Thursday November 14, 2019

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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Vietnamese Citizens Looking for Healthful Food Products, Only to End Up with Anything but that

This is not that story, at least in Vietnam

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Vietnamese, Citizens, Food
Various types of fruit are on display at a Vietnamese supermarket. Many consumers are switching to ready-to-eat, processed foods instead of relying on their traditional, plant-heavy diets. (H. Nguyen/VOA) VOA

There’s a familiar trend of fast food chains like KFC and Burger King entering developing countries, where citizens start to see obesity rates increase amid all the new junk food options. Vietnamese.

This is not that story, at least in Vietnam. The junk food trend has certainly come to Vietnam already, but now there’s an even newer trend in the country, and it’s the definition of irony:  more Vietnamese citizens are looking for food products that are healthful — only to end up with products that are anything but that.

A Vietnam food puzzle

Sugar is the ingredient that perhaps best exemplifies this irony. The problem is not that Vietnamese are eating large amounts of candy and ice cream, though some are doing that. Instead, they’re buying products like fruit juices and yogurt, not realizing that all the added sugar may outweigh the health benefits of the fruit. Products are packaged in labels that appeal to citizens’ health goals.

Vietnamese, Citizens, Food
Fast food chains like McDonald’s are growing in Vietnam. (H. Nguyen/VOA VOA

This is part of a broader change across Vietnam, where companies are selling more ready-to-eat meals and processed foods to citizens who used to buy vegetables and eggs directly from farms. The change is leading to obvious business opportunities. For instance, the Nutifood Nutrition Food Joint Stock Company recently got an expected debt rating of B+ from Fitch Ratings, which predicts the company will profit from more Vietnamese buying health foods.

“The government has introduced initiatives to address malnutrition and stunting, whose levels remain high by global standards,” Fitch Ratings said in an explanation of its expected rating. “Fitch also expects a high birth-rate and consumers increasingly seeking convenience with nutrition will continue to drive demand for Nutifood’s products, particularly its ready-to-drink products.”

Moderation is the goal

Milk and related products sold by Nutifood and its competitors highlight the balance that is hard to strike in the national diet. Vietnam for years encouraged parents to give their children milk so the next generation would be taller and have stronger bones. Today however, obesity is a bigger problem than undernourishment, having increased 38 percent from 2010 to 2014 — the highest in Southeast Asia. That’s why Vietnam does not use the term “undernourished” but “malnourished” to describe its whole range of nutritional issues.

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In other areas there’s low awareness of dietary risks, such as the overreliance on MSG and salt, usually in the form of fish sauce and soy sauce, two very popular ingredients in Vietnamese food. Sugar, however, is the more recent trend. Companies were able to influence nutritional recommendations for decades, by focusing on fat rather than sugar as a source of health complications. So Vietnamese have added sweeteners to their food and drink without a second thought. Go to a cafe, and the waiter will automatically put sugar in an order of coffee or mango juice unless the customer says otherwise. In nearby Indonesia citizens like to joke that they have their sugar with some tea, rather than have tea with sugar. Something similar could be said of Vietnam.

People have many choices

Companies like Pepsi and McDonald’s have tried to put the focus on exercise, rather than diet, for good health. Naturally active lifestyles are decreasing in Vietnam, as people move from the countryside to the cities, and from hard labor to office jobs. Citizens often get on their motorbikes to drive just one block, and walking in the cities, with 100-degree weather and few sidewalks, is hard. On top of that, citizens use new Uber-like services to have drinks or meals delivered. Researchers agree exercise and diet are both important, but the latter has a bigger impact on health.

“Vietnamese consumers care about their health more than ever,” Louise Hawley, managing director of Nielsen Vietnam, said.

Vietnamese, Citizens, Food
Vietnamese citizens are increasingly replacing their fruit with juice, not realizing that all the added sugar contained in juices could outweigh health benefits. (H. Nguyen/VOA) VOA

That makes awareness all the more important. It is one thing to eat unhealthful food, while not caring about the effects. It is quite another thing to eat unhealthful food, however, because one thinks it’s nutritional.

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The growing health concern in Vietnam has to do with not just nutrition, but also air pollution, water quality, and clean supply chains. A Nielsen survey showed health became the top concern of Vietnamese citizens in the second quarter, surpassing job security, cost of living, and work-life balance. “With the current situation relating to pollution and increased consumer awareness,” Hawley said, “health is expected to continue to be a top concern of Vietnamese consumers in the third quarter of 2019.” (VOA)