Father of Slain UN Volunteer Opens School

A parent is not meant to outlive his or her children. And when a child has been brutally murdered, it is rare to find a family willing to return to the scene of the crime and try to create change for the people who live there.

But this week, Japanese national Takehito Na­kata did just that. On Mon­day, he went to the village in Kompong Thom province where his son was slain five years ago and opened a primary school.

“It was indeed a painful m­o­ment in some sense to go to the commune—the very site where my son lost his life,” Nakata said. “But my dream came true.”

Nakata’s dream—and nightmare—began in April 1993 when his 25-year-old son, Atsuhito, was shot dead with his Cambodian translator in Sambo commune about 200 km north of Phnom Penh. Atsuhito Nakata was a UN volunteer for the Untac elections.

The government claimed Atsu­hito Nakata was killed by Khmer Rouge rebels. A subsequent UN investigation, however, showed the Khmer Rouge were not in­volved. No one has been charged with the murder.

Since his son’s death, Takehito Nakata kept up with events in Cambodia. In 1994, Takehito Nakata learned by chance that the village his son had been killed in was officially named after him. In 1996, he learned that residents of Atsu village were facing food shortages because of a drought. From Jap­an, he collected money for food and sent it, but was told the villagers wanted to use the money for a school.

“It was beyond my expectation. They didn’t use a cent for food,” Takehito Nakata said.

The four-classroom primary school cost less than $33,000, Takehito Nakata said. Takehito Nakata also donated notebooks, pens, pencils and treats.

During the school’s dedication ceremony, Takehito Nakata said he was continuing the volunteer spirit his son had begun.

“Normally a son follows in his father’s footsteps, but in my case I will follow in my son’s footsteps,” Takehito Nakata said.

Since his son’s death, Takehito Nakata was made an honorary ambassador for UN Volunteers.


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