Saturday, August 15, 2015

'No Escape' banned in Cambodia

"No Escape," an action movie scheduled for release on Aug. 26, has been banned in Cambodia.

The film is apparently set in Malaysia, but was filmed in Thailand and uses props with Khmer letters. The trailer includes scenes of police carrying riot shields painted with Khmer letters, however the letters (or the shields) are upside down. This is the stated reason the Cambodian government decided to ban the movie.

A reasonable person might suspect the ban has more to do with the reported plot, which involves a family of foreigners caught up in a coup that lets loose bloodthirsty mobs. The trailer might remind some people of events in 1997.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

This Asian-American Life

Today's This American Life episode covers a white man who married an Asian woman and how they adjusted to a multicultural married life.

Coincidentally, I wrote a book on that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Long Beach revolutionary's appeal rejected

A U.S. appeals court today rejected an appeal by Yasith Chhun, a California tax preparer and leader of a failed Cambodian coup, to overturn a life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder and destroy property in a foreign country.

Chhun formed the Cambodian Freedom Fighters in 1998 to overthrow the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The CFF's Operation Volcano culminated in an attack on government buildings in Phnom Penh on Nov. 24, 2000, that left several civilians and soldiers dead and the long-ruling Hun Sen firmly in charge.

On April 16, 2008, a U.S. jury found Chhun guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, conspiracy to damage or destroy property in a foreign country, mounting an expedition against a friendly nation, and conspiracy to launch a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States. Two years later he was sentenced to life in prison.

His appeal, according to court documents, claimed that Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act was too vague. Chhun argued that attempting to overthrow the government of Cambodia was not terrorism, and therefore an "antiterrorism" law couldn't apply.

Three judges with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. In the ruling, judge Carlos T. Bea wrote "it is not absurd for Congress to want to prevent people within the borders of the United States from plotting to commit murder in a foreign country. That is so even though much of the impetus behind this part of AEDPA was to fight terrorism in the United States."

In his appeal, Chhun also argued that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that he knew his revolutionary activities would lead to murder. He stated his actions may have involved "recklessness," but not "malice aforethought" — because he intended to arrest Hun Sen and limit casualties during his coup.

However, the judges pointed to letters and plans introduced in the trial, including documents written or delivered by Chhun urging CFF members to "shoot to kill (surviving enemies) on the spot" and "send them to ... hell in the near future."

Another argument advanced by Chhun was that America was not "at peace" with Cambodia because of U.S. criticism of Hun Sen in the wake of the 1997 coup. The judges were unmoved.

It is true that the U.S. government didn't aggressively track down the CFF until years after the Phnom Penh attack — and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Adam Piore, in his excellent "The Accidental Terrorist," wrote that defense attorney Richard M. Callahan Jr. described Chhun as "a victim of shifting political winds, a sacrificial lamb offered up in exchange for Cambodia’s cooperation with the war on terror."

The ruling is embedded here:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Southeast Asian refugees in America

Refugee Arrivals to the U.S. from Southeast Asia
To provide more context to my last post, refugees from Cambodia dropped to the single digits by the mid-1990s, but a sizable stream continues from Vietnam. The annual number of Vietnamese refugees admitted to the United States rarely dips below 1,000. The sudden bump in the mid-2000s from Laos is the less than 15,000 Hmong refugees who were resettled from Wat Tham Krabok camp in Thailand's Saraburi province.

Considering the situation in Cambodia, I wonder if the number of refugees from the kingdom may climb again in the near future.

The numbers in the chart are from Southeast Asian Resource Action Center's report "Southeast Asian Americans at a Glance."