India’s Own Great “Firewall”? Censorship Hits World’s Biggest Democracy


India’s tradition of free speech may be facing its biggest obstacle yet, following an end-of-year government push to require Internet giants Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google to filter its users content for “offensive” material.

The crack-down came after Communications Minister Kapil Sibal became aware of photoshopped images of Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted on social networking sites sometime in September, as well as some images deemed offensive to Islam.  Sibal swiftly demanded the social media companies remove the offensive material and create human-run monitoring systems for their networks, which would catch such images before they hit the Internet.

The good news is that the the companies ignored him, demanding a court order before they would take action—and pointing out in two recent meetings that they would rather not put themselves in a position to decide what is and what isn’t “offensive.”  In any case, with internet usage at approximately 100 million Indians,  the companies told Sibal his monitoring plans would be impossible to implement.

One would think that Sibal would leave it at that. And, as of Dec 15, according to a report by the Press Trust of India, Sibal seems to have taken his strident tone down a notch or two, following a meeting with Google, Facebook and Twitter.  (His change in tone may be chalked up to the nature of the Indian media itself, a famously vocal bunch of newspapers, writers, and bloggers, just about all of whom seemed to have a choice word or two regarding Sibal’s dreams of censorship)

Read more at UN Dispatch….

Happa: Japanese Teppanyaki Cuisine in Phnom Penh

#17, Street 278
Phnom Penh
Tel: 077749266

I realized recently that the restaurants I eat at the most here in Phnom Penh are rarely the ones I review. Something about incredible familiarity makes me less likely to go ahead and haul the camera with me and do the review – so I’m glad I finally got around to Happa, a great little Japanese/Khmer teppanyaki joint on backpacker-beloved street 278. I happen to frequent the place at least once a week, as do many other long-term expats, who appreciate the reasonable prices and quiet, civilized atmosphere.

Happa’s pork stir-fried with sesame.

The menu focuses on Japanese small plates, prepared in front of you on the restaurant’s big iron griddle, which makes for some rather interesting visuals and assurance that you’re getting pretty fresh food. There’s sauteed small plates of meats and vegetables, main-course dishes with steak, pork, and lamb, salads and fried specialities, and even Japanese pizza or “okonamayaki,” a cabbage and flour pancake topped with bacon and cheese.

The teriyaki chicken here is excellent, nice and tender and not too salty, with some dark meat bits thrown in, which I infinitely prefer. I like to eat this with the oyster mushrooms sauteed in butter.

I’m also a big fan of the fresh tofu salad, which has soft tofu, seaweed, sesame and lettuce tossed in a vinegary-heavy dressing. A nice light stomach-friendly meal. My only complaint with Happa is that the cooks sometimes take too heavy a hand with the salt-shaker, but the issue seems to have been weeded out in the last month or two.

Read more at Things I Ate in Cambodia…

Suzume: Homey Japanese Food in Dark Heart of Phnom Penh

14A Street 51
092 748 393
Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh has more Japanese restaurants than I ever expected it to have, mostly due to the city’s healthy (and apparently chronically starving) population of Japanese NGO workers. Most Japanese restaurants here are of the rustic variety, specializing more in curries, soups, ramen and gyoza, rather than more complicated and delicate affairs like sushi.

Expat-beloved and low-key Suzume, however, has a phone-book size menu with most standard Japanese dishes, including ramen and gyoza, a variety of tempura, and even a selection of sushi rolls.

Downside: everything is more expensive than it is at other “mid-range” Japanese places in town, including ramen at $7, which I think is a bit ridiculous in Cambodia. Bowl o’ noodles, like everyone else eats here, just from Japan.

Edamame:possibly the perfect snack, tragically a bit hard to find here, or at least in the awesome pre-packaged microwave pack format you can find the stuff in Northern California. Buttery nutrient rich deliciousness, all natural, hard to object in any way.

Suzume does a pretty good turn in shrimp and vegetable tempura, which can be fried into a chewy, immense mass of suck and here is light and airy in the best Japanese fashion. Fried seaweed in batter is curiously delectable. I do not know how they turn shrimp into shrimp *poles* like this but it is rather impressive. Probably involves deveining, maybe crustacean torture, I don’t know.

Read more at Things I Ate in Cambodia….

