@UC: News & Events at the University of Cambodia, March 2008
University of Cambodia Hosts Launching Ceremony for Dancing in Shadows: My Five Years in Cambodia ’92 – ’97 by Dr Benny Widyono
Wednesday 12th March saw the University of Cambodia present a further addition to the Dr Handa Eminent Lecture Series. Dr Benny Widyono, former Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Cambodia, was at the University to launch his new book, Dancing in Shadows: My Five Years in Cambodia. In addition, Dr Widyono was able to call on fascinating recollections when conducting a sometimes controversial discussion about this period of transition from chaos to order in Cambodia.
Dr Widyono has chosen an enigmatic title for his work, yet it introduces with as much precision as possible a murky and lamentable tale of repeated failures in conflict resolution and international diplomacy. It is peopled by a shadowy list of characters, some of whom were suave, plausible, potentially lethal and ultimately self seeking. In tragic contrast, many acted and acted again out of a misguided attempt to create an inclusive settlement amongst numerous factions, some of which counted the late twentieth century’s most notorious mass murderers amongst their members. As these amorphous parties circled each other in a protracted, futile and fully armed dance, they were ineffectively chaperoned by toothless watchdogs such as UNTAC and the Supreme National Council.
Dr Widyono was at the center of these events and is thus eminently qualified to identify mistakes made at the time. His first criticisms were for the Paris Agreement of October 1991, which he saw as a cosmetic exercise with an unattainable agenda and a volatile mix of personnel. On the insistence of the United States and China, this mix included the Kampuchean “faction” or Khmer Rouge, whose genocidal proclivities were papered over in the name of inclusiveness.
Dr Widyono’s second criticism reaches further back in time and refers to the failure to take control of the existing political structures after 1979. Once Cambodia’s troubles entered the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the situation became truly absurd. As mentioned previously, the United States and China were eager to see elements of the Khmer Rouge form a government in the name of creating a “Comprehensive Settlement”. In contrast, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc Countries, Vietnam and India would only recognize the People’s Republic of Kampuchea. Given the powers of veto wielded by the great powers in the General Assembly, the “comprehensive settlement”, espoused by America and China was adopted.
Incredibly, this created a situation in which the only organization with sufficient de facto authority to govern – the P.R.K. was largely ignored in favour of the “Kampuchea Faction”, a grouping that included the Khmer Rouge. This latter “authority”, motivated by rabid anti Viet feelings, was confined to the Cambodia/Thailand border with occasional armed forays to perform ethnic cleansing on Vietnamese communities.
With the decline in interest from America, China and Vietnam, the inability of the Kampuchean Faction to form a rational government structure and the introduction of elections in May 1993, Cambodia was finally permitted to solve her problems for herself.
After this grimly compelling examination of the past, Dr Widyono was available to answer questions from the audience.
Dr Kao Kim Hourn, President of the University asked the first question, seeking to know why Dr Widyono was critical of the role played by King Sihanouk. Dr Widyono replied that under almost any other circumstances, the King’s preference for reconciliation would be seen as a highly commendable humanitarian measure. However, when dealing with lethal anomalies in human affairs such as fascism or the Khmer Rouge, justice is equally important as reconciliation.
A second questioner wanted to know about progress made in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Dr Widyono graciously called upon Dr Helen Jarvis, Chief of Public Affairs for the ECCC to answer this question. Dr Jarvis replied that the courts functioned under the requirement to balance prompt action with due process. The Court’s activities were further complicated by the necessity of communicating in three languages – Khmer, French and English. Finally, Dr Jarvis made an unfavourable comparison between the $20 million her courts had to work with and the $150 million devoted to the trials of former Yugoslavian war criminals. Her contribution to the afternoon’s discussion was rounded off by an invitation to visit the ECCC and a warm round of applause from the appreciative audience.
Further questioners asked about the relevance of the United Nations, given its inability to prevent international support for bodies such as the Khmer Rouge. Dr Widyono replied that in the context of the Cold War, great powers such as the U.S. could depend upon rubber stamp support from their client states. In contrast, today, the great powers are just as likely to follow their own agendas, but are no longer able to count on the unquestioning support of the United Nations, as illustrated by the organization’s refusal to back U.S. operations in Iraq.
Dr Kao Kim Hourn brought the afternoon’s discussion to a close in recognizing the role played by true humanitarians such as Dr Widyono and Dr Jarvis in forwarding the causes of justice and social stability.
The University of Cambodia is deeply grateful to both Dr Widyono and Dr Jarvis. Their measured, gentle and heart-felt treatment of what remains a searing topic is much appreciated.
University of Cambodia Debate Club (U.C.D.C.) in Action Once Again
On Tuesday 11th March, the University of Cambodia’s debate team was in action for a televised debate on subjects related to the environment and Cambodia’s development.
The first motion stated that management of the environment by public authorities is better than management by the community. U.C.D.C. was speaking in favour of the motion, their opponents from the Royal University of Law and Economics speaking in opposition.
The U.C.D.C. team’s preparedness and steely confidence saw them comfortably through to the next round.
