The more things change, the more things stay the same. Some highlights of the past year:
• “It is surprising to read that the UN Secretariat believes it is not likely that we would resolve it through further negotiations, considering how far both parties have come precisely through the process of negotiating,” Minister of Cabinet Sok An said in February, just days after the UN announced it was walking away from talks over an international Khmer Rouge tribunal. Earlier this week, Sok An said he was “optimistic” over new talks, which only came about after the UN General Assembly approved a new mandate. Discussions are scheduled for January.
• “It’s like hanging people twice,” King Norodom Sihanouk once said of a map of skulls that, until this year, hung in the Tuol Sleng torture museum. The map was dismantled in March, and part of the country’s past—for better or worse—disappeared. A healthy reminder came in living color in December, though, when “Brother No 2” Nuon Chea attended the Phnom Penh murder trial of Khmer Rouge commander Sam Bith. Sam Bith was marched to prison. Nuon Chea went home.
• In all, more than 100 alleged members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters got jail time for participation in a 2000 attack in Phnom Penh that left at least four people dead. In November, self-proclaimed leader Chhun Yasith said, “We will continue our struggle fighting for freedom, justice and real democracy for our citizens who are the real owners of power, in the near future.”
• Patients with HIV/AIDS had some dignity returned to them in 2002, as the government passed anti-discrimination legislation.
• Illegal logging took a hit, first with Hun Sen’s moratorium on the felling of Cambodia’s trees, and second with the cancellation of the Grand Atlantic Timber logging concession. But the government’s forestry watchdog, Global Witness, again is facing expulsion after angering the premier earlier this month—leaving the future of Cambodia’s forests, and donor money for forestry reform, in question.