Darfur Demonstrators Deny Newswire Report

The Center for Social Develop­ment on Monday denied a news report that US actress Mia Farrow and a group of her supporters had tried to force their way into the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum on Saturday evening.

Tuol Sleng museum Director Sopheara Chey, who was quoted in a Deutsche Presse-Agentur news report as having claimed that the group “shoved a guard and tried to force the gate,” declined to comment on the alleged incident when contacted by telephone Monday.

CSD Director Theary Seng, who co-hosted the visit of Farrow’s Dream for Darfur organization, claimed that the government likely invented the report of a disturbance at Tuol Sleng because it was embarrassed by Sunday morning’s standoff at the museum.

Farrow, Theary Seng and six other Dream for Darfur activists were prevented from entering Tuol Sleng on Sunday after the government banned their planned ceremony there to raise awareness about the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Government officials said they did not want Tuol Sleng to be used as a platform to criticize China, which is accused by Farrow’s organization of sitting idly by and ignoring the genocide in Darfur.

China, which is Sudan’s largest trading partner, has close political and economic ties with Cambodia.

“It’s a pathetic attempt by the Cambodian government to clean up the mess they made on Sun­day,” Theary Seng said of the news report.

Theary Seng added that she and Farrow, along with artist and Tuol Sleng survivor Vann Nath and CSD staffer Yim So Theary, at­tempted to visit Tuol Sleng on Sat­urday around 6 pm, but that when guards turned them away they simply left without incident.

Vann Nath confirmed Monday that he went to Tuol Sleng on Sat­urday around 6 pm to have his pic­ture taken with the actress, and that there was no incident.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­har­ith said that he was unaware of the reported disturbance and de­nied any government involvement, but accused Theary Seng of playing the hero in the events of recent days.

“[I]f some organization wants to hold a rally in [Tuol Sleng] against US occupation of Iraq, we won’t al­low it [either],” he wrote, adding that Farrow’s cause “is a noble one.”

Both Interior Ministry spokes­man Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak and Phnom Penh Mu­nicipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Monday that they were also unaware of the alleged incident.

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