Euthanasia Web Sites Causing Storm in Kampot

Nearly 20 expatriates, many living in Kampot province, have signed a petition calling for police to take action against two Web sites offering euthanasia in Cambodia, which they claim are sponsored by a US national living in Kampot town.

In Chiva, Kampot deputy provincial police chief, said on Tuesday that police had received the petition and had completed an investigation into Roger Graham, 57, the owner of the Blue Mountain Coffee and Internet Cafe in Kampot town.

In Chiva said that Kampot Provincial Governor Puth Chandarith has sent a report to the Ministry of Interior seeking action against the US national for allegedly launching the Web sites and

The Web sites “encourage suicides and damage Kampot province’s reputation, and tourists will not come here,” In Chiva said by telephone on Tuesday.

Governor Puth Chandarith said he received complaints against the cafe owner following the September suicide of a British woman, Kim Walton, in a Kampot guesthouse.

“We found…information that before she committed suicide, she did meet with him,” he said.

In Chiva said Walton, 46, committed suicide on Sept 7. She was found with pills and a will next to her body. Graham, In Chiva said, reported the suicide to police.

At the cafe on Tuesday, Graham denied the allegations and said any link between himself and Walton’s suicide was “a crazy rumor.”

“I had nothing to do with it,” Graham said. “It’s just rumors, it’s noise, it’s confusion…. It’s not my problem,” he said.

“If [authorities] take action, then you’ve got a story. I’ll be more than happy to speak to you then,” an irate Graham said, before demanding that reporters leave his cafe.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he was unaware of the case.

“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.

The petition alleges that the Web sites in question are sponsored by “Tola,” a name that is also used by Graham.

Linda McKinney, a US national and longtime resident of Kampot, said she signed the petition that was given to Kampot provincial police last month.

“We don’t want suicide tourism,” said Angela Vestergaard, the Danish owner of Kampot’s Blissful Guesthouse and a signatory to the petition.

According to a copy of an e-mail message sent by Walton’s sister, Sally Spring, to Vestergaard on Oct 7, Walton had been suffering from mild depression following the breakup of a short relationship.

According to the e-mail, while in Britain, Walton made contact with a man identifying himself as “Tola,” and visited Kampot after receiving information from one of the two Web sites that euthanasia was not illegal in Cambodia.

“My 85-year-old father has lived to bury his daughter, I have lost a lovely sister and my children have lost a wonderful aunt…. There were over 120 people at her funeral, we all knew her and she would not have done this if she had not seen that Web site,” Spring wrote.

“This Web site needs to be shut down immediately-before any more vulnerable people see it,” she wrote.

A British Embassy official said the embassy was unable to comment. John Daigle, US Embassy spokesman, said that if a US national was assisting in suicides here, it would fall under Cambodian law.

“We think there has been too much death and destruction in Cambodia already, but of course the important thing is respect for the rule of law,” Daigle said.

“It would be up to the Cambodian authorities to take action if it is against Cambodian law,” he said.

The Web site informs visitors that euthanasia is not illegal in Cambodia, encourages donations to support euthanasia in Cambodia, and states, in reference to taking one’s own life, “You can in Cambodia!”

On the Web site, the author, who is not named, claims to have commissioned the International Office of Business and Legal Affairs in Phnom Penh to examine the legality of euthanasia, and to have been told by a lawyer that there would be no risk of prosecution for assisting in a documented case of assisted suicide under existing Cambodian criminal or constitutional law.

“This Web site is for those who are considering euthanasia, either assisted or independent. There is no reason to go out alone. In Cambodia anything is possible,” the Web site states.

The author also claims to have taken on a lease for a euthanasia clinic that will operate as an American-style coffee bar, where people can meet with the author in a “euthanasia friendly” and comfortable place. The site, which includes a photo it states was taken at the Blue Mountain Coffee Shop, also offers for sale “air tight plastic bags” that can be used for suicide.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said he did not believe euthanasia was legal in Cambodia. “If the prosecutor wants to prosecute, he can use voluntary manslaughter [charges],” Sok Sam Oeun maintained.

One foreign legal expert also said, on condition of anonymity, that he believed it was possible that a person could be prosecuted for assisting in a suicide under Cambodian law. “It seems like it would depend on someone’s opinion on what was the extent of the involvement…in assisting [in a suicide],” he said.

“If a death wouldn’t take place without his involvement, then that sounds like so much involvement that it would be criminal,” the legal expert said.

(Additional reporting by Michael Cowden and Phann Ana in Kampot province)

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