Daily Archives: March 29, 2009

Karzai Says US War Strategy ‘Better Than Expected’

VOA News | Mar 28, 2009

By Barry Newhouse

karzai-pointingThe presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan welcomed the Obama administration’s new plan for the conflict in the region on Saturday, with each highlighting key parts of the strategy for praise.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has come under strong international criticism in recent months for running a weak and corrupt central government. Some critics have included former U.S. officials, who accuse members of his family of profiting from the opium trade.

But the Afghan leader also has had harsh words for international forces operating in his country, condemning airstrikes and nighttime raids that kill civilians.

Despite those tensions, Mr. Karzai was full of praise on Saturday for the new U.S. strategy, saying it turned out better than he expected.

“I am in full agreement with the new strategy announced,” he said. “It is exactly what the Afghan people were hoping for and were seeking, therefore it has our full support and backing.”

The Afghan leader said the plan identifies crucial problems such as improving Afghan institutions and reconstruction efforts, targeting terrorist sanctuaries and including more countries in the region, such as Iran, in discussing the situation.

Mr. Karzai also identified government corruption as an area that needs attention, but he did not elaborate.

The Obama plan advocates boosting troop levels as well as increasing foreign aid and sending in hundreds of civilians to help improve government institutions. The plan also calls for reconciliation efforts that could include holding talks with Taliban factions willing to abandon the insurgency.

President Karzai said to create the right environment for reconciliation, the United Nations should remove some Afghans named on its terrorist blacklist. Those on the list are banned from international travel and may have their foreign bank accounts and assets frozen.

“The right environment means, first of all, looking at the list with the United Nations and removing names that are not part of al Qaida, that are not part of a terrorist network, that are just there because somebody decided to put them in,” said the Afghan leader.

While most of the new resources and troops in President Obama’s strategy are headed for Afghanistan, his announcement focused on problems in Pakistan, especially in the tribal border region. There, terrorist sanctuaries and alleged links between militant groups and state intelligence and military branches have drawn widespread concern about the government’s ability to take on the threat.

President Obama said Friday that multiple intelligence estimates have warned al Qaida is actively planning attacks on American territory from safe-havens in Pakistan.

President Asif Zardari, addressing Pakistan’s parliament, said the government is addressing the problem.

“The government will not allow the use of its soil for terrorist activities against any other country,” he said. “We will also not allow anyone to violate our sovereignty. The sovereignty of Pakistan must be protected at all costs – it will be.”

Unmanned American drone planes that strike suspected terrorist targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas are routinely denounced as violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The operations are highly unpopular among Pakistanis, but are believed to occur with the tacit consent of the government.

Nearly all of Mr. Zardari’s speech before parliament addressed domestic concerns. He only spoke briefly about the new U.S. plans for the region but said President Obama’s policies represent “positive change.”

“I welcome President Obama’s call to the congress to pass the bill for $1.5 billion aid to Pakistan every year,” said Mr. Zardari. “The U.S. presidency now approaches and presents a positive change. It is an endorsement of our call for economic, social uplifts as a means of fighting extremism.”

The new U.S. strategy calls for regular high level meetings among U.S., Afghan and Pakistani leaders. Special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, is scheduled to visit Pakistan next week for talks.

New film offers a chilling view of forced sterilization

Winston Salem Journal | Mar 29, 2009

By John Railey

War Against the Weak, which will be shown at a Durham film festival Thursday, shows how frighteningly easy it is for misguided scientists to fan flames of prejudice, enlist the powerful against the weak and land on the wrong side of history.

The film deals with the junk science of eugenics, and how it led to the forced sterilization of about 65,000 Americans in the 20th century, including more than 7,600 men, women and children in North Carolina. The lead editorial on the opposite page tackles our state’s fledgling effort to right the wrongs of its sterilization program, which ran from 1929 through 1974.

War Against the Weak, based on a book by Edwin Black, is produced by Peter Demas and directed by Justin Strawhand. It supplies a national context for the eugenics story. It chills you, from its opening interview with an elderly survivor of sterilization in Hitler’s Germany.

And before you can say, “It can’t happen here,” the film’s fast-moving shots sweeps you back to the dawn of the 20th century in America. As the first cars were hitting the road and the first planes were taking to the skies, “eugenicists” who considered themselves progressive were mapping ways to take control of Darwin’s “Natural Selection” and create their own master race, one that sterilization would rid of the “the Submerged Tenth,” which included the feebleminded, the blind, the deaf and the epileptic.