Buddhism and the Khmer Rouge – Nuon Chea’s Curious Theology

I am not a Buddhist scholar, but I have some grasp on the religion and the precepts of it. It does not flow into you naturally just because you live in Cambodia, but I know this much from a college Buddhism course and the Zen books my semi-observant grandfather gave me. Buddhism involves: the destruction of the ego, the avoidance of materalism, the import of meditation and self-introspection.

1. Life is suffering;
2. Suffering is due to attachment;
3. Attachment can be overcome;
4. There is a path for accomplishing this.

On Dec 13, Khmer Rouge”Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea was questioned by the French judge Lavergne about his own definition of Buddhism – more specifically, Mr Chea’s own definition of the word “compassion.”

“When you use the word compassion,” Lavergne asked, “Should people understand that it has a religious connotation for you, that it refers in some way to Buddhist religion?”

“It is also related to Buddhist religion,” Chea said. With that admission, a theological discourse of sorts began on the beige and overly-air conditioned floor of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Hall (and there were monks present in the audience, because there always are).

And in that discourse, Nuon Chea presented the Khmer Rouge as not just a socialist experiment, but a Buddhist experiment, with as much to owe to Southeast Asia’s dominant spirtuaity as to Lenin and Stalin ad Mao.

Victory breeds hatred
The defeated live in pain,
Happily the peaceful live,
Giving up victory and defeat

“I had the compassion for the people as an individual,” Chea said, “and not from the point of view of a revolutionist, because I did not yet join the Revolution at that time.”

Lavergne tried to catch him out, noting that “Cambodians are Buddhists, even if they join the Communist Party, they respect Buddhist principles. Can you tell me what those principles were? Rejecting violence? Respect for human life?”

Undeterred, Chea noted that materialism was the enemy of both Buddhism and the Khmer Rouge. “My personal view is that revolution is based on notions of materialism in Buddhism,” he said.

“In revolution, the notion of dialectical materialism is similar to that in Buddhist religion…people are educated to feel compassion for one another, to help one another.”

As for violence, and compassion for human life? “However, in revolution…if confronted with arms, we will respond appropriately.”

The question was staged by Judge Lavergne primarily in terms of violence – IE, Buddhists adherence to non-violence was flouted often and always by the Khmer Rouge. But to Nuon Chea, it seems, the warrior-Buddhist mentality was more key.

Buddhism does provide for fighting, in the context of a “righteous” king maintaining a standing army. In the ‘chakkavatti- sihanada sutta’ (The Lion’s Roar on the Turning of Wheel), the Buddha tells one such righteous king that it is part of his obligation as a leader to protect his people from enemies – and a righteous king, in Buddhist belief, would use such an army defensively, and with great thought.

The Buddha refers to “soldiers” and “armies” often in the metaphorical sense, comparing a good monk to a good soldier.

But key to our discussion of the Khmer Rouge and Buddhism is the notion that an army, if it exists, should protect the people – not devour them from the inside out, as Khmer Rouge forces did.

Chea noted that Khmer Rouge notions of morality were “pure” and similar to those of the Buddhist notion of a “righteous king,” pointing out that his revolution “restrained from using power of authority to be womanizers, or heavy drinkers, or relying much on money.”

(Forced marriages and rape are apparantly not to be included in this equation).

So could the warfare and violence of the Khmer Rouge co-exist with Buddhism, to Nuon Chea?

Absolutely, according to the Khmer Rouge #2 himself.

“The two approaches could co-exist, based on my personal view,” he told the court.

“It is not identical in every aspect [the Khmer Rouge revolution]” Chea admitted, as close an admission of certain flaws of his socialist revolution as we are likely to get.

“The revolution means to use physical labor to build the country, to make it progressive…the religion, on the other hand, relies on compassion and sympathy. If there is no use of labor in revolution to build the country and forces, it wouldn’t get results.”

As for armed struggle? “I do not deny there was an armed struggle, but armed struggle was not the basic struggle we adopted,” said Chea. “It was the political struggle we chose as our principle.”

Chea also pointed out that “meditation is a form of self re-building, so that our mind is clean and pure. In the revolution, we had to get rid of self-ego.”

The Khmer Rouge were intent on keeping people silent and “pure” – a perverse interpretation of Buddhist precepts.

“If there is self-ego, there is individualism,” Chea mused to the court. “If there is individualism, there is privatism. If there is privatism, there are conflicts.”

