Transiting – from the Past through the Present into the Future

The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) carries, with every e-mail sent, the following line:

“…a society cannot know itself if it does not have an accurate memory of its own history.”

Have a look – click! – at their resources: the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor, and the Sleuk Rith Institute – the latter is a Permanent Documentation Center of Cambodia, explaining that it refers to “Sleuk Rith, dried leaves that Cambodian religious leaders and scholars have used for centuries to write on them and to document history, disseminate knowledge, and preserve culture.”

There are many people who do not share this conviction. They say we just have to be positive, look into the future, forget the past, newer waste time looking back whatever it was, things will be all right if we just think of and trust in a better future.

I cannot share this disregard for the foundations on which we may build the future, our future.

There are lots of reasons to look back when looking ahead. Because we hope the future will not continue to repeat some problems of the past, but allow us to have a “happy new year” as most greetings around this time of transition from 2011 to 2012 say. I collected some of the wishes I got:

– bring many opportunities to your way – OK
– to explore every joy of life – every?
– wishing you the best – thanks
– reaching impossible heights – impossible hights carry the danger to fall down deeply
– happy holidays and a healthy and successful 2012 – healthy, OK, but what is success?
– a happy new year with all your wishes fulfilled – all?
– turning all dreams into reality – but the dreams of some are the nightmares of others
– a very happy new year full of health – it did not work well for 2011
– great opportunities for Internet synergies – OK, let’s continue to work on it
– safe holidays – safe holidays at home, not on the road; most people in the country do not travel
– now free installation for $100 – a surprise as even “free” costs $100
– health, prosperity – health: taking care and listening to the doctor; prosperity: I need more advice
– turning all efforts into great achievements – agreed, achievements require efforts
– building a peaceful society through education – all the educated who have power agree?
– peace and prosperity – some fights for more prosperity take the peace away from others
– Happy holidays! and everything else for a happy 2012 – what everything?

What is the reason for repeating so many nice generalizations year after year, which have not been fulfilled after similar ones were sent a year ago?

So this is the challenge: we cannot know ourselves if we do not have an accurate memory of our own past. To go with a clear mind into 2012 requires that we reflect seriously about 2011. What, then, would be a happy new year?

Surely not the same for everybody individually. But I personally hope for an environment where it is easier to understand simply and clearly the rules of life that can be trusted for all of us. For a society, that means to know what the laws governing society are clear, and that they are the same for all.

Unfortunately, there are many examples remembered from the past year which have created confusion. What happened, and why, has to be clarified, faced, and properly dealt with, so that things from the past that went wrong will not be repeated in the future. We have to know what went wrong in the past, to trust that it is possible to change things – they will not just change automatically, changes require action. Without this hope it is not easy to look confidently towards the future.

On 30 December 2011, there were the following two headlines on facing pages in The Cambodia Daily, to which I add some explanatory background information from various previous reportings:

Pardon for Vera Elusive After Ministers Meet

Two Thai nationals, Mr.Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, Ms. Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, were arrested after crossing into Cambodia on 29 December 2010. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court had convicted them for spying, illegal entry into Cambodia, and entering a restricted military area. They were sentenced to jail for eight and six years respectively.

On 29 December 2011, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was reported to have confirmed the government’s official position that Mr. Veera and Ms. Ratree would have to serve out at least two thirds of their jail terms first; adding that concerning the pardon, there is the law and only prisoners who have served two thirds of their jail term can get a royal pardon from the King.

Two-thirds of 8 and 6 years are 5 ½ and 4 years.

Early Release of Pedophiles condemned by Rights Group

On 20 December 2011, Alexander Trofimov (his real name is sometimes stated to be Stanislav Molodjakov) was pardoned and released from prison. He had been convicted for sexual crimes – the largest conviction of one person in Cambodia. In 2007 he was charged for buying sex from six girls between the ages of 6 and 16 – but after that, 13 more girls accused the Russian businessman of sexually abusing them. He was convicted to serve 17 years in jail.

Before his arrest he was leading a Russian-led investment group developing Koh Pous (Snake Island) into a high class tourism “mega resort” through a US$300 million project.

But there are further mysteries. A Ministry of Interior official said Trofimov’s name was not on the list of 642 inmates that had been sent to the King for pardons and reduced sentences for the mass release in December. Liv Mauv, a deputy head of the ministry’s department of prisons, said, “I don’t know what special condition allowed Alexander Trofimov to be pardoned,” explaining that inmates must serve two-thirds of their sentence before they are eligible for pardon.

Since 2003, many foreigners were jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries. He is also being investigated in Russia in connection with child sex allegations. But a request by the Russian government to extradite Trofimov had been rejected by the Cambodian appeals court in 2007, where his prison sentence of 17 years was reduced to 7 or 8 years (according to different reports).

In the Russian press it was also reported that the

Cambodia’s King pardons Russian pedophile. The pedophile was granted amnesty by King Norodom Sihamoni…

Trofimov’s case has been the highest profile case in Cambodian history as it involved the largest number of underage victims molested by one person. The country is riddled with poverty and police corruption, and has long been known as “pedophile heaven.” Several years ago, the government of Cambodia decided to fight for a better image of the country.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

Mr. Pavel Seskanov, the head of the consular section of the Russian embassy in Phnom Penh, was quoted to have said on 27 December 2011 that the Russian embassy had requested the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking for an update on a renewed Russian extradition request.

So far, it is not publicly known where the person sought is, nor what kind of response the Cambodian government is giving to the Russian embassy.

Two-thirds of 17 years would have been more than 11 years; after the reduction to 7 years two thirds is more than 4 ½ years.

My own big wish for 2012?

That law and law enforcement become more transparent, less mysterious, with less contradictions. And therefore more just. So that poor moto-doub motorcycle taxi drivers are not held up by a group of several police with walkie-talkies, tracking them, and fining them, for not having the correct double rear-view mirrors – which they should have, as it improves their own safety – while big black cars race along at the same time, crossing the middle line of a road, with or without having number plates, endangering others. But the police does not care. Or why can they not care in such cases?

Only by remembering and facing what was and is wrong, there may be a way to overcome it.

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