CAMBODIA |2006 - 2008

 
 

In Cambodia, I wrote for The Cambodia Daily, a Khmer-English newspaper that Bernard Krisher magically maintained on a shoestring for nearly 25 years, until a specious tax bill forced it to close in 2017. I picked up work for Newsweek, the Christian Science Monitor, Deutsche Welle radio, the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others. These are some of the stories I remember best.


newsweekB&W.png
 
641955.jpg

By ERIKA KINETZ | Mar 15, 2008

Some of the world's leading computer makers don't want you to know about Local Technic Industry. It's a typical Malaysian company, one of many small makers of the cast-aluminum bodies for hard-disk drives used in just about every name-brand machine on the market. But that's precisely the problem: it's a typical Malaysian company. About 60 percent of Local Technic's 160 employees are from outside Malaysia—and a company executive says he pities those guest workers. 

                                                                                                                           READ MORE>>   


 

By ERIKA KINETZ  | OCTOBER 5, 2007

The long overdue trials of surviving Khmer Rouge leaders now appear to be threatened by defects in the United Nations-backed tribunal set up last year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The court, dubbed the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), suffers from leadership and management problems so severe that the UN should either take much firmer control or consider getting out entirely. That, at least, was the conclusion of two stark assessments—one by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) and the other by two UN experts—that became public in the last two weeks, putting the cash-strapped tribunal under increasing pressure to reform.       
                                                                                                         READ MORE>>


CAMBODIA'S SPIRITS STIR, TOE TO SPINE

By ERIKA KINETZ | OCTOBER 7, 2007

PHNOM PEN, Cambodia -  THE spirits came in February -- teachers, giants and angels. The first arrived on a windy Thursday, and they stayed, roiling on in succession through the small, supple body of Chao Socheata until her distraught mother dragged her to the local pagoda, where a monk pressed three broken sticks of incense to her head, beat her with the stems of a banana tree and wrapped a magical string around her waist. Protection enough, as it turned out, against the darker aspects of the spirit world.  Ms. Chao Socheata -- a 21-year-old dancer in ''Pamina Devi,'' the choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro's retelling of Mozart's ''Magic Flute,'' which opens a six-day run on Tuesday at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan -- spent much of February weeping, part of it yelling and part of it in a kind of transfixed ecstasy in which she would teach things that she did not know.
                                                                                                       READ MORE>>


Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 11.58.14.png

IN CAMBODIA, A CLASH OVER HISTORY OF THE KHMER ROUGE

By ERIKA KINETZ |  May 8, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, May 7 -- In a country where half the students who enter grammar school never finish, Cheak Socheata, 18, is among the most privileged of her generation: She made it to college. But even Cheak, a first-year medical student at Phnom Penh's University of Health Sciences, has learned next to nothing in school about the Khmer Rouge, who in a little less than four years in power executed, tortured and starved to death an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, about a quarter of the population.

washington post.png

LAND DISPUTE UNEARTHS TENSION

By ERIKA KINETZ  | July 4, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- His grandmother's bones went missing two years ago, not long after the rains stopped. "The grave is all rubber trees" now, said Sev Thveal, 23. Part of the Jarai minority, he can barely read and write and has worked the land so long that his toenails are a permanent shade of brown. He and 11 villagers are alleging in court that a wealthy businesswoman named Keat Kolney, whose husband and brother are senior figures in the Cambodian government, has illegally taken land belonging to 70 rural families to make way for a rubber plantation.

 


 
6_small.jpg
Gunnar Bergstrom speaks with Khmer Rouge leaders at a cooperative in Takeo province. 

Gunnar Bergstrom speaks with Khmer Rouge leaders at a cooperative in Takeo province. 

 

REPORTING FROM CAMBODIA

On September 11, 2006, I left Brooklyn for Phnom Penh. The date was still tainted by memories of an airplane flying into the Twin Towers, so tickets were really cheap. At the time there were no tall buildings in Phnom Penh and certainly no Starbucks, but it was easy enough to find good baguettes.

People in Cambodia still didn’t trust books, not even the writers. I was there when Youk Chhang’s Documentation Center of Cambodia   finally published the first school textbook on the Khmer Rouge years.

Before that, those with curiosity and access to a television generally considered Roland Joffe’s 1984 film, “The Killing Fields” an authoritative enough source.  

I wrote extensively about the ECCC, the UN-backed tribunal for a handful of aging Khmer Rouge leaders.

I also covered slavery in global supply chains for Newsweek, a story that brought me to a dusty village where there was no food in sight anywhere. Just slim boys with fishing poles. We won a human rights reporting award from the Society of Publishers in Asia for that.

I rode on the back of a motorbike seven hours into the jungle in the rain (we had been advised elephants would be a wiser way to travel, but couldn’t find any affordable ones for hire), got stung by a scorpion on the way and ended up at a gold mine guarded by Chinese armed with automatic weapons. Outside the Chinese company’s fence, half-naked artisanal miners scaled a sheer, muddy pit trying to dig up gold with their hands. There were children there too.
 

 


MY FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT                    CAMBODIA

1. When the War Was Over
    Elizabeth Becker

2. Pol Pot: Anatomy of a
     Nightmare

     Philip Short

3. The Lost Executioner
     Nic Dunlop

4. River of Time
     Jon Swain

5. First They Killed My Father
    Loung Ung

 

 


AN ENTERPRISING HEART: GOLD FEVER GRIPS THE CAMBODIAN JUNGLE

By ERIKA KINETZ and YUN SAMEAN

The scavengers, a dozen men, women, and children, wait all day in the slim shade of two trees, hoping for an opportunity to grab an armful of stones from the mountain of broken rock cast off by the Chinese mining company that came to Prey Meas – literally “Forest of Gold” – two years ago. Today Prey Meas, which lies within the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, is less forest than gold.  Its river runs gray and great pools of rust-colored water have settled onto the parched earth.

READ MORE>>

POL POT'S FORMER DINNER GUEST ADMITS TO LAPSSE IN JUDGMENT

BY ERIKA KINETZ | NOVEMBER 23, 2007

In 1979, Gunnar Bergstrom chang­ed his mind. Mere months before, the drug counselor from the hard, dark north of Sweden had eaten oysters with Pol Pot and Ieng Sary at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. This, depending on one’s perspective, makes Berg­strom something of a moral prodigy. “In Sweden, Communists in the 50s supported Stalin. It took them 30 years to realize they were wrong,” he said.


READ MORE>>