Euthanasia Promoter Denies Aiding in Suicide

kampot province – The owner of the Blue Mountain Coffee and Internet Cafe acknowledged Wed­­nesday that he is the creator of two Web sites promoting Cam­bodia as a euthanasia destination, while distancing himself from the September suicide of a British wo­man in Kampot town.

Roger Graham, a US national who calls himself “Tola” and identifies himself as the creator of the Web sites and www.asian-hearts.­com, claimed in an interview that Kim Walton had been suffering from mental dif­ficulties at the time of her suicide on Sept 7.

Walton’s sister Sally Spring has said that Walton made contact from Britain with a man identified as Tola, and visited Kampot after receiving information from one of Graham’s Web sites that state that euthanasia is not illegal here.

“You are going to die anyway, so why not in Cambodia?” one of the Web sites states.

“The British girl came here, killed herself, end of story,” Graham said at his cafe.

Graham added that he believed Walton was not of sound mind.

“She had some sort of emotional problem,” he said.

He admitted that he was worried about the prospect of legal trouble or prison for his Web sites advocating that foreigners choose Kampot as the place to end their lives, but said he would stick to his principles.

“You either live by your beliefs and standards or you don’t,” Graham said. “I don’t plan to skip the country, and I don’t plan to close down my Web site.”

As proof that he had nothing to do with Walton’s death, he cited Walton’s means of suicide: barbiturates and alcohol, which describes as “a slow, painful, agonizing and uncertain way of death.”

Graham recommends committing suicide with helium gas, valium pills and an airtight plas­tic bag over the head. He describes him­self as an advocate rather than an person who implements euthanasia.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help you have a good end-of-life experience, without pulling any swit­ches,” he said, adding that al­though he previously sold plastic bags for suicide on his Web sites, he has since stopped this as he now considers it macabre.

Nonetheless, Graham believes that if Kam­pot were to become the one place in the world where euthanasia was acceptable—even embraced—it could actually boost the local economy.

Nuon Dina, a motorbike taxi driver who drove Walton during her short time in Kam­pot, said that when she arrived on Sept 2, she went straight to Graham’s cafe.

Nuon Dina and several expatriates said that Walton spent that evening drinking extensively at Graham’s establishment, which usually does not serve alcohol.

According to In Chiva, deputy provincial police chief, Walton died several days later on Sept 7, and Graham reported her death to the police.

The British Embassy declined comment on Wednesday.

Kampot Provincial Governor Puth Chan­darith said that Graham’s Web sites alarmed him.

“I was shocked. How can you teach people to commit suicide?” he asked. “You should save the people.”

“Why Cambodia? Why choose Kampot?” he asked. “Why don’t you go somewhere else?”

Puth Chandarith said he is consulting with prosecutors in Kam­pot about the possibility of a lawsuit against Graham, perhaps al­leging that the two Web sites have done harm to Kampot’s reputa­tion.

He also said he was consulting with the Ministry of Posts and Tel­ecommunications about the pos­sibility of closing down the Web sites.

In the meantime, the governor said, he may soon take action to close down the cafe.

Nearly 20 expatriates, many living in Kampot province, signed a petition last month asking police to take action against  Graham’s Web sites.

“No tourist will want to visit neither Cam­bodia nor Kampot if Kampot becomes known as a place of death for foreigners,” the signed petition against the Web sites states.

“These two Web sites give a very bad name to Kampot…. We ask that you take action to protect the future for tourism and development in Kampot,” the petition reads.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the Web sites would fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Infor­ma­tion rather than the Ministry of In­terior.

“I asked people to check the Web sites but I’m waiting for action from the Ministry of Infor­ma­tion,” he said. “The Ministry of In­terior is ready to cooperate.”

Khieu Sopheak said he was uncertain what the US or other countries would do if faced with a similar situation, and joked that anyone advising others about how to commit suicide might do well to try it themselves.

“Most people around the world don’t want to kill themselves,” he said.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said he had no information on the case.

Hem Heng, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he had only heard about the case from a media report, which he described as “very strange.”

“It’s very strange for me and for Cambodia,” he added.

Moeung Sonn, who runs the travel agency Eurasie Travel, said the Web sites will damage Cam­bodia’s tourism industry.

“It’s not good for the image of our government. Our country needs more tourists,” he said. “I would like the government to in­ves­tigate the subject and ask him why he does like this.”

Linda McKinney, a US national and long-term Kampot resident, said she was concerned by Gra­ham’s activities.

She added that tourism in Kampot is only beginning to recover from the damage done to its reputation by the 1994 train hi­jacking in nearby Phnom Voar by Khmer Rouge rebels, a­fter which three Western backpackers were ex­ecuted.

“As a citizen and a resident I’m out­raged that one man can ruin the future as soon as it was starting to look bright,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Wil­liam Shaw in Phnom Penh)





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