taxes of $140 Billion to Avoid Economic Decline
  • Another 25 People Die in Recent Violence in Kenya

Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #606, 20-21.1.2008

  • Those Who Steal from the Nation Get Oknha Titles but a Title Is Not Given to Chea Vichea [leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia] Who Died for Justice for Workers

Go to last week’s editorial

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