The movement swept the country, spawning best-selling books and its own newspaper. When the Supreme Court upheld sterilization in a Virginia case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

The relatively few critics of the eugenics movement had a hard time being heard.

Good intentions degenerated to bullying the weak into sterilization. In limited cases, none of which have been reported as having occurred in North Carolina, the movement included euthanasia of babies.

Among those who embraced the American eugenics movement was Adolf Hitler.

Germans studied eugenics in America. American scientists financed by the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation backed the work of the Germans, according to the film. American eugenicists visited programs in Germany, praising them even as the rest of the world began to realize just what a madman Hitler was. The film makes a strong argument that the German eugenics movement led to the Holocaust and all its crimes, including Josef Mengele and his atrocious “medical” experiments on concentration camp prisoners.

After World War II, when the horrors of Hitler’s Germany were revealed, most American states backed off their eugenics programs. But North Carolina accelerated its program. In Winston-Salem, prominent families helped to form a Human Betterment League. Some doctors at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine participated in the eugenics movement. The Wake Forest University School of Medicine apologized for the involvement of those doctors after it was revealed in a Journal investigative series in 2002.

There were occasional articles about the program and editorials in support of it in the Journal and other papers at the time. But for the most part, it operated under the radar and without controversy. The eugenics board, sitting in Raleigh, approved most of the petitions for sterilization for people they’d never seen. The reasons included “feeblemindedness,” a description that was often based on faulty intelligence testing. Some victims were sterilized just because they were promiscuous.

By the 1960s, the state program was targeting poor black women. Just as the national eugenics movement took hold during a time of major scientific advances, North Carolina’s backward movement continued through a time when many thought the state was progressive.

As we enter a world where there’s a fine line between gene therapy and gene enhancement, it’s useful to remember how easy it is get on the wrong side of history.

(War Against the Weak will be shown Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham. For more information, click on fullframefest.org)

New Revelations Provide More Evidence Paperless Voting Not Safe

Progressive States Network | Mar 26, 2009

Three recent revelations about electronic voting machines highlight the maddening lack of security in paperless elections, and emphasize why paper ballot voting with robust post-election audits are a basic requirement for secure elections.

The Premier “Delete” Button, Discarding Votes Made Easy:  The California Secretary of State’s Office recently completed their investigation on the cause of almost 200 lost votes in the 2008 general election in Humboldt County.  Faulty software from Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold) was to blame, as it was in Ohio.  Both California and Ohio are suing Premier over the botched product.  Premier originally denied there were any flaws in its software, alternately blaming the issue on user error and anti-virus software, but has now acknowledged they are at fault.

The investigation, however, uncovered an even more troubling problem – the machines used in Humboldt County and elsewhere had an erase button that allowed the machine’s audit logs to be “zeroed out” with the touch of a button.  Not only does such a capability fatally undermine the security of these machines, they were built in such a way that votes could be deleted without election workers noticing they had done so.  Premier was even made aware of the insanity of including such a function in their machines.  An e-mail from one of the system’s developers stated that “adding a Clear button is easy, but there are too many reasons why doing that is a bad idea.”

The report on this fiasco by the Sec. of State sums up the scope and depth of the problem this way:  “The Clear buttons … allow inadvertent or malicious destruction of critical audit trail records in all Gems version 1.18.19 jurisdictions, risking the accuracy and integrity of elections conducted using this voting system. Five years after the company recognized the need to remove the Clear buttons from the GEMS audit log screens, not only Humboldt, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties in California but jurisdictions in other parts of the country, including several counties in Texas and Florida, continue to use Gems version 1.18.19….”

CIA Cybersecurity Expert Warns Electronic Voting Inherently Insecure:  A CIA cybersecurity expert who specializes in assessing foreign threats to US election systems has warned the federal Election Assistance Commission that electronic voting is inherently insecure.  Steve Stigall was testifying on the likely rigging of electronic machines that has occurred in Venezuela, Macedonia, and Ukraine when he attacked the security of electronic voting in general.  According to a transcript of the hearing obtained by McClatchy Newspapers Stigall said, “[y]ou heard the old adage ‘follow the money’?  I follow the vote.  And wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that’s an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to . . . make bad things happen.”

