Friday October 20, 2017

In 1979, Khmer Rouge Prison Chief was ordered to execute everyone at Security Centre

In between 1975 and 1979, Khmer Rouge oversaw the deaths of over 1.7 million Cambodians

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Former Khmer Rouge prison chief S-21, Kaing Guek Eav better known as 'Duch' (C) stands in the courtroom. Image source: www.gettyimages.co.uk
  • Duch was ordered to destroy the prison and kill remaining internees on the eve of the Vietnamese military’s arrival in Phnom Penh
  • Chum Mey, one of a small number of S-21 survivors, testified that he believed Duch was following orders of party leadership
  • In 2012, Duch was the first senior Khmer Rouge official to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Conventions

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA- Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, in his second day of testimony at the Khmer Rouge, said that he was ordered by Pol Pot’s second-in-command, Nuon Chea, to kill families of those held by the internal security department.

He even said that in January 1979, he was ordered to destroy the prison and kill remaining internees on the eve of the Vietnamese military’s arrival in Phnom Penh.

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The nine-day testimonial process is focused on Duch’s role as head of the S-21 security center in Phnom Penh, as part of case 002/02 of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — the full name of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

S-21, The Khmer Rouge Death Machine. Former Prison And Torture Center. Image source: Getty Images
S-21, The Khmer Rouge Death Machine. Former Prison And Torture Center. Image source: Getty Images

“Uncle Nuon ordered [me] to destroy everything before the arrival of Vietnamese forces, but at the time, I begged to keep four people [alive],” Duch, clad in white, his head shaved, told international prosecutors. Duch, 74, who oversaw the deaths of more than 12,000 people at S-21, claims he was following party orders to exterminate “the whole family of the enemy” as part of a “cleansing” that coincided with the regime’s approaching collapse.

“At the end, when Uncle Nuon ordered me to destroy all human beings from S-21, I was very shocked and could not do anything,” he said, adding that each time he departed for S-21, his wife feared he would not return. “I was sick the day that the Vietnamese arrived. I was very scared.” By that time, he said, he was acting to keep his own family from suffering the same fate of his victims.

Chum Mey, one of a small number of S-21 survivors, testified that he believed Duch was following orders of party leadership, as junior officers at S-21 in turn followed the orders of Duch on pain of torture or death.

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Nuon Chea has repeatedly denied all responsibility for the crimes committed at S-21, also known as Toul Sleng, including final orders to exterminate all remaining prisoners. He has not attended the recent proceedings on health grounds, instead watching courtroom proceedings via closed-circuit television from a separate room in the facility.

In between 1975 and 1979, Khmer Rouge oversaw the deaths of over 1.7 million Cambodians.

In 2012, Duch was the first senior Khmer Rouge official to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Conventions. He remains the only senior regime official to have been sentenced. The other defendants had died even before their trials ended. Chea and Khieu Samphan are the only ones who remain alive.

-prepared by Devika Todi (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: devika_todi

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Angkor Wat: History behind Cambodian Hindu temple

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Angkor Wat: World’s Largest Hindu Temple


In this article, we will discuss about the “History behind Angkor Wat Hindu Temple“, which is the world’s largest Hindu temple located in “Cambodia” – southeast asian nation.


 

Angkor Wat: Lost in the woods for over 400 years, the discovery of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu monument literally shocked the world. Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s famous temple is a place full of still unexplored history, myth and legend.

Discovery & History of Angkor Wat – World’s Largest Hindu Temple

  • Angkor wat denotes Cambodia’s unwrapped mystery of civilization that for centuries looked like it never existed. The hidden temple was a stuff of legend until 1860 when a French naturalist, “Henri Mohout”  accidently came to that place during his expedition. He saw the ruins of Angkor Wat. But why did the civilization collapse? How did they make this sophisticated temple with no modern technologies? What must have happened?  It’s the high time to uncover these hidden secrets.
  • Angkor, the capital of last Cambodian empire was home to millions of people over 800 years ago. The powerful empire covered South East Asia including Vietnam, Bay of Bengal and North West China. Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is among the wonders of the world. Even today, this world’s largest hundu temple or religious monument has a huge complex stretched at about 200 hectares of land. While entering the main temple a vast gate gives an impression that you have reached the temple, however, you realize that the main temple still is 400 yards away. The expansive nature of temple is seen to be believed.
  • Angkor Wat is also known as the city temple as it was surrounded by urban areas (long back before disappearing). When built,  it was dedicated to representing Hindu god, “Lord Vishnu”. There is a 213 feet high central tower(temple) encircled by 4 small towers representing Mount Meru, a celestial home of god based on Hindu mythology. It took 50,000 workers to build this extraordinary temple, that was completed in the year 1145.
  • This huge temple can be compared to Egyptian pyramids in the context of the strength. Compared to the construction of modern European temples which require almost 300 to 400 years, Angkor Wat was completed in only 32 years. How did they do? The answer to this question lies inside the temple. There is a carving in the main temple which gives clues to the mystery of building this huge temple without any modern technology. The story carved in the stones speaks: a lever used to push big stone blocks one over another to assemble it perfectly. This shows Angkor Wat was planned, assembled and then carved.
  • The surface of this masterpiece is covered with carvings that display the Hindu mythological stories originated in India. But how did the stories from India arrive in Cambodia? The answer is “Indian Traders”. The Indian traders travelling towards south-east Asia passed their religion, art and architecture to the local people of Cambodia. This way the traders were an important part of spreading Hindu culture in Cambodian Empire.
  • Archaeologists have used sophisticated aerial imaging techniques to look into the past of Cambodia. In 1994, NASA took the first image which shows Angkor Wat was huge and another recent satellite image show collection of hundreds of temples in the area. The modern technology has also thrown light on the extensive water management system of the Cambodian empire which existed those times. This shows the engineering marvels of Cambodians. They constructed rectangular reservoirs and water systems in such a way that the water from Kulen Mountain irrigates the farms resulting in a good harvest. It could have been the work of only advanced and skilled people.

