The Khmer Rouge followed a harsh brand of communism, killing nearly two million people in their bid to return Cambodia to Year Zero. Now they have a new faith: evangelical Christianity. \nHundreds of former fighters have been baptized in the past year. The Khmer Rouge's mountain stronghold, the town of Pailin in southwest Cambodia, has four churches, all with pastors and growing congregations. At least 2,000 of those who followed Pol Pot, the guerrillas' former leader who died six years ago, now worship Jesus. Many new converts were involved in the bloody battles, massacres and forced labor programs that led to the Killing Fields. Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge sought to eradicate religion, ripping down the country's biggest cathedral, killing Muslim clerics and turning Buddhist temples into pigsties. According to one pastor, 70 percent of the converts in Pailin are Khmer Rouge. For many, it offers a hope of salvation. \n"When I was a soldier I did bad things. I don't know how many we killed. We were following orders and thought it was the right thing to do," said Thao Tanh, 52. "I read the Bible and I know it will free me from the weight of the sins I have committed." \nThe Khmer Rouge have been the focus of a drive by US-based religious groups. Lee Samith, a senior aide of Pailin's governor, was a military intelligence officer for the Khmer Rouge and one of the cadres to convert. He had been repeatedly visited by a missionary from a Colorado-based group, who showed films of the life of Christ. \n"I opened my heart and Jesus came in," said Lee, 36. Like 90 percent of Cambodians, he was previously a Buddhist. Now he is involved in the New Life Presbyterian Church, on the outskirts of Pailin. Its wooden walls are covered with Christmas decorations and colorful posters portraying the life of Jesus. \nBut Lee has yet to shed all his former ideology. "Pol Pot had good ideas for Cambodia and for all people," he said. "Only foreigners talk about genocide. Deaths due to class conflict are inevitable." \nAfter being ousted from Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, in 1979 by the Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge withdrew to the mountains to fight a series of regimes. \nBut the Khmer Rouge has now largely been brought in from the cold. Pailin's governor is a member of the Cambodian Prime Minister's party, despite being a former bodyguard of Pol Pot. His deputy, Kuoet Sothea, a key aide of the genocidal leader, said that many of his former comrades-in-arms "feel sorry for what they did." \nSeveral senior figures, such as "Duch" -- Kang Kek Ieu -- who ran the S21 complex in Phnom Penh where an estimated 16,000 people died, have converted to Christianity. Their new faith offers more than spiritual comfort. After years of negotiation with the UN, the Cambodian government has reluctantly agreed to put those responsible for the genocide of the late 1970s on trial. Several Khmer Rouge leaders live in villas in Pailin, profiting from large farms, logging of hardwood forests and gem mining. Though many are old, they now fear dying in prison. Christian repentance is likely to mitigate any sentence they might receive. \nKun Lung, 49, started as a bodyguard for the senior commanders and became the Khmer Rouge's best-known propagandist, responsible for bloodcurdling broadcasts on their infamous radio station. He was baptized recently and now organizes Pailin Radio, describing "God's work."
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications