American forces bombed Communist positions to clear a road east of Skoun, Cambodia, in November 1970. Bettmann/Getty Images

Forty years after the American military attacked them, the people of Tropeang Phlong village in Cambodia were still traumatized.

Beginning around 1969, U.S. helicopters regularly strafed the village, according to survivors. The American choppers used the wind off their blades to blow the thatch roofs off homes, turned their machine guns on those who fled and on men and women working in the rice paddies and fired incendiary rockets that set houses ablaze. Aircraft dropped bombs and gleaming napalm canisters that tumbled end over end and bloomed into fiery explosions.

“My nephew was killed — his stomach was blown out — and my older brother was wounded by an airstrike”, Oun Hean, the village chief, told me when I visited in 2010.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman selling vegetables on a boat in a floating village, Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia, 2013. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

On her bank’s loan sheets Ban Sophear looks like an ideal borrower. At forty-seven, she runs a small business buying fish on the southern edge of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake and also owns some farmland. In the past Sophear borrowed a small amount of money—a microloan—to build up her business. She managed to pay it back in full, qualifying her for larger microloans, which are issued by banks that have turned lending to the poor into a lucrative business. In 2022 Sophear borrowed $3,000. She used the money for her business and to pay her son’s school fees. The interest rate is 18 percent—standard for microloans in Cambodia.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘It is impossible to undo the damage done to Cambodia by decades of looting.’ The ancient Khmer pyramid in Koh Kher, Cambodia. Photograph: Ivan Synieokov/Alamy

At the end of January, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts announced the most significant return ever of stolen antiquities to south-east Asia: more than 100 ancient Khmer objects with an estimated value of $50m assembled over the course of six decades by Douglas Latchford.

At his death in August 2020, Latchford was facing federal charges in the US for the alleged key role he played since the 1960s in the looting and trafficking of Khmer antiquities from Cambodia and Thailand. The investigations had begun to lay bare the direct links between the building of south-east Asian art collections in the west – including at some of America’s most revered cultural institutions – and the brutal destruction of the Khmer cultural heritage on the ground.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lean towards Duch as if towards a mirror. © Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP

To some people it is a soothing thought to believe that torturers (wherever they may come from) are “different” from the rest of us - an otherworldly ilk of barbarians or sick individuals driven by the pathological pleasure of inflicting pain on their victims. What they did, we’d never do, so we like to think.

It might be disturbing to remind those “belles âmes” (as we say in French) of a few biographical details of Kaing Kek leu, aka Duch, the former executioner in chief of the Tuol Seng central Khmer Rouge detention and torture center, who just passed away in Phnom Penh at the age of seventy-seven.…  Seguir leyendo »

A nurse treated a Covid-19 patient in a New York City intensive care unit in April. .John Minchillo/Associated Press

Hace años hablé con la directora de una gran fábrica en la capital camboyana, Nom Pen. La preocupaba que más de 100 de sus empleados vivían en barriadas junto al río alrededor del edificio. Sus hogares corrían el riesgo de inundarse, pero a los trabajadores los asustaba más todavía que los expulsaran de allí. Incapaces de demostrar legalmente su posesión y defenderse, vivían apiñados a la sombra de la fábrica temiendo permanentemente que los desplazaran.

Cuando no hay derechos de propiedad, prima la ley de la selva; y ahora los grupos vulnerables y la población de la capital en su conjunto enfrentan un nuevo peligro: el proyecto de la Ciudad ING, que cuenta con todos los ingredientes para convertirse en un desastre ambiental y humano.…  Seguir leyendo »

Il y a exactement trois ans, le 11 février 2017, j’ai démissionné de la présidence du Parti du salut national (PSN), parti d’opposition prometteur qui, un an seulement après sa fondation, avait recueilli presque la moitié du suffrage populaire aux élections de 2013, et cela malgré une fraude massive au profit du parti au pouvoir du Premier ministre Hun Sen.

Paradoxalement – l’ombre de Kafka se profile sous toute dictature – c’était pour préserver l’existence et l’avenir de ce PSN que je devais en abandonner la direction. En effet, dans les jours et semaines qui avaient précédé ma démission, Hun Sen avait poussé à l’adoption d’une série de lois qui interdisent à tout proscrit de diriger un parti politique, sous peine de dissolution de ce parti.…  Seguir leyendo »

La situation au Venezuela et au Cambodge présente une frappante ressemblance dans la mesure où le pouvoir en place – celui du président Nicolas Maduro comme celui du premier ministre Hun Sen – voit sa légitimité contestée par suite d’une élection elle-même contestée :

— Election présidentielle au Venezuela du 20 mai 2018 remportée par Nicolas Maduro, qui a obtenu 67,8% des voix au cours d’un scrutin entaché d’irrégularités du début jusqu’à la fin, avec notamment l’interdiction de candidature imposée à certains partis d’opposition.

