Noam Chomsky: The Khmer Rouge Were Actually Pretty OK, Guys

Chomsky: Khmer Rouge? Shmer rouge!

Khmer Rouge Apologist Noam Chomsky: Unrepentant

Journalist Nate Thayer conducts a rousing take-down of linguist Noam Chomsky’s astoundingly long-standing denial of Khmer Rouge atrocities. Chomsky, as of 2011, still refuses to join the leftist Khmer Rouge apologists of the 1970’s in taking back his earlier works.

No, he still believe the Khmer Rouge atrocities were a mass fabrication, and he still believes that a vast media – and refugee? – conspiracy came together to unfairly demonize the Khmer Rouge. Also, it’s all America’s fault. Someone get this guy on Nuon Chea’s defense team.

I have not bothered to read any of Chomsky’s work previously, and judging from Thayer’s description of his opinions, I doubt I will do so in the future. (Maybe for sheer comedy value, or if I am in the mood to feel extremely angry, and sometimes, I am.

What I find most repellant about Chomsky’s stance is his belief that the accounts of refugees – which most journalists writing on the Khmer Rouge have heavily replied upon – are intrinisically untrustworthy.

This is because refugees, presumably addled, desperate, and “unusually” opposed to the ruling regime will tell Western reporters whatever they want to hear to demonize their “enemies” and perhaps secure some measure of fame or safety for themselves.

For someone who purports to be an enemy of imperalism and an advocate for the third world, this is the absolute worst kind of patronizing twaddle. I imagine there are thousands of Khmer Rouge survivors out there who would beg to argue differently. (But perhaps they are just biased and addled too).

And as Thayer points out: if thousands upon thousands of Cambodian refugees have somehow managed to orchestrate a collective lie about the extent of Khmer Rouge atrocities—well, that massive lie would surely register as humanity’s most impressive conspiracy to date.

But, no, Chomsky holds strong in the face of overwhelming evidence:

“I am very pleased that there has been such a hysterical reaction to these writings. They’ve been analyzed with a fine tooth comb to try to find some error, and to my knowledge, the end result is that not even a misplaced comma has been found.

True, a lot of errors have been found in fabricated material attributed to me, but that’s a sign of the desperation of the apologists for state violence. If you know of an exception, I’d appreciate it if you’d inform me. I haven’t yet seen one.”

Yes, Noam. You are smarter, a better source, and a more reliable arbiter of justice than the entire Cambodian people. I am truly sorry I ever doubted you.


Reality Tour of Human Trafficking in Cambodia: Yes, This Actually Exists

Reality Tour of Human Trafficking in Cambodia

Yes, you too can shell out a cool $2000 to go on a “reality tour” of Cambodia’s grasping poor. Since you’re really enlightened and stuff, your money will allow you to join a “delegation” instead of a tour group, which sounds much better on those tricky grad school application essays.

The trip’s intinerary includes stops at majority Christian-run trafficking NGOs. I won’t outright knock the Christians, but my suspicions are a mite raised.

One of the ending “highlights” of the trip is a visit to the Stung Meanchey dump, where young children eke out a living by picking through trash.

The dump has become a popular destination for “tourists who really care,” allowing them to hop out of their nice AC van, take photos and hand out goodies to trash-picker goods – inadvertently making sending kids out to the dump that much more of an inviting opportunity for poor Cambodian families.

These visits are usually reviled by local NGO workers—who actually know what they are talking about, and know how the communities they serve work.

All that human trafficking can really get you down, so a trip to Angkor Wat and “three star” accomodations are included. The length of this revolutionary delegation’s trip through Cambodia? Less than two weeks. Yeah, that’ll affect some lasting change.

Or at least give participants a lot of great chances to take adorable photos of them manhandling supposedly sex-trafficked orphans.

These kind of trips are exactly what hundreds of my college student peers merrily jetted off to every summer or every lengthy break. These kids almost always came back with lots of sweet stories for their friends, and little to no deep understanding of the issues they claimed to be authorities on.

But the “Well, I MET SEX TRAFFICKED CHILDREN (insert cause here, starving Somalis, leprous Indians, homosexual Bangladeshis, what have you) AND SAW THEM WITH MY OWN EYES” defense is an awesome college-debate trump card.

Sex trafficking is a terrible, real thing. Sending “delegations” of the wealthy to poke and prod the victims is not the way to fix the problem.

I don’t really care how compelling the stories the “delegates” tell their buddies at grad school parties about their “life changing experience” are, either. Find a decent charity or aid organization – good luck with that, but that’s another blog post – and stick your $2000 there.

Alternately, come visit Cambodia as a normal, non-sanctimonious tourist. If you like it, maybe find a job. And then stay. If you’re lucky, smart, and willing to learn some humility, you might just do some good.

Two week jaunts? No way.


The Conceit of Nick Kristof – Rescuing Sex Slaves as Saintliness – The Naked Anthropologist

Laura Augustin neatly encapsulates why I find Kristof so irritating.

Romdeng Again: Great Food, I Still Don’t Order a Spider

#74 Street 174
Telephone: +855 092-219-565
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Romdeng is the Mith Samlanh street kid’s charity Khmer training restaurant, affiliated with the more Western accented Friends, near Riverside. Set in an old colonial building, it’s a salubrious place to try authentic Khmer dishes for a pretty good cause. The waitstaff, cooks, and I believe at least some of the management are all former street kids enrolled in hospitality training programs conducted by Mith Samlanh. It’s a good idea, and, thankfully, the food is good too.

Both Romdeng and Friends do excellent frozen drinks, and I enjoyed this lychee/passionfruit/mint mixture. Would have been better with a little vodka, but this was a lunch-break-from-work type affair so I was forced to hold back.

Read more at Things I Ate in Cambodia…

Ex-Khmer Rouge Leader Admits No Guilt on Third Day of Landmark Trial – Faster Times

Khieu Samphan (Photo from ECCC website)

The third day of the opening salvo of the Khmer Rouge War Tribunal in Cambodia saw Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state and leader of the state presidium, tell the court with great vehemence that he was not guilty for the war-crimes—that allegedly caused the deaths of 2.2 million—that the co-prosecution had heaped him with Monday and Tuesday. A full account of yesterday’s proceedings may be read here.

Samphan’s denial of culpability appears to be following in the dubious foot-steps of his co-defendants, former “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and former foreign foreign minister Ieng Sary, who have both passionately denied any culpability in the events of 35 years ago. Although Ieng Sary’s ill health and unwillingness to testify before the court prevented him from reading more than a paragraph of his own statement of innocence, Nuon Chea’s Tuesday rant against his supposed enemies bore considerable resemblance to Samphan’s Wednesday performance.

Read more at The Faster Times…

Touich Restaurant: Fine Siem Reap Dining, Free Awesome Jeep Ride Included

Touich Restaurant
3 km outside center of town center: call ahead at 092 80 80 40 – 012 99 57 83 or email @
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Touich, a small Khmer restaurant set in Siem Reap’s back alleys, has gained something of a cult following since I was last there in February. Owned by an English speaking and charmingly eccentric Battambang family, this surprisingly hip little joint is probably my favorite in Siem Reap. If you call ahead to make reservations, the restaurant will send a 1940’s era military jeep to pick you up at your hotel, which is all kinds of fun.

Read more at Things I Ate in Cambodia…

Angelina on “Danger Trip” to Cambodia: Maybe Cambodia Needs a New PR Campaign

In the Daily Mail’s continuing quest to say stupid things to an equally stupid readership, mega-celebrity Angelina Jolie’s jaunt to Cambodia with son Maddox is called a “danger trip,” that will take the duo  “through a remote area littered with landmines and known for its civil unrest in the days of the notorious Khmer Rouge.”

Right. Known for its unrest thirty-six years ago.

Thankfully, Jolie hired a couple of armed guards to protect them from the deadly cattle, low-income villagers, water buffalo and underpaid traffic police they will doubtless encounter on their perilous journey.