The second motion saw U.C.D.C. pitted against debaters from Cambodia Mekong University, the motion being that environmental protection does not further development. It had been decided previously that once again, U.C.D.C. would speak in favour of the motion.
On this occasion, our team was unsuccessful. It is worthy of note however that U.C.D.C. was beaten by the slimmest of margins, with only three points separating the teams. This is all the more remarkable, given the difficult nature of the ground our team had to defend.
The University’s thanks for a very convincing performance go to…
Ms Kong Sokkhim
Ms Lim Srey Sros
Mr. Heng Kanal
Mr. Pen Vanndarong
University of Cambodia Hosts Mr. Thomas R. Snow Jr.: “New York City Watershed Program”
Dr Kao introduced this presentation with a view to identifying water conservation practices in New York State that might be usefully applied to the Cambodian situation especially in light of climate change.
According to Mr. Snow, the New York Watershed Program provides water for the 9 million inhabitants of New York City. It does so in a manner that is cost effective when compared to the alternatives and friendly to the environment.
The New York State Department for Conservation has developed a program to pay people to go about their business on the land above the water table in a manner that does not affect the natural supplies beneath. In addition, the Department has bought 32 000 hectares of land. Rather than develop it, the land has been managed so as to retain its productivity, but not at the expense of the waters contained within.
This approach to water conservation has cost the state $1.6 billion, but this figure compares favorably to the many more billions it would take to construct pumps and filtration systems.
According to Dr Kao, these ideas could be applied to Cambodian communities situated near the region’s great rivers. For instance, they could be paid to protect vegetation growing on the riverbanks, thus keeping the river within its proper course during the rainy season and providing a barrier to polluting agricultural run off.
Our thanks go to Mr. Thomas Snow and Dr Michael Bowker for their interesting and relevant presentation.
241 Students Graduate from UC’s Center for English Studies.
241 students, studying with the University’s Center for English Studies have graduated with flying colors this month. They have benefited from the Center’s mix of local and international instructors and are now prepared to embark upon academic studies with the Colleges of their choice, confident in their ability to overcome any linguistic challenge their studies may present.
The University is delighted to welcome so many well prepared undergraduate scholars and is eager to provide all assistance necessary in their path towards academic excellence.
UC Sends Delegates to Attend the ASEAN Tourism Curriculum Development Meeting.
ASEAN has recognized the desirability of adopting a standardized tourism policy, one that will promote a concerted approach to this vital sector of the region’s economy. The ASEAN Tourism Curriculum Development Meeting was announced to start the process of rationalizing the teaching of tourism subjects in universities across the region
The University of Cambodia sent Ms Gina Lopez to make her contribution to this meeting. She was able to describe a productive and cordial meeting in which interesting plans were discussed to further develop Cambodia's tourist sector within the wider framework of a unified South East Asian Tourist Hub.
University of Cambodia Benefits Once Again from Dr Rikhi Thakral’s Friendly Generosity
Dr Rikhi Thakral has, not once, but twice again demonstrated his commitment to the cause of Higher Education in Cambodia with further donations of books.
On March 11th, the Toshu Fukami Library was enriched with the addition of 34 texts on a range of relevant academic subjects. Dr Thakral enlarged this already generous donation on the 24th with a further 45 equally valuable works.
The University of Cambodia offers Dr Thakral her very deepest respects and thanks for this philanthropist’s unfailing support.
Ann-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, Donates Copies of her Book "The Idea That is America" to the Toshu Fukami Library
Following on from her visit to the University of Cambodia in December last year, Professor Anne Marie Slaughter has kindly donated three copies of her latest work, The Idea that is America.
The text seeks to re energize the traditional values so vital to the nation at its birth, but which, the Professor suspects have lost their emphasis. These values include liberty, democracy, equality, justice, tolerance, humility, and faith.
A casual and perhaps not entirely sympathetic observer may well question this list of qualities, given international developments of the 21st century. Yet Professor Slaughter sets each within its proper historical perspective and seeks to reintroduce their balancing influence in international politics and law.
The University of Cambodia thanks Professor Slaughter, again for her insightful comments presented last year and for the books she has so kindly donated.
University of Cambodia Student Accepted for Further Study in Belgium
Ms Phat Sreymom, a former Business Administration student of the University of Cambodia has been accepted to continue her studies at the University College, Katholieke Hogeschool in Belgium.
An excited Ms Sreymom said she was feeling wildly enthusiastic about the prospects ahead of her, but she would always feel gratitude towards UC. She stated that the organization had provided her with the best preparation possible for education in a European country and thanked the staff for all their efforts on her behalf.
The University wishes Ms Sreymom all the very best in her future endeavors and we look forward to hearing new of her continued and impressive development.
The University of Cambodia Announces Plans to Celebrate her Fifth Anniversary.
To celebrate five years of providing quality education, the University has announced plans to celebrate its fifth anniversary which will fall on Sunday 22nd June.
The University’s staff and students are planning a day of spectacular entertainment, including a fashion show, dance performances, jokes, singing, presentations and sketches, with delicious food thrown into the bargain.
All students past and present as well as all instructors are invited to attend this special day, in celebration of five years of academic excellence.
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