— Election législative au Cambodge du 29 juillet 2018 remportée par le parti du premier ministre sortant Hun Sen (le Parti du peuple cambodgien), qui a remporté 100% des sièges à l’Assemblée nationale au cours d’un scrutin considéré comme illégitime par la communauté internationale après la dissolution subite et arbitraire, en novembre 2017, du seul parti d’opposition, le Parti du salut national (CNRP) dont le président, Kem Sokha, a été jeté en prison.…  Seguir leyendo »

Depuis 2001 le Cambodge bénéficie d’un avantage commercial exceptionnel que lui accorde l’Union européenne grâce à une initiative connue sous le nom «Tout sauf les armes» (TSA). Il s’agit de la possibilité d’exporter vers l’Europe sans quotas et sans droits de douane tous produits sauf les armes et munitions. Cet avantage est accordé à un groupe de pays en voie de développement et en transition vers la démocratie. Dans l’esprit de la Commission européenne, il s’agit d’aider des pays «les moins avancés» à sortir de la pauvreté mais aussi – c’est un critère parallèle obligatoire – à progresser sur la voie de la démocratie et du respect des droits de l’homme.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le Premier ministre du Cambodge, Hun Sen, à l'aéroport de Manille le 11 novembre. Photo Noel Celis. AFP

Le 29 juillet auront lieu au Cambodge des élections dont la nature et l’enjeu échappent encore à de nombreux observateurs. Il s’agit officiellement d’élections législatives pour renouveler l’Assemblée nationale qui devra soit désigner un nouveau Premier ministre, soit reconduire l’actuel chef de gouvernement, M. Hun Sen, pour un nouveau mandat de cinq ans, selon les dispositions d’une Constitution inspirée de celle de la quatrième République française.

Depuis les législatives précédentes de 2013, l’électorat est divisé en deux forces pratiquement égales : le Parti du peuple cambodgien (PPC) qui soutient M. Hun Sen, au pouvoir depuis trente-trois ans, et l’opposition représentée par le Parti du salut national (PSN) qui veut son départ pour ouvrir la voie à un changement démocratique.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man paints over the logo of the Cambodia National Rescue Party at its headquarters in Phnom Penh. Photo: Getty Images.

On 16 November, Cambodia’s Supreme Court struck a crippling blow to democratic rights in the country when it ordered the dissolution of the main political opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Cambodia is now essentially a one-party state. CNRP will lose all its seats in the National Assembly ensuring there is effectively no organized political opposition to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia People’s Party. This blow to democracy will deeply affect both Cambodia’s people and the country’s external relations.

Inside Cambodia

While this may seem a shocking outcome, in some respects it is entirely unsurprising given the intense crackdown on the political opposition during the last few years.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kem Sokha held hands with his wife before his arrest in 2005 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on a charge of defamation. Credit Bunna Chor/Reuters

Kem Sokha, the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (C.N.R.P.), was arrested during the early hours of Sept. 3, reportedly without a warrant and in violation of his parliamentary immunity. Dozens of police officers surrounded his home in Phnom Penh, while a group of armed men forced their way inside.

He has since been charged with treason — and with conspiring with foreigners to overthrow the Hun Sen government — based on a 2013 speech in which he described wanting to bring peaceful, democratic change to Cambodia and receiving advice from American experts. On Monday, during a session that the C.N.R.P.…  Seguir leyendo »

Samrang Pring/Reuters. The final issue of The Cambodia Daily, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 4, 2017

“Descent into Outright Dictatorship,” read The Cambodia Daily’s final headline on Monday, a defiant last cry from a fiercely independent newspaper that has now been shut down by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government. For the Daily’s final issue, its reporters worked through the night to cover the arrest of the country’s main opposition leader, Kem Sokha, as part of a government crackdown that has consumed politicians, journalists, and non-profits ahead of next year’s election.

Hun Sen’s government alleges that the Daily owes over $6 million in taxes, and ordered it to pay up or close. The paper was given until Sunday to make good on its arrears, and meanwhile Hun Sen called it Cambodia’s “chief thief.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Journalists in Cambodia are under siege. Scared of losing next year's general election, the ruling Cambodian People's Party has recently launched a series of attacks on anyone it deems a threat to its power.

After losing ground to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in June's local elections, it is paranoid that the tide of public opinion is turning against it.