Public Officials in Kentucky Indicted for Stealing Electronic Elections:  Political corruption and vote buying have been alleged in Clay County Kentucky for decades.  In an effort to counteract that tradition, the Department of Justice has indicted several public officials – including a judge, the county clerk, the school superintendent and members of the elections board – on vote buying and election fraud.  According to the indictment, the defendants not only conspired to steal elections the old fashioned way, but also exploited a vulnerability in their new ES&S iVotronic paperless voting machines.  The defendants are alleged to have duped voters into leaving the voting booth after they had pressed the “vote” button, which doesn’t actually cast the vote, but brings up a review screen where a voter confirms their selections.  Once the voter had left the booth, corrupt election workers went in and changed their votes.

This case is significant for a couple reasons.  The first is that the major defense used by voting machine vendors regarding the flaws in their products has been that none of the problems have ever resulted in a stolen election.  If the DOJ is correct, several elections were stolen in Kentucky on electronic machines.  Second, the fact that using electronic voting machines is confusing enough that many voters can be tricked into leaving the booth before they have actually cast their ballot is a critical vulnerability in these systems that has not previously been appreciated.

Revelations like those outlined above just add to the overwhelming evidence that elections without paper records cannot be secure.  And while a majority of voters in the US now cast their ballots on paper, there are still a large number of voting jurisdictions that plug their ears to the growing drum beat of warnings and defend these indefensible voting systems.  Progressive leaders in these states must stand up for the rights of their constituents to free and fair elections by demanding paper ballot elections that create a permanent record of the votes, as well as strong post-election audits to detect any errors or fraud.

Soldier Recruitment Inside Jails Exposed

I-Team Exposes Soldier Recruitment Inside Jails

10News | Mar 26, 2009

By Lauren Reynolds

SAN DIEGO — Andre Rayas committed murder with military precision, and it was caught on camera.

Using a high-powered rifle, Rayas gunned down police Sgt. Howard Stevenson, a married father and police veteran.

Rayas, who died in the shootout in Northern California, learned his tactics as a Marine at Camp Pendleton, an example of the dangers of gangs in the U.S. military.

Hunter Glass is an Army veteran, former detective and gang expert. He said a military gang member is a threat because, “He understands fire power, technology, he understands how to shoot.”

The 10News I-Team spent two years investigating military gang members, revealing their growing numbers among sailors, Marines and soldiers.

The I-Team captured illustrations of gang activity, including Bloods and Crips on the dance floor at Fort Bragg, who first flashed gang signs and then turned on each other.

The I-Team’s investigation showed the brutality of gang initiation with dramatic video of a young man being beaten harshly by six or seven gangsters.

There are actually 19 separate gangs with members in the military, according to the National Gang Intelligence Center. They include gangs from all races such as Mongols, MS 13, Vice Lords, Asian Boyz and the Mexican Mafia.

The Center’s threat assessment for 2009 said military gang members pose a “unique threat” because of their “distinctive military skills” and “willingness to teach … fellow gang members.”

Peggy Daly-Masternak of Ohio is a longtime educator who is also part of a group that monitors military recruitment.

“When you take a convicted felon, a street criminal, and train them to be a marksman, I think they’re a deadly danger once they get back,” she said.

She saw the I-Team’s first investigation of military gangs last October, which received national attention. Her group’s research echoes what others have told the I-Team — that the war in Iraq put a strain on military recruitment.

TJ Leydon, a reformed white supremacist who served as a Marine for 3 years, said, “After the war in Iraq was going on for two-and-a-half years, all of a sudden the cream of the crop wasn’t coming in anymore.”

Daly-Masternak said some recruiters took drastic steps to fill their quotas.

The I-Team leaned of one who went behind bars, literally walking into a jail to see if any of those locked up would consider joining the ranks. It seemed outrageous, but the I-Team found proof.

It’s a press release dated July 14, 2008. It announced, “A New Program at Your Lincoln County Jail.”

The jail is in Oregon, and the new program involves an Army recruiter visiting the jail “to convey information to incarcerated individuals about serving in our armed forces.”

I-Team reporter Lauren Reynolds posed the question to Lt. Colonel Miguel Howe.

“Do you go into jails to recruit?” Reynolds asked.

His response was, “Absolutely not, absolutely not.”

In fact, it is misconduct, said Lt. Col. Howe, commander of the Army Southern California Recruiting Battalion. He spoke to the I-Team on behalf of the Department of Defense.

“It is a direct violation of Army and Department of Defense policy and regulations to recruit out of prisons, out of jails, anyone on probation or on parole,” said Howe.

He described the Lincoln County program as a mistake and said it was shut down.