Buddhists must get rid of self-interest – and the Khmer Rouge were pretty intent on it, too. Unless you were a well-connected and well-fed party cadre with a good class background and no party enemies. (Considering most of the dead at Tuol Sleng prison were culled from the ranks of party cadres, the favor of the Khmer Rouge was a short lived and amorphous thing).

To work, Nuon Chea seemed to indicate, was a form of meditation, of “practice.”  To work until you dropped, as was often the case in the Khmer Rouge era, was then too a form of meditation.

Buddhist ascetics deprive themselves in the name of faith, and here, the only difference was that the people were forced at the point of a gun into an ascetism they had not wanted, or requested – but an asceticism that they would be given anyway.

“For daily living in Buddhism,” Nuon Chea said, “we relied on our intelligence, our meditation. In the revolution, we tried to work hard, we tried to focus on our work. That is also a form of meditation.”

Lavergne referenced the swift and brutal evacuation of Phnom Penh in his questioning of Nuon Chea. According to Chea, this famously sweeping action was taken for what roughly comes down to three reasons: humanitarian, strategic, and philosophical.

“There were incidents, riots, as many people were unemployed, there were many beggers – soldiers not recieve their salary. And Lon Nol could not control the situation,” said Chea of 1975 Phnom Penh. In his view, Phnom Penh had to be evacuated to “cleanse” and control it.

Then, there was the strategic matter of Lon Nol’s soldiers. “Lon Nol soldiers…womanizers, gamblers, heavy drinkers – what should be done with them? It would be difficult,” Chea said, in reference to allowing these soldiers to stay in the city.

The vast majority of Lon Nol’s former soldiers were ferreted out and killed during the Khmer Rouge days – but in the eyes of the Khmer Rouge, there was no point in attempting to “reform” them.

Finally, there was the philosophical concept that the “base” people, or rural village-dwellers, were inherently superior to “unclean” city people.  “If you compare our livelihood there {in the country} with people living in PP, and there were about 3 million of them, we were better,” Chea told the court.

“We lived in cooperatives, we had one another.” Phnom Penh was evacuated to “prevent a temporary loss of alliance of the people.”

But the haste of the evacuation – where the population of a major capital city was herded into the country at gunpoint, young, old, and sick alike – is now just-about universally considered a shockingly cruel act on the part of the Khmer Rouge.

As Francois Ponchaud notes in “Cambodia: Year Zero” : “Here, one can look in vain for the slightest trace of that oriental wisdom with its great respect for time….The good of the people was not the goal for the evacuation of Phnom Penh: its aim was to prove a theory that had been worked out in the abstract without the slightest regard for human factors.”

As for those Cambodians who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979?

“Communism only eliminates those people who destroy the country, who could not be educated,” Chea claimed, adding that such “bad people” would be repeatedly reminded of their infractions before some sort of final solution was reached.

But Chea danced around out-right saying that executions took place, implying that people “could be sent to authorities or court to decide” – without admitting, what, exactly, would be decided.

Was the Khmer Rouge, then, some perverse extension of some basic Buddhist precepts?

This is perhaps too extreme a conclusion to make from the evasive testimony of an old man—but then again, Nuon Chea, as “Brother Number Two,” had considerable power over the ideology and intention of the Khmer Rouge.

The future proceedings of the Khmer Rouge War Tribunal, flawed as it is, may provide more insight into the theological feelings of the Khmer Rouge top brass—and to some extent, the underpinnings of one of the cruelest periods in human history.

That Dam Xayaburi: Mekong Gets a Reprieve, But For How Long?

(Phnom Phen, Cambodia) – The mighty Mekong River spanning Southeast Asia has won reprieve from a planned $3.8 billion hydro-electric dam project in Laos — for now. Meeting in Northern Cambodia last week,  representatives from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos (perhaps grudgingly) postponed a decision and called for further study, helmed by Japan, into its potential effects on the Mekong ecosystem.

The other Mekong-river nations willingness to stop the 1,260 mega-watt dam is rooted in both conservationist sentiment and in self-interest. Although tiny Laos has claimed the dam won’t affect nations downstream, no one is buying it: it’s impossible to deny a huge project at the headwaters of a major river will have serious ecological effects.

According to groups such as the Mekong River Commission and International Rivers, the Xayaburi dam would almost inevitably cause serious damage to fish stocks and wreck havoc on the normal tidal movement of the river—and perhaps impede future water availability to other nations with planned dam projects of their own.

Further, some fear the building of one profitable dam will set off a chain reaction of damn building. Laos has 8 other damming projects in mind beside the Xayaburi, and according to the BBC, Cambodia has projects of its own in the works.

Read more at UN Dispatch…

Nuon Chea and Implausible Deniability: Back to the War Tribunal

Witness Long Norin was too sick to testify today, which meant that former Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea was brought into the dock to answer judge’s questions. I am not sure why he has shed his former uniform of a mugger’s ski cap and shades. Perhaps he feels a need to look more credible.

The usually verbose Chea was in fine form today – and as usual, denied all culpability for his actions, blaming the Vietnamese for the majority of the mistakes made by the Khmer Rouge.

Judge Cartwright began the questioning by hashing out if the Khmer Rouge “strategic and tactical lines,” or general policy, were in fact established at the first Party Assembly, held in September of 1960.

To this Chea responded that he and his political brethren believed “the true nature of Cambodian society is half colonel and half feudalism…Therefore, the task of the revolution of Democratic Kampuchea at that time was to eliminate the remnant of the half-colonalism, half-fuedalism.”

Some serious debate exists over whether agrarian pre-KR Cambodian even had many people equivalent to the land-owning and evil “feudalists” Chinese communists railed against.

According to Nuon Chea, the “political and armed struggle” of the Khmer Rouge only began in 1968, and was preceded by a “democratic” revolution, focused primarily on eradicating the rich and powerful.

He also claimed the early Khmer Rouge army, called the Secret Defense Unit, was used only to protect cadres and not to other aims – and that the only weapons they possessed were sticks. (He appeared to forget himself and admitted they also had knives and axes later).

“The Secret Defense Unit did not have a duty to kill or smash…. In case of neccesity – when a cadre is attacked or detained – this defense unit must protect the cadre at their best ability,” Nuon Chea told the court.

Nuon Chea did not appear to outright contest Cartwright’s statement that Khmer Rouge guerilla forces first struck the enemy at a small village near Battambang on Jan 17th, 1968 – but added the “Lon Nol Army attacked the village, and beheaded people….the Lon Nol barbarous clique…were so barbarous they acted at their own pleasure in killing people.”

Nuon Chea also denied that he gave the orders to stage the attack, claiming he was living in Samlot, and that he would have done a better job of it if he HAD ordered it. According to Chea, soon after this first attack, “volunteer villagers” took to the woods with weapons seized from the enemy.

“Wherever they resided,they would plant pumpkin seeds and they would pick the pumpkins to feed themselves…That was all they needed to be self reliant,” Chea said, in a somewhat bizarre riff on the old Johnny Appleseed trope.

According to Chea, the fully-fledged Revolutionary Army of Kampucha began “functioning” on the 12th of March, 1968 – although the 17th and 18th of January were celebrated during the KR era as the anniversary of the founding of the “Revolutionary Army.” Chea claimed he could not “remember” the dates.

Chea also worked around any allegations of Vietnamese funding or support, claiming the “revolutionary base” supported him when it came to food and clothing, often giving him salt to subsist on. As for ordinary soldiers, they contributed a single riel to the army each month – and survived on plants and animals found in the forest, as well as contributions from their families.

If you believe the entire Khmer Rouge army subsisted for years on forest-forage and the largesse of others, I have this awesome bridge in London to sell you.

As for Vietnamese arms, Chea insisted that although China did donate arms to the Khmer Rouge, Vietnam – who was responsible for transporting them -would take 1/3 of the weapons. “They made excuses – they had a confusion, or there were irregularities. That was the trick of Vietnam.”

According to Chea, Vietnam wanted to keep arms away from Cambodia because “they didn’t want us to be independent, they wanted to dominate us.”

Court attendees walk down the stairs during a break.

Chea than argued that Vietnam should be grateful to Cambodia for its assistance during the war years, instead of the other way around. “Vietnam should pay gratitude to Cambodia because they (Vietnamese soldiers) sought refuge here,” he said, referring to “50,00 soldiers stationed along the border.”