History behind Cambodian Hindu temple
Wikimedia

How did the civilization collapse? Hard evidence points towards the failure of Water management system. But the debate is still going on. Surprisingly the temple was never abandoned, a group of Buddhist monks stayed there and aggressively worked to save the religious place for over centuries. This also gradually resulted in the transformation of a Hindu Temple into a Buddhist temple.

In 1992, Angkor Wat was listed as World Heritage site in danger. Subsequently, it was removed from the endangered list, to be included as a World Heritage site. France, Japan and China have helped  in temple restoration project. India’s archaeological department had also chipped in the 1980s. Currently,  German Apsara Conservation project is in place to save the sculptures carved on the stones. Due to the continuous efforts of UNESCO and other nations Angkor Wat has become a major tourist spot with over 2 million people visiting this place every year. (Inputs from Aakash Sinha)(image-Unesco)

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Exclusive: Coping with the Stigma of Being an Ex Prisoner is not Easy, says Bengali Film Actor Nigel Akkara

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Ex prisoners
Ex prisoners working at Kolkata facilities management

By Deepanita Das

Sep 10, 2017:

“Every Fighter has that one fight that makes or breaks him- Elia Kazan.”

The above line sits appropriately on ex-convict turned actor Nigel Akkara who now wears self-belief as an accessory to fight his years of despair. But, what’s more interesting was that he came up with an intriguing idea for hundreds of ex-prisoners who had nothing to look forward to after they come out of prison.

NewsGram got in touch with Nigel Akkara about his take on the life after prison, establishing one of its kind organization to give job opportunities to ex-prisoners, counseling people to live a better life and much more.

What will a person do when completely rational people fail to cooperate or accept one as a part of the society? This is where Kolkata Facilities Management comes under the limelight.

Born in a middle-income Christian family in Kolkata in 1978, life almost went upside down for Akkara, after he stepped into the world of crime at the age of 15.

Nigel Akkara

One day, he went to a barber’s shop, where a fight broke out and as a consequence one person was dead. This was when he was still in school, but soon he got sucked into the crime world and became part of four gangs and got himself involved in kidnapping, extortion and contract killing.

He was arrested in December 2000 for his crimes and after serving nine years in jail.  He says how ironic it is that life after coming out of prison was much more challenging than it was while staying inside it.

When people around you become tone-deaf, it is time to be the ‘change’ rather hoping for one to happen. This is something Akkara believed in and followed with all his heart.

Akara was released from prison in 2009. “I will not deny it, that you carry a tag of being a criminal, it is indeed a psychological dilemma and people around you will look at you in a particular manner,” he said.

Uncertain about what to do after spending time in jail, and being rejected by several organizations due to “ex-prisoner” tag, he lost hope for a while and sat near the Tea Board of India office in Dalhousie where he saw men sweeping the streets in with long brooms to earn their living.

This incident stroked a thought that this is the only thing that doesn’t require any qualification. Later, “I cleaned offices too in the same year so that I can bear my expenses and fulfill my basic necessities,” he said.

On asking why a person in India cannot live a normal life after coming out of prison, Akkara said, “unemployment, illiteracy and political dramas are the primary factors behind this but what is good in West Bengal is that a prison is a correctional home for prisoners laced with education, proper food, and exams -therefore things changed for good in my case.”

There are 155 technical and vocational courses in the West Bengal prisons. Also in Berhampore, the prisons offer courses in mechanical engineering and prisoners are given certificate once they complete the course.

“There are dance and music therapies too correctional homes that can heal a person because at times it becomes lonely in there.  Theatre too is taught to people who have interest in it,” says Akkara.

Akkara found peace in spirituality and counseling other people later. He says, “ Spirituality has healed me a lot, and that personal connection to God is something I find peace in. I have conducted several music therapies for depressed people in several organizations like Psychogenesis Research Foundation, TCS and also in Jadavpur University.”

“When I started Kolkata facilities management, I realized that these people have hidden potential in them and therefore the area of work needed to be decided accordingly,” smiles Akkara.

To get a glimpse of the lives of these ex- prisoners and how they are dealing with the life after prison in an efficient manner, NewsGram had a chat with the employees of the organization (Kolkata Facilities Management), and it was interesting to look at how efficiently they are breaking the social stigmas that are attached to ex-prisoners-

 

Arijit Paul

The executive director of Kolkata Facilities Management, Arijit Paul (33) says, “I am with the organization for 2-3 years. I came out of prison in 2014 but I knew Nigel Akkara for last 15 years, he always had faith in me and had guided me throughout. It is sad that people are not ready to accept change but slowly times are changing.”

 

Md Ramzan

An employee of the organization, Md Ramzan (26), who is a resident of Satragachi was charged with a murder in 2007 but after serving a sentence, living a normal life and being accepted by people were the two things, Ramzan was looking for. He now works as a security guard.

Prasenjit Dutta

41-year-old Prasenjit Dutta used to work as a stuntman and as a body double in the movies, but now he has become a stunt director. He says the journey from 2000 to 2014 was tough enough to deal with. I tried to invest in a film too, but there were obstacles. Life was never easy for me. It is hard to come out of a situation when police, politicians form a team against you and people close to you get involved.” He went to prison for two months in Alipore Central Jail but used to keep himself engaged in the pujas performed in the jail premises. “I also worked as a Group D staff with Putihari Brojomohon Tiwari High School. Later on, I started working with Nigel from the sets of Yodha, and now I am like a family to him,” smiles Dutta.

Tarun Patra

Another employee of the organization, Tarun Patra (30), who is a resident of Sonarpur says, “I was a shop owner, seven years back I lost 6 lakhs due to which there was too much loan, and I had to shut down the shop. There was a fight where a person got killed, and therefore I  was arrested on the charge of murder.”  7 long years he was behind bars but, Patra never lost hope. He was also a tailor by profession, but because of the eyesight issues, he had to give up tailoring and soon after his parents also passed away. He now works as a security guard in an apartment in Kolkata.

What is important here is to take into account that a prisoner’s dilemma is beyond any doubt, a situation where self-interests and collective interests are at odds. This is high time for people in India to understand the crisis, be compassionate and sensitize themselves enough to accept ex-prisoners as a part of the society! 


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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India is The Most Corrupt Nation in Asia with Highest Bribery Rates of 69 %

More than half the respondents have had to pay a bribe in five of the six public services in India

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India is the most corrupt nation
India Against Corruption - Protesters in Bangalore - 22nd August 2011. Wikimedia
  • India has surpassed Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam and, Thailand concerning bribery rate with 69 percent, the highest on the list
  • Vietnam stood second on the list after India at 65 per cent bribery rate
  • India also holds account for the highest bribery rates in public schools and healthcare sector, with 58% per cent 59 per cent bribery rate respectively

Sep 03, 2017: Indian government is struggling hard to defeat the evils of corruption, but there is still a long way ahead to fulfill the objective of corruption free India. According to a survey released by the Transparency International (TI) in March 2017,  an anti-corruption global civil society organization reveals that India stands as the most corrupt country in Asia with 69 % bribery rate. In the survey, approximately 22,000 individuals spanning across 16 Asian countries participated over a period of 18 months starting in July 2015.

As reported by ANI which further cited Forbes’ article “Asia’s Five Most Corrupt Countries”, the issue of corruption is pervasive across Asia. The TI report says that India has surpassed Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam and, Thailand concerning bribery rate with 69 percent, the highest on the list.

It was mentioned that more than half the respondents have had to pay a bribe in five of the six public services namely-  hospitals, schools, police, utility services and, ID documents.

The article by Forbes also hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for persistent efforts to eradicate corruption from India.

Also Read: Not Just Journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, these 9 People too Bore the Brunt of Speaking Truth to Fight Corruption 

“However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fight against corruption has made a mark: 53 per cent of the people think he is going it fairly or very well. And it has led to people feeling empowered, as 63 per cent believe ordinary citizens can make a difference,” it stated.

Vietnam stood second on the list after India at 65 per cent bribery rate.

Pakistan stands fourth on the list with 40 per cent bribery rate. About three-fourths of respondents in Pakistan consider mostly the policemen to be corrupt. It said that seven in ten people had to cajole police officers or the courts for a bribe. When asked about the change in the situation, people sounded dejected when it comes to wiping out bribery from the nation. Only one third feel that ordinary citizens can make a difference.

Last year, India was placed 76th out of 168 countries surveyed by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog in its Corruption Perception Index, mentioned ANI.

India’s corruption perception has been the same consecutively for two years 2015 and 2014’s  as 38/100, which shows no improvement in the scenario.

According to the March 2017 statistics, Pakistan most likely of all was the country to have higher bribes legal institutions. While in India, the police bribery rate was 54 per cent.

India also holds an account for the highest bribery rates in public schools and healthcare sector, with 58% per cent 59 per cent bribery rate respectively.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.