Last October, the Department of Defense told the I-Team it does not have a problem with criminal gangs among its ranks, despite the estimate of 14,000 military gang members. That same month, the Department standardized for all services the way they grant conduct waivers. Those waivers allow some applicants with criminal histories to enlist.

“There are actually 11 people who review that application,” said Howe.

He said to keep unsavory characters out of the armed forces, the vetting process has been strengthened.

“There are over 140 questions that we ask that young person,” said Howe.

The U.S. military grants roughly 30,000 conduct waivers each year. Gang members were never supposed to be eligible.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy who invited the recruiter to jail defended the program last summer.

He is a veteran himself, and said it’s better to have petty criminals and first-time non-violent offenders in the military than locked up at a cost of $100 each per day.

Russia to “bring peace to Afghanistan”


Russia has a history of involvement in Afghanistan. It invaded the country in December 1979 and got bogged down in a bloody and costly guerrilla war with mujahedeen fighters.

CNN | Mar 27, 2009

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) — Russia said Friday it is ready to help normalize the situation in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces are battling the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban for control of the country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov read a message at a conference on Afghanistan from President Dmitry Medvedev in which the Russian leader pledged his support to bring peace to the Asian nation, said the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

“For its part, Russia is ready for active joint steps aimed at normalizing the situation in the country and ensuring its peaceful and creative development,” Medvedev was quoted as saying.

Speaking about helping to repair Afghanistan’s economy, Medvedev said, “In our view, here Afghanistan needs help and support like never before. … Russia is ready for active, joint steps aimed at stabilizing the situation in this country and securing its peace and progress.”

The key challenges in Afghanistan are “the fight against terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and transnational crime,” Medvedev’s message said.

The summit was held in Moscow by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — a regional security organization consisting of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Lavrov will attend a U.N. international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“The minister will outline the main results of the conference on Afghanistan in Moscow,” the ministry said, according to RIA Novosti.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the United Nations meeting.

A Chinese official said at Friday’s conference in Moscow that China will give $75 million in non-repayable financial aid to Afghanistan over the next five years, the Interfax news agency reported.

“To date, China has given over $180 million to Afghanistan and has completely written off its debts,” said Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Sung Tao.

The conference was held on the same day that U.S. President Barack Obama announced a “comprehensive” new strategy for the growing threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama’s plan calls for putting 4,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, passing legislation that would help the economies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, providing more training to bolster Afghan security forces and increasing civilian expertise to help develop Afghanistan’s economic, social and governmental institutions.

Russia has a history of involvement in Afghanistan. It invaded the country in December 1979 and got bogged down in a bloody and costly guerrilla war with mujahedeen fighters. Russia started withdrawing its troops in May 1988 and the last soldier left in February 1989.

Food giants may be secretly adding toxic nanoparticles to your groceries


An ice cream low in fat, but with the same fatty texture and flavour? Choice says it’s one use of nanotechnology that the food industry is researching. (Flickr: Jökull Sólberg Auðunsson, file photo)

“All the research at the moment tends to indicate nanoparticles have unusual toxicities…”

Some food giants are reported to be researching the technology, though none have publicly acknowledged it.

Consumer magazine Choice says nanotechnology is already used in around 800 products.

abc.net.au | Mar 28, 2009

Standards under scrutiny as food giants explore nanotechnology

By Rachael Brown for AM

An ice cream low in fat, but with the same fatty texture and flavour? Choice says it’s one use of nanotechnology that the food industry is researching.

Take a strand of your hair, divide its width by 100,000 and that’s the size of a nanoparticle, a tiny particle with the potential to create a big stir in the food world.

The technology promises to make food look and taste better but little is known about its health impact.

Some food giants are reported to be researching the technology, though none have publicly acknowledged it.

Europe is poised for a moratorium on the technology’s use in food, while Australia thinks its current regulatory standards are sufficient.

Consumer magazine Choice says nanotechnology is already used in around 800 products.

These include “invisible sunscreens”, where nanoscale particles of titanium dioxide give transparent protection from UV rays, according to Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn.

“There’s also shirts that don’t actually stain because they’ve copied the nano-structure of lotus leaves to create water repellent surfaces,” he said.

Mr Zinn says some of the food giants are exploring the use of the technology for food additives to enhance taste and texture.

“[They are] developing an ice cream that has lower fat content but has the same fatty texture and flavour,” he said.

“Food packaging can keep food fresher if you’re using nanomaterials. There’s a lot of applications; there’s a lot of work going on.”

