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Power To The People

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

It is ironic that people who suffer from the worst oppression seem to be the most able to thrive and “find themselves and their calling,” a woman friend from Iran recently said to me as we were discussing the release of Haleh Esfandier, the Iranian American who was recently released after 7 months in jail in Iran. And there is Sharon Ebadi, the Iranian attorney who has been incarcerated for defending over 200 jailed journalists and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Recalling the take-over of a television station by a group of women in Oaxaca last year, I am so proud of the women of the world who are courageously fighting for justice.

But of course, as in Oaxaca, it is usually the destitute that have the least to lose, except for their lives. You won’t see an uprising in the U.S. anytime soon. We have the most to lose…jobs that provide 401Ks destined for retirement and education of our children are more important to us in the short term than holding corrupt leaders accountable. Witness the University of Florida journalism student who was tasered after being handcuffed and removed from a venue where he was vociferously questioning Senator Kerry. See video here. Safer to hold leaders in other countries accountable.

Nuon Chea, the top surviving leader of Cambodia’s notorious Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, was charged by an International Tribunal Wednesday with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Nuon Chea, considered the right-hand man to Pol Pot, was arrested early Wednesday morning at his home in Pailin in northwestern Cambodia near the Thai border and flown to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where he was put in the custody of a U.N.-supported genocide tribunal. The late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998 and his former military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006 in government custody.

The tribunal is investigating abuses committed when the communist Khmer Rouge held power in 1975-79. The Khmer Rouge have been blamed for the deaths of their countrymen from starvation, ill health, overwork and execution.

Officers later took the 82-year-old Nuon Chea – who denies any wrongdoing – into custody and put him into a car and then a helicopter for the capital, Phnom Penh, as his son and dozens of onlookers gathered to watch the historic scene in silence, witnesses said.

UPDATE Sunday September 23, 2007
The AP has reported that 20,000 March in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) Myanmar…double the number that marched yesterday in Mandalay.

The monks shouted support for Suu Kyi, while about 10,000 people protected them by forming a human chain along the route but riot police and barbed wire barricades blocked hundreds of monks and anti-government demonstrators from approaching the home of the detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Plainclothes police trailed the marchers. Some, armed with shotguns, were posted at street corners. Sunday’s security presence came after several days of a hands-off attitude by the authorities, who had clearly been trying to avoid provoking the well-disciplined and widely respected monks. One observer said “the military is not prepared, unless things get worse, to directly confront the monks in their uniforms but violence on a significant scale is not to be discounted.”

UPDATE Saturday September 22, 2007
London’s Guardian reported that witnesses say that upwards of 10,000 monks marched through the city of Mandalay in the 5th straight day of demonstrations against the iron-fisted military junta, the largest demonstration in a decade.

September 19, 2007
The associated press today reported that the Myanmar monks were taking to the streets for the second day in a row, marching in disciplined ranks as they extended a series of spirited demonstrations against the country’s military government into a second month.

The marches on Tuesday by thousands of monks in Myanmar marked the 19th anniversary of the 1988 crackdown in Myanmar in which the current junta took over after crushing a failed pro-democracy rebellion that sought an end to military rule, imposed since 1962.

The junta held general elections in 1990, but refused to honor the results when pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won. Suu Kyi has been detained under house arrest for more than 11 years.

The Yangon march and rallies in other cities Wednesday were to protest hardship brought on by the government’s economic policies, especially a sudden hike in fuel prices. The hike last month sparked the persistent protests – first by pro-democracy activists and now primarily by monks. The rallies also reflect long pent-up opposition to the repressive military regime.

The authorities know that restraining monks poses a dilemma. Monks are highly respected in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, and abusing them in any way could cause public outrage.

In addition to protests, monks have threatened to cut off contact with the military and their families, and to refuse alms from them – a humiliating gesture that would embarrass the junta.

Monks have nothing to lose…except their lives.

Khmer Rouge Trials

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Ever since visiting the killing fields in Cambodia in 2002, (for pictures click on the category for Cambodia on the right-hand side of the screen) I have watched closely the development of an international tribunal that hopefully will try the remaining Khmer Rouge killers of as many as 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979. Anyone who was educated…even wore eyeglasses…was targeted in the interest of blasting Cambodia back to the stone age and creating an agrarian society, leaving Cambodia one of the most destitute and corrupted countries in the world today. So much for ideas. Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge’s despotic leader, died a free man in 1998. Many of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders, including Nuon Chea, Pol Pot’s chief deputy known as “Brother Number Two,” are aged.
[read on]

Khmer Tribunal Starts

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006
The Seattle Times July 4, 2006 reported that the Khmer tribunal is starting so I went on-line and found the article below by The New Republic Magazine on July 12, 2006. These are some pictures we took of the Genocide Museum ... [Continue reading this entry]

Siem Reap

Friday, October 25th, 2002
7VJvlOW1A5Ali2rnovusuM-2006216180228245.gif My original plan was to take a boat up the Mekong River in Cambodia to the Lao border and then on up through Laos but I kept hearing reports about the opening and closing ... [Continue reading this entry]

Cambodia Today

Thursday, October 24th, 2002
7VJvlOW1A5Ali2rnovusuM-2006216180228245.gif Pol Pot, the architect of one of the most brutal and radical revolutions that had its origins in Beijing China, was never brought to international justice. He died in 1989 from Malaria (or ... [Continue reading this entry]

Facing Cambodia’s Past at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Thursday, October 24th, 2002
7VJvlOW1A5Ali2rnovusuM-2006216180228245.gif We got our second wind and almost reluctantly mounted a motorcycle taxi to do what we (or at least I) came here to do and that is to see, after more than 30 ... [Continue reading this entry]

Entering Cambodia

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2002
October 13-25 2002 iSV8qo31XRdKYtyKFQL5FM-2006170170638181.gif At the Phnom Penh airport your passport is passed along from one to another of 13 uniformed and polished immigration officials sitting all in a row before it is finally stamped. ... [Continue reading this entry]