Again, he appealed to Cambodia’s youth: “I want to make this clear: who our enemies are,and who our friends are. And this is going to be useful for the younger generation. And who is indebted to whom.”

In perhaps Chea’s most ridiculous statement of the day, he claimed: “Vietnamese would bring children with them, and they would creep and crawl behind them. Once we could seize the weapons, the Vietnamese toddlers would pull the leg of the Cambodian armies,so they could not seize the weapons.”

Gotta watch out for those nefarious Vietnamese four year olds.

Cartwright moved on to discuss the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh, where thousands died in a mass exodus, after being lied to and told the Americans intended on bombing the city. According to Nuon Chea, the decision to evacuate the city-dwellers first was under debate in 1973 – and a lot of it had to do (again) with Vietnam.

“If Vietnam gained their victory before us (in Saigon) they would then come to control Cambodia,” Chea said. “If Vietnam liberated before us, they would deploy their soldiers under the guise of assisting us in Phnom Penh, and than control us.” The whole thing took on the aura of a perverse race-to-the-finish.

Other reasons for this mass exodus? According to Chea, conditions in Phnom Penh were so bad – and apparently, so good in the already liberated countryside – that everybody would really be much better off that way. “There were incidents, riots, many people were unemployed, there were many beggars – soldiers did not receive their salary. And Lon Nol could not control the situation.”

After referring rather disturbingly to Lon Nol soldiers as “womanizers, players, heavy drinkers” – and we know what happened to Lon Nol soldiers found out by the Khmer Rouge – he once again referred to the sanctity of the countryside.

“We were in the countryside and we did not have an abundance of food or materials,” Chea said. “However, if you compare our livelihood there with people living in Phnom Penh, and there were about 3 million of them, we were better…we lived in cooperatives. We had one another.”

The ECCC courtroom.

As for allegations of poor treatment of “new” people, Chea outright discounted them. “People in Phnom Penh did not engage in hard labor,” he said. “When they went to cooperatives, they shared food, they transformed, those not able to do hard work to become laborers…these newly evacuated peole could not of course do as much work as local people, as they did not do it in the past…so they were only tasked to do moderate work.” He emphasized “new” people were allowed to have three meals a day “and dessert once a week.”

He blamed “bad elements” in cooperatives for the starvation and deprivation that would follow the evacuation, claiming some cooperatives” destroyed utensils, they destroyed there was a shortage of cutlery.” (I can think of more perverse things to do, really).

Chea also claimed that whenever he or other high-level cadres went to see a work site, they were only shown healthy people and fed well. “So there were like tricks and trickery employed in certain cooperatives, mixed elements, bad elements,” he said.

“It was not easy for us at this time,” Chea admitted. “And then we were accused of killing millions of people. But in fact, who actually killed millions of people? The Democratic Party of Kampuchea sacrificed everything for the party and the people, so people would have sufficient food to eat.”

“Of course…I don’t blame everything on the Vietnamese,” he added. Just most things.

More tomorrow on the curious “Buddhism” of the Khmer Rouge, from the mouth of Nuon Chea.

Tragic Car Scribbles in Phnom Penh, Internet Tidbits, Back to the Trib Tomorrow

The most tragic car scribbles in Phnom Penh.

Back to the War Tribunal tomorrow. Not sure what’s on the agenda – you’re never quite sure – but I’ll be live-tweeting per usual and will hopefully get to you/the Internet/the free world a brief blog wrap-up of the day.

In lieu of more substantive content, here’s some cool junk I found on the Internet today:

Bruce Sharp has another well-researched look at Noam Chomsky and the Khmer Rouge.

I have been convinced by Chomsky fans to read at least ONE of his books. Somewhat grudgingly. I will do it anyway. I think it’s easy to find Manufacturing Consent in Phnom Penh so I will begin there.

India Asks Google, Facebook, To Screen User Content

What a sad day for India, which has built up something of a reputation for a free, if extremely fractious, press. Especially embarrassing in such an Internet savvy nation. I’ll be researching this more tomorrow.

RCAF General Locked Up, Tortured By Family – Phnom Penh Post

Cambodian RCAF general locked up and tortured by family – mostly his wife, it seems – as they attempted to extort money from him. In the midst of upper class Tuol Kork in Phnom Penh, no less. What a creepy tale.