But he says the food giants have been keeping hush on their research, and he is worried the technology could find its way into food and says consumers would be none the wiser and could get sick.

“Under current food code no requirement for any of this to be specifically labelled the use of nanoparticles,” he said.

“They’re so small they can actually enter cells and enter parts of the body, which might not routinely happen with normal food stuffs.

“That’s why we want to see a regime with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, where there is going to be much greater safety assessments carried out.”

The ABC contacted food giants Unilever, Kraft and Nestle.

Kraft and Nestle say they have no local nanotechnology research underway but neither could speak for their international arms.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand declined an interview.

The Australian Office of Nanotechnology oversees the authority and develops nanotechnology policy.

Spokesperson Craig Cormick says the office thinks Australia’s regulations are tough enough.

“A major report commissioned by the Australian Government by Monash University found that right across the board the regulatory systems in Australia are sufficient to cover most things,” he said.

“However, they did point to some areas where we have to do a lot more work to make sure we keep on top of these things.”

Associate Professor Thomas Faunce, from Australian National University’s Medical School, doubts the veracity of the Monash University report.

“All the research at the moment tends to indicate nanoparticles have unusual toxicities related to size and shape,” he said.

‘In this sort of climate it’s much better if regulatory authorities apply the precautionary principle and start developing nano-specific regulatory structures.

“If we don’t we’re going to have a catastrophe-driven approach to regulation, where we wait for a major public health crisis to arise because of nanoparticles causing toxicity in people.”

Ex-Khmer Rouge still dominate regions of Cambodia


A resident prays in front of skulls at a “Killing Fields” memorial in Batey district in Kampong Cham province, 125 km (78 miles) east of Phnom Penh, March 28, 2009. Former Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, will face his second trial for crimes against humanity on Monday. At least 40 witnesses are expected to testify against the former chief of Phnom Penh’s S-21 prison, where an estimated 14,000 people were tortured and killed. Reuters

AP | Mar 28, 2009


ANLONG VENG, Cambodia (AP) — Just as the chief Khmer Rouge torturer takes the stand before a United Nations-backed genocide tribunal, a mausoleum fit for a king will be unveiled for another murderous leader from the same regime.

The entombed Ta Mok, known to his victims as “The Butcher,” remains a revered figure in Anlong Veng because practically everyone here — from the district chief to the tourism promoter, from the wealthiest businessmen to dirt-poor farmers — was once Khmer Rouge.

This remote, rough-and-ready town is no aberration. Thirty years after the fall of their Maoist regime, former Khmer Rouge officials still run extensive enclaves across northwestern and northern Cambodia. After Anlong Veng, their last holdout, fell in 1998, Khmer Rouge officials abandoned their savage policies and took posts in the new power structure.

They appear unlikely to face justice for alleged crimes during a brutal 1975-1979 reign of terror under which some 2 million died.

“We were the former Khmer Rouge commanders so we knew the area and the people, so after we surrendered we were confident we would get similar positions — in the government, police, the military,” explains Pery Saroen, 55, Anlong Veng’s deputy district chief, whose superior is also a one-star army general. “When we handed over ourselves, our territory, we became part of the government. We had an agreement with the government and we knew they would forgive us.”

An equivalent scenario would have been known Nazi officials and military commanders, some with blood on their hands, serving in 1975 as West Germany’s mayors and ministers amid war crimes trials for their leaders.

Only five are expected to face trial. The first, Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Comrade Duch — headed Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 torture center. He is scheduled to testify at the end of the month before a joint international and Cambodian tribunal.

“It’s clear that not every Khmer Rouge cadre who carried out killings and crimes is going to come before the tribunal. We don’t believe it should stop at the top five most notorious figures. We could do more to bring justice to Cambodians,” says Sara Colm of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, echoing criticism of many Cambodians and foreign prosecutors.

Nhem Sarath, with the non-governmental Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, says villagers outside Khmer Rouge areas often ask why the court doesn’t try the many Khmer Rouge suspected of atrocities.

“They also ask us why the powerful leaders now running the country are also not arrested,” he says.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin were all Khmer Rouge commanders or officials, and now are unchallenged in their power. Other top positions are filled by their one-time comrades, including Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong and deputy prime ministers Men Sam On and Keat Chhun, who also holds the finance and economy portfolio.

Although no evidence has come to light implicating Hun Sen, a division commander, in Khmer Rouge crimes, he has sought to narrowly restrict those brought to justice because a number in his government and party are hiding skeletons in their closets.