The Daily Mail apparently doesn’t know that the real dangers of the Cambodian countryside – lousy driving and food poisoning – aren’t preventable by heavily armed men with automatic weapons. (Shame, really).

We also hope that poor little Maddox is not scarred for life by 1. seeing a guy carrying a gun and 2. going back to the humble village of his birth.

It’s stupid articles like this that force me to explain to people back home that the Khmer Rouge are no longer whisking people away in the night.

I am met with looks of baffled incredulity when I say that Phnom Penh is exponentially safer than New Orleans, and that I’d take a darkened Cambodian alley over its NOLA or Oakland equivalent any day.

In the eyes of a healthy majority of the Western population, Cambodia has apparently been stuck in time since the Khmer Rouge era, and a vacation there is just-about asking for enslavement in a work camp, a bullet to the head, or at least a solid roughing up by very angry men in black jammies.

Of course, this beats the Americans who ask me with great interest what it’s like living in Africa.

Also, let’s recall that Cambodia’s biggest news story of the year – the worst flooding in ten years, but than again, you probably haven’t heard about that – has been just about  ignored by the mainstream media. But Angelina Jolie’s every movement in Cambodia? Stop the presses!

I don’t really have anything against Angelina, other than that the media outside Cambodia pays attention to her – and only her – whenever she conducts a charity trip here. Cambodia only serves as a conveniently dramatic background to whatever Ms Megacelebrity is doing at the time.

Perhaps Angie should contemplate carrying out a nice PR campaign for Cambodia alongside her other charitable work, so people in the West will stop running stupid stories like the Mail’s.

Taking out ads for Cambodia emphasizing how safe and nice it is and how you can buy all kinds of attractive and reasonably priced souvenirs would be a start.

Perhaps something like this:

North Korean Rock Anthems: Something That Amuses Me

Ain’t no party like a Pyongyang party cuz a Pyongyang party is ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY. Man, I love DPRK kitsch.

North Korean rock anthem with the refrain of FUCKING USA. We are a dastardly country of thieves. Also, poorly animated rendering of the Statue of Liberty exploding. I could watch this all day.

The true feather in North Korea’s cinematic cap are its profoundly creepy, classic Disney-esque propaganda cartoons. Just imagine waking up early Saturday morning to have your single bowl of rice in your cold, cold house while watching your mandated propaganda cartoons! My heart is warmed like a mighty steel factory by the very idea.

No Penance from Khmer Rouge War Crimes Defandants

The first three days of Case 002 of the Khmer Rouge trial have seen both a total lack of penance, and a dogged determination to deflect blame for the death of millions of Cambodians from defendants “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, former foreign minister Ieng Sary, and former Head of State Khieu Samran.

Instead of looking to themselves and their own choices, the three former Khmer Rouge leaders have thus far preferred blame US carpet bombings, Vietnamese incursions into Cambodia, poor conditions created by French imperialists and previous Cambodian governments, and other outside forces for the miserable conditions their people suffered.

Read more at UN Dispatch.

Khmer Rouge Case 002 Begins in Phnom Penh

One of my first blog posts for UN Dispatch about Case 002 of the landmark Khmer Rouge War Tribunal. I’ll be covering – and live tweeting – the court this winter as the case against Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, and Ieng Sary progresses.

Khmer Rouge: Never Too Long to Wait For Justice

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – A landmark trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders began this week at the Extraordinary Criminal Chambers of Cambodia outside Phnom Penh.  Students, saffron-clad monks, civil parties and average citizens arrived by bus, tuk tuk, and motorbike to pack the public courtroom and watch as the prosecution delivered its opening statements to the court, which was established after a 2003 agreement between the Cambodian government and the United Nations.

This was a seminal moment in Cambodian’s decades long quest to come to terms with the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime. “Case 002″ as it is simply known  is hoped to bring some margin of justice to the three Khmer Rouge leaders who ruled Cambodia from April 1975 to January 1979, when between 1.7 to 2 million Cambodians died during one of the most horrific genocides of the modern era…..

Read the rest over at UN Dispatch.