Air France 447 Transcript – Popular Mechanics

A truly eery transcript of the final minutes of Air France Flight 447, which disappeared mysteriously in 2009. Worth a read if you’re a bit of an aviation buff. Also, if you are someone who is perhaps entirely too fond of that National Geographic: Air Crash INVESTIGATION show.

Taliban Propaganda – Brian Calvert

Brian Calvert reports on Taliban propaganda from Afghanistan. Go Calvert. Great reporter and former member of the Phnom Penh press mafia (or, uh, whatever the hell we are.)


Mekong Korean: Food for Pretending It Is Cold Outside

Mekong Korean Restaurant
Sothearos Drive
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Korean restaurants are rife in Phnom Penh, and family restaurant Mekong Korean occupies a convenient location in the very center of the city. Dishing up rustic versions of Korean standards such as bi-bim-bap, tofu stew, stir-fried pork with red pepper and chicken stews, the restaurant has an entirely nondescript interior, few Western customers, and background music trending towards “Christian Celtic Songs Of the 90’s.” I find it all rather relaxing in a surrealist dream way.

My favorite dish here is definitely the bulgogi stew at $8. It’s not really bulgogi – they use ground beef here – but I love the slightly sweet, beefy, sesame infused broth. It’s served with cabbage, carrots, sesame seeds, onions, and a bunch of enoki mushrooms. All the vegetation can make you pretend you’re being healthy. Also a great option when dining with people who are red pepper averse, which is a serious, serious malfunction in Korean restaurants.

Another good dish here is Korean chicken stew, an exceptionally homey dish of braised chicken in a spicy red pepper sauce with potatoes, capsicum, onions, and chilis. It’s spicy and delightfuly rustic at the same time. Great over rice, big pieces of skin-on, bone in chicken, something you’d make yourself in cool weather. It’s almost getting into the low seventies at night in Phnom Penh now so I feel cold-weather food is entirely justified. It’s around $14 for 2, and the stew’s serving size was big enough that Giant Iowa Boyfriend and I could share it and be more than satiated.

Read more at Things I Ate in Cambodia….

Nothing Happened At the War Tribunal Today, If You Were Wondering

I did not attend the War Tribunal today due to both a pounding headache and a vague feeling that nothing interesting was going to happen – my usual tuk-tuk carpoolers agreed.

As it turns out, history vindicates me: according to the War Tribunal Monitor, “reluctant witness” Long Norin begged off for the day for health issues.

To the ire of the press, spectators, and lawyers in attendance, Nuon Chea did not take his place – although he was present in the courtroom.

Norin’s use of the Khmer “ah” or “the contemptible” has spawned a bit of a debate. Tell me, Khmer speakers: can “ah” be used in a friendly way? I agree with Nate Thayer’s take that context is key here – using “ah” in a party biography is much different than using it on a football pitch – but is “ah” something buddies would use with one another? That was Norin’s argument, anyway.

Monday is a Khmer holiday – Cambodia has MANY HOLIDAYS – so I’ll be back at the court Tuesday.



KR Witness Denies Everything, in Shocking Development

Long Norin, today’s witness at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, suffered a lamentable amount of memory loss when it came to recalling his formerly close association with former Democratic Kampuchea Minister of Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary. Thankfully, journalist Nate Thayer has been kind enough to jog his memory.

The 73-year-old Norin, whose testimony began Wednesday afternoon, began this morning with the rather reluctant identification of a party biography Ieng Sary forced him to write, during his tenure at the Democratic Kampuchea foreign ministry.

Ieng Sary at the ECCC.

This long party bio, prepared because Sary had accused Norin of being “CIA” (along with, it seems, the entire DK Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff) – a favorite accusation of the Khmer Rouge.

These forced “biographies” often ran into the hundreds of pages. Writing such a biography was a careful exercise in admission and deception, telling just enough about one’s life and percieved mistakes to satiate the paranoia of the Khmer Rouge, while leaving out facts that might actually implicate the writer as an “enemy.”

Norin was one of the few whose biography seemed to pass muster with the top brass.

Unfortunately, just about everyone the witness mentioned in his biography, as the co-prosecution pointed out, was tortured and killed at the S-21 or “Tuol Sleng” prison – a fact Norin at least pretended to be unaware of.

