Saturday, August 6, 2011

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Taiwan 'should boost defences against China spies'

President Ma Ying-jeou said Taiwan should strengthen its defences against Chinese espionage, following a string of spy scandals showing that intelligence gathering continues despite warming ties.

Taiwan needs to "actively prevent" any leak of secrets to China and must counter infiltration attempts by beefing up its counter-intelligence, Ma said in a statement issued by the National Security Bureau.
He made the comments at an intelligence meeting on Thursday aimed at tackling security issues resulting from expanding cross-Strait exchanges, the statement said.
Ties between Taiwan and China have improved markedly since Ma came to power three years ago on a Beijing-friendly platform but security concerns linger.
The two sides have spied on each other ever since they split in 1949 at the end of a civil war. Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
Taiwan's military court earlier this year handed out life sentences to an army general and an intelligence officer for spying for China in the island's worst espionage scandals in recent years.
The general was allegedly lured in a honey trap by a Chinese female spy to gather information for Beijing while the intelligence officer reportedly had helped China unravel several of Taiwan's spy networks on the mainland.
A retired Taiwanese agent recently warned that at least 10 Chinese moles were believed to have infiltrated the island's security units.

Japan vows to continue nuclear plant exports

Japan said Friday it will continue exporting atomic power plants, despite uncertainty over its own use of them as it continues to grapple with a crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

Tokyo actively promoted nuclear plant exports until a massive quake and tsunami on March 11 sent the Fukushima Daiichi facility into meltdown, causing it to leak radiation in the world's worst nuclear accident since the 1985 Chernobyl disaster.
Japan reached an agreement last October to provide two nuclear power plants to Vietnam. It also signed a memorandum in December on civil nuclear cooperation with Turkey, preceding a possible deal for Japanese companies to build a nuclear plant by the Black Sea.
In a statement, the Tokyo government said: "In case other countries wish to utilise our country's nuclear power technology, we should provide it by ensuring that its safety is of the highest global standards."
It added that "a number of countries" continued to express an interest in Japan's nuclear power technology.
The statement, approved by Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet, was issued in response to an opposition question on the government's policy on the export of nuclear power plants.
Amid the ongoing nuclear crisis, Kan has recently said Japan should reduce its dependence on nuclear energy and prepare for an eventual halt of nuclear power generation.
In late July, the premier said in parliament he had pushed for nuclear plant exports himself but that "thorough discussions should be held on the matter once again."
The statement also called on Japan's parliament to ratify accords on civil nuclear power cooperation with Jordan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam to avoid spoiling the fruit of diplomatic negotiations and causing damage to bilateral trust.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Looking back to move forward

Teaching the history of the Khmer Rouge regime has gained fresh momentum with the introduction of new resources into higher education institutions throughout the Kingdom.

The move has raised hopes that education can foster an understanding of Cambodia’s tragic past, reconciliation and a commitment to human rights in a new generation.

With the blessing of the Ministry of Education, the Documentation Centre of Cambodia has compiled an ambitious syllabus on the Khmer Rouge to assist history lecturers at 94 universities and institutes.

“We think that without a proper understanding of history… [students] may fail to learn how to address the history properly and understand how the principle of human rights was violated years ago,” said DC-Cam’s director Youk Chhang.

The new course seeks to bring about a deeper understanding of Cambodia’s darkest chapter, the teaching of which has been neglected for decades due to political instability and the sensitivity of the material.

Instead of in-depth courses meant to help Cambodians understand how and why as many as two million of their compatriots died in fewer than four years of Khmer Rouge rule, university students have been left with just a couple hours for the subject in their Cambodian history classes.

Eng Somalin, who has been teaching Cambodian history for six years at the National Institute of Business in Phnom Penh, said last week at a three-day training for university lecturers organised by DC-Cam that she spends only about three hours of class time on the Khmer Rouge during a semester-long course. “We need to teach a lot,” she said. “In 48 hours, we need to teach all of Cambodian history.”

Last year, a new textbook – A History of Democratic Kampuchea 1975-1979 by Dy Khamboly – became required reading for high school students, who must pass an exam on Khmer Rouge history. But study of the period at most higher education institutions was still “very limited”, said Phala Chea, who helped create the syllabus.

“There’s no course on Khmer Rouge history. So if you want to learn that, you have to sit and wait for maybe a day of introduction into the Khmer Rouge culture. Just one day,” she said.

Eng Somalin said students are interested in the subject, despite the lack of classroom attention devoted to it. “They used to hear from their families talking about Khmer Rouge, and they hear something that the Khmer Rouge killed a lot of people in Cambodia, and they worked hard during this regime and sometimes they have a relative that died,” she said.

Historian David Chandler said in an interview in Phnom Penh last week that teaching history has been a “very low priority” for the members of the current regime, who view the subject as risky, especially for the former Khmer Rouge cadre in their ranks.

“If people start writing the book, you don’t know what side they’re on, what opens up, what doors swing open,” he said.

While the Khmer Rouge sought to erase history and all its “contaminating” effects on the idealised Khmer peasant-farmer, Cambodia’s “year zero” may have awakened a new sense of narrative for Cambodians who began to tell their own stories.

Chandler said that Cambodians have generally viewed history as something written by their rulers, but that surviving and coming to terms with the Pol Pot regime has pushed them to take more ownership over their past.

“History was never an important subject in the schools... I think they started thinking historically in the Khmer Rouge period when they started giving these biographies and things and a new sort of conscious came up – that everybody’s life had a narrative shape,” he said.

Youk Chhang wants teachers to engage students on a personal level. “When it comes to the Khmer Rouge, it’s so recent – because their parents were either victim or perpetrators… that they have to accept or rebel to it. And that generates the debate,” he said. “I hope that it will have some impact on their morality, their behaviour.”

While there is a range of teaching methods practiced in Cambodia’s higher education institutions, Youk Chhang said most rely predominantly on a lecture format that presumes “one question, one answer”, making new teaching methods perhaps nearly as controversial as the subject matter.

About 150 lecturers were asked to challenge that format during training at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia in Phnom Penh last week.

During one exercise at the training, after learning about mass atrocities carried out under the Khmer Rouge regime, the lecturers were split into groups and tasked with becoming experts on mass atrocities in different countries, such as Germany and Iraq. Each group then discussed the similarities and differences to the crimes of Democratic Kampuchea.

Chris Dearing, who helped lead the training, said the point of the exercise was to “show how students can actually teach each other in groups with very little teacher interaction”.

Though the course is built around A History of Democratic Kampuchea, the new syllabus goes well beyond the textbook by including materials that debate the definition of genocide, contemplate the meaning of “evil”, and examine specific aspects of Khmer Rouge rule – such as its effects on Buddhism or the Cham, or its policies in Ta Mok’s infamous Southwest Zone.

Vong Sotheara, deputy head of the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s history department, said the teaching methods would be as much of a challenge as the content of Khmer Rouge history. “We have to update our technique of teaching methodology,” he said.

Eng Somalin, the National Institute of Business lecturer, said she would use the new teaching methods and content, but will still only have three hours each semester for Khmer Rouge history. Vong Sotheara may have more leeway, with 10 to 12 hours of class time devoted to the subject.

But DC-Cam hopes that universities and higher education institutes will aim high and eventually create entire courses on the period.

“Cambodians are very proud of history,” Youk Chhang said. “It’s restoring the freedom of expression, a sense of ownership that Cambodians want.”