Among the most notorious is Meah Mut, an ex-Khmer Rouge military official, who is on a prosecution “hit list” of at least five others they want to try. A brigadier general and adviser to the Defense Ministry, he lives in a lovely house amid a fruit orchard in Samlot, about 125 miles from Anlong Veng, in the northwest.

It was to this region that the Khmer Rouge leaders and thousands of followers fled when a Vietnamese invasion force toppled their regime in 1979. While Khmer Rouge in other areas of the country sought to quietly merge back into society, those in the northwest melted into the jungles and mountains to wage guerrilla war until the guns fell silent through an amnesty in 1998, the year Anlong Veng fell, and their leader, Pol Pot, died. All ex-Khmer Rouge in the region express loyalty to Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party.

David Chandler, a leading Cambodia historian due to appear as an expert witness at the tribunal, says the deal has proved a “standoff, a trade-off that suits both sides.”

“They are not going into dissidence or to secede. They have to behave to a certain extent but Hun Sen is not going to mess with them too much,” he says. “I don’t think these are dedicated left-wing thinkers or performers. I think they abandoned that and got into the money and the patronage situation and are perfectly happy.”

Many of the former Khmer Rouge claim to support the trial of their one-time leaders.

“To be honest, when ex-Khmer Rouge heard that the top five leaders would be tried, they said, ‘We don’t mind. Let’s do it,'” said Nhem En, another district deputy head who was S-21’s chief photographer and, like most former Khmer Rouge, points a finger at the leaders while denying any wrongdoing himself.

Ta Mok, who died a prisoner in 2006, is still much admired in Anlong Veng. His mausoleum, copied from ancient Angkorian temples by his rich grandson, will be completed almost to the day that Duch testifies.

“We regarded Ta Mok like a father who takes care of his children. He imposed restrictions and discipline but he gave us food, clothing, places to live,” recalls Chat Chay, a poor laborer and former Khmer Rouge soldier. He noted how Ta Mok, whose cruelty was legendary, built roads, a hospital, a bridge and a high school building.

The town’s 3,000 schoolchildren are taught nothing about their country’s Khmer Rouge past, and only a few posters about the trial have been put around school grounds, says elementary school Vice Principal Reak Smey. He is one of a sizable influx of non-Khmer Rouge from other parts of the country, drawn by the possibility of acquiring land in the sparsely populated area and earning income from a lucrative cross-border trade with nearby Thailand.

“When I first arrived I was worried about having to adapt to life with former Khmer Rouge, but after a few months I discovered their honesty and kindness. The more I lived with them, the better I felt,” he says, recalling that the revolutionaries had tried to instill rigid morality, albeit at the point of a gun, during their years in power. Now, he says, their virtues are being eroded by the influence of the newcomers.

Khieu Dum is a wealthy 36-year-old who owns a gas station and money exchange business. He is also the son of Khieu Samphan, who faces charges of crimes against humanity during his time as the Khmer Rouge president. An expensive Lexus sports utility vehicle sits in the son’s garage at the dusty crossroads of this district of about 20,000, where the new settlers have had to be friendly because they are the powerless outsiders.

“This is a small and simple place. People just go about their business. The old (Khmer Rouge) people and the newcomers live together amiably. I have never had trouble because of my father,” says Khieu Dum.

The Khmer Rouge leaders were off to a head start when the amnesty came, having amassed mini-fortunes during their days as guerrillas through smuggling of timber, gems and antiques to Thailand. Now, the upper echelons own some of the poshest houses and cars in the provinces of Pailin, Preah Vihear, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meancheay — Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge country.

Some have sunk into gross corruption and engage in activities, like gambling, which would have earned them summary execution in the old days. And they have certainly ditched their ideal of a classless society.

In Anlong Veng, a two-class system appears to have emerged: the rich businessmen and government officials living in town and former low-ranking soldiers who barely survive on arid land they don’t own in the surrounding countryside. Thus the town witnessed both the final military defeat of the Khmer Rouge and the death of its ideals.

Chat Chay says he joined the movement as a 14-year-old after the Khmer Rouge persuaded him they would liberate the country and create a utopia of neither rich nor poor. Now, he breaks up stones at construction sites, able to use only his right hand since a head wound paralyzed his left side. He earns less than one dollar a day for his family of seven.

“The Khmer Rouge didn’t do what they promised. They changed their policies,” says the 51-year-old man. “I was wounded but the Khmer Rouge gave me nothing and I have also received nothing from this government.”