Norin in his biography fingered his former schoolmate and “soccer buddy” Tach Chea as being “CIA,” referring to him as “the contemptible Tach Chea” in the text—though Norin attempted to convince the court that the Khmer “a” (translated as ‘contemptible’) was merely a term of endearment for an old friend.

I know I call my buddies “the contemptible” all the time, so I think he’s probably telling the truth.

Norin told the court “I knew Tach Chea was a CIA agent, because had contacts with embassies that have tendancies towards CIA agents” – in other words, the West.

Long Norin via video-link in court today.

How did Norin know this? Mr Chea apparantly acquired a film from a Western embassy to show the other students at the pedagogical college the two men attended.

Damning evidence indeed. Wonder what the movie was about.

Tach Chea, as the co-prosecution noted, was taken hostage by students and shot in 1974, along with the at-the-time education minister.

Tach Chea’s wife and four children were imprisoned and killed in the S-21 torture prison during or shortly after the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh – a fact Mr Norin was also unaware of, or simply didn’t care all that much about.

Norin’s biography, as read to the court, mirrored most party biographies:

“During my study, my life contacts were deeply dark. I was in contact with people who betrayed the country, or traitors. In addition, my living was not very clean. I used money to better myself. My sexual morality was not very clean. Thanks to the Angkha, I have embarked on the right way. I have built up myself with the instructions of Angkha.”

When asked why the Khmer Rouge was so concerned with sexual morality, Norin, as became typical, vacillated wildly.

ECCC Courtroom.

The co-prosecutor than asked Norin about his time working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the Khmer Rouge era—and about what happened to those staffers implicated by Sary or other top brass being “CIA or KGB.”

“Nothing noticeable happened,” Norin claimed.

A mere half hour or so later, he quickly went back on this statement, admitting that people did have a way of disappearing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for no immediately apparant reason.

“When the staff disappeared, initially, I knew they went to study,” Mr Norin said. “But then I realized no, they were not going to study, but they were arrested instead.”

Mr Norin alleged that he was told these unfortunates had gone off to study in socialist countries – but these vanished staffers were instead shipped off to torture prisons. It was an impunity that Norin, finally, admitted to fearing:

Initially, I thought to myself that those who went to study in socialist countries might be spared, but later, even those who went to socialist countries were arrested. Those who went to France were also arrested. (Relevant as Mr Norin received a college degree…in France)

As was just about ubiqutious in Khmer Rouge Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs soon denigrated into paranoia and fear:

“After staff began to disappear, staff began to talk around those people, and they talked about them going to study. Everyone got fearful when we talked about “going to study” (after staff began to disappear.)”

The co-prosecutor than moved into a description of Norin’s relationship with Mr Sary after the 1979 fall of the Khmer Rouge. Although Norin heartily denied even speaking with Mr Sary after that date to the court, reality tells a different tale, as amply proven by Nate Thayer.

Thayer’s post shows Norin was in fact Sary’s chief spokesman after his 1997 split with the Khmer Rouge – amply documented by photographs, interviews, and English-language documents written on the stationary of the Democratic National United Movement, helmed by Mr Sary himself.

Norin, for his part, only admitted to being ‘secretary general” of the DNUM in 1994- although he denied that the party “ever had any meetings.”

Questioning regarding how, exactly, he became secretary general of a party helmed by a man he hadn’t spoken to since 1994 went un-answered.

According to Thayer, Norin also functioned as a primary voice of Sary’s DNUM radio station – a gift from current prime minister Hun Sen. This broadcast went out in 1996, read in Norin’s voice, on behalf of Sary:

“The war criminals are nobody else but Pol Pot and his handful of henchmen: Nuon Chea…who are the mass murderers of the people of Cambodia, committing until now enormous crimes against mankind. As such, they are sentenced to death.” (Everybody sentenced everybody else to death in the fallout of the Khmer Rouge leadership, it seems).

“The witness seems a bit reluctant to testify,” the co-prosecutor mused today, near the end of the morning session with Mr Norin.

Yes, he rather does, doesn’t he?

One wonders why Norin 1. bothered to testify at all, judging from the extremely close relationship he shared with Sary, as identicated by Mr Thayer’s post and 2. why he recanted many earlier statements he made to court co-investigators in 2007.

Did Sary’s still-powerful family come and rough him up? Did he decide he still had a soft squashy place in his heart for Sary after all?