In response to this crackdown, the US Embassy asked recently on its Facebook page, "Is #Cambodia Committed To Democracy?" Judging from repeated attacks on both nongovernmental organizations and newspapers, it appears the answer to the embassy's post is a hard no.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angkor y la crisis del agua

¿El complejo de Angkor y la ciudad de Siem Reap estarían a punto de ser víctimas de su propio éxito? Con el aumento de la población y del turismo, la conservación de sus ecosistemas terrestres se ve amenazada y los recursos hídricos resultan insuficientes. Para cubrir las necesidades, las autoridades se ven obligadas a aprovechar el agua subterránea lo que redunda en el hundimiento del suelo del sitio, inscrito en la Lista del Patrimonio Mundial. La UNESCO, en cooperación con expertos internacionales y autoridades locales, estudia la posibilidad de bombear en las aguas de la Reserva de Biosfera de Tonlé Sap, a fin de garantizar una gestión sostenible y a largo plazo de los recursos hídricos y detener los procesos de degradación.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Monday, Cambodia’s National Assembly passed 22 amendments to the country’s Law on Political Parties. The law was pushed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, and his Cambodian People’s Party. Although the revised law still requires a rubber stamp endorsement from the Senate, Constitution Council and King Norodom Sihamoni, its consequences are likely to be dramatic.

The revised law would allow the Supreme Court and the Interior Ministry to suspend and dissolve political parties for the ambiguous offenses of causing “incitement that would lead to national disintegration” and “subverting liberal multi-party democracy.” The target is the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.…  Seguir leyendo »

The World’s Disappearing Sand

Most Westerners facing criminal charges in Cambodia would be thanking their lucky stars at finding themselves safe in another country. But Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who is half British and half Spanish, is pleading with the Phnom Penh government to allow him back to stand trial along with three Cambodian colleagues. They’ve been charged, essentially, with interfering with the harvesting of one of the 21st century’s most valuable resources: sand.

Believe it or not, we use more of this natural resource than any other except water and air. Sand is the thing modern cities are made of. Pretty much every apartment block, office tower and shopping mall from Beijing to Lagos, Nigeria, is made at least partly with concrete, which is basically just sand and gravel stuck together with cement.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cambodian politics is in the midst of an ugly crisis. Prime Minister Hun Sen, after officially winning the 2013 election by just a narrow margin and facing months of massive anti-government protests, seemed to have regained control. Yet in recent weeks the authorities have cracked down on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, C.N.R.P.

For a prime minister who has mastered a form of kleptocratic electoral authoritarianism during three decades in power, the resort to violence, intimidation and judicial harassment betrays Hun Sen’s great anxiety about the prospects of his party in the next general election in 2018.

On Oct. 26, two C.N.R.P.…  Seguir leyendo »

A prostitute waits for a client in her room ina brothel area known as Building in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (David Paul Morris/For The Washington Post)

“You can go Cambodia, Phnom Penh. The place is called Svay Pak. There are many there you can try. Age around 6 to 16. Depending on what u want to do. I find 12 to 14 year olds the best as they are freshest and is becoming a grown up girl soon. Innocent too. and very curious about sex.”

This is a milder excerpt from e-mails sent to an undercover police officer. They came from a Singaporean pedophile named Chan Chun Hong who was planning to visit Svay Pak, Cambodia, to have sex with children.

He had purchased airline tickets for April 2014.…  Seguir leyendo »

The image of a child sex-trafficking victim that most of us carry in our minds is probably something like the blurry, black-and-white shot taken in 2003 of a 5-year-old girl in a shanty settlement called Svay Pak, just outside Phnom Penh. The girl’s name is Taevy. My organization, International Justice Mission, obtained the undercover footage while investigating the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia and collaborated with “Dateline NBC” to tell the story.

According to a recent broadcast from CNN’s “Freedom Project,” Cambodia is still ground zero for the child sex trade. The report described Svay Pak’s “big business” of selling prepubescent girls to foreign pedophiles for thousands of dollars.…  Seguir leyendo »

Khmer Rouge guerrillas moving into Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, before forcibly emptying the city of its two million residents. Credit Sjoberg/Scanpix Sweden, via Agence France Presse

Earlier this month a United Nations-assisted tribunal in Cambodia handed down long-overdue judgments against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for their roles in the catastrophic Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-79. Nuon Chea, the deputy secretary of the communist party, and Khieu Samphan, the president of the Khmer Rouge state, were sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity.

For some observers, this seemed like too little too late for too much money. Eight years have passed since the Khmer Rouge tribunal — officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (E.C.C.C.) — began operations, it has cost more than $200 million, and these verdicts concern only a fraction of the total charges.…  Seguir leyendo »