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Nate Thayer
Washington D.C.
I am a foreign correspondent and investigative journalist
Interests: * I am a freelance investigative journalist and foreign correspondent with 25 years of experience reporting from around the globe, with a focus on Asia, and a specialization in modern Cambodian political history, with a noted expertize on the Khmer Rouge. • This Blog: Here I will post a selection of archived published articles and random musings. It is a work in progress so there will be frequent new postings as I gather and enter what amounts to several thousand published documents, in over 200 publications and mediums which include print, radio, broadcast, photography, video, and online in various mediums, and a number of languages, from my files. I have lost track of many of the original files and will post them as they become available to me. • Please feel free to comment on the individual posts or blog, contact me directly, or subscribe to the blog. I own the copyright to each of the articles I have posted here. Please request permission before republishing. And any republishing of portions or quotations of the material under 'fair use' clause of the Copyright Act law must include sourcing and citation. • The purpose of the blog is to provide access to the small part of the historical record of the issues I have written, researched, and contributed to, and I encourage its use if it is useful for a more empirical record of these events. I also encourage any criticisms, comments, corrections, or any communication that fosters civil, legitimate debate. I can be contacted throught the comments section on this blog, Facebook, or by email at: thayernate0007@gmail.com
Recent Activity
The top managers of North Korea's clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile program have been methodically promoted and now dominate the inner circle of Kim Jong-eun's new government, confidential foreign government documents and official media reports from Pyongyang show. The shadowy group of power brokers in the world's most secretive nation emerged in the first military promotions prominently unveiled during recent high-profile ceremonies as the official mourning period for the death of former dictator Kim Jong-il concluded last week. These same senior officials are known to be behind Pyongyang's missile test launch - scheduled for the middle of April - which has rattled regional nerves and sabotaged a short-lived agreement withWashington designed to slow North Korea's steady march towards a nuclear weaponized state. The United Nations and United States have charged the "earth observation satellite" launch is a thinly disguised cover for testing capabilities for a nuclear armed long-range ballistic missile. At least 10 senior North Korean officials, now prominent at the core of power behind 29-year-old hereditary successor Kim Jong-eun, have been named by several foreign intelligence services as in charge of Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile development and export program, including enrichment of uranium to weapons grade strength. They have also been implicated in selling nuclear and missile technology to Iran and Syria, dispatching special operation teams to attack South Korea and assassinate political opponents, coordinating an international criminal network involved in drug trafficking, counterfeit money laundering, and establishing front companies and banks to raise more than a billion US dollars per year to bankroll the privileged lifestyles of the regime's elite. The 10 are among North Korean officials and government agencies named by at least 31 governments as part of a network that has imported, sold and developed components and technology for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They have had their assets frozen, been banned from travel outside of North Korea and forbidden from engaging in business with the countries' nationals or companies, according to official documents. Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2012 at Nate Thayer
Nate Thayer is now following Rebecca MacKinnon
Feb 24, 2012
The story that North Korea has launched a sweeping campaign arresting and punishing people who didn’t mourn sufficiently at the death of Kim Jung Il has gone viral, published in virtually every major media outlet worldwide. Headlines all had a common theme: “Six months in labor camp for N. Koreans who didn’t cry at despot’s funeral” and “North Korea reportedly punishing insincere mourners” and even “If You Didn't Cry Like a Maniac for Kim Jong-Il, You're Going to Prison” (New York Magazine). But there is one problem: There is no remotely credible evidence it is true. Every single published report can be traced back to a single unidentified, unnamed North Korean source in a remote province quoted by a single South Korean website on January 11. Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2012 at Nate Thayer
North Korea: A Glimpse at a Simple Criminal Syndicate Posing as a Government By Nate Thayer (Copyright Nate Thayer. No republication in part or in whole allowed without prior wirtten permission of the author) After a Decade of failed Clinton era diplomacy, the United Nations and both the Bush and Obama administrations shifted to a more confrontational policy regarding the PDRK, from negotiations on stopping the North Korean program for nuclear and missile development programs, to increased confrontation over their state sponsored criminal activity and financial sanctions directed to punish the North Koreans for weapons development. This evolved to a collapse of all diplomatic negotiations whatsoever in 2009. The US and its allies, since 1985, have essentially been left bewildered and have little strategic policy towards the PDRK at all. International policy towards North Korea currently is labelled one of "Strategic Patience", a euphamism, after exhausting all obvious paths of engaging the worlds most stark threat to regional and international peace, for the world community at a loss of what to do next. And having no strategic policy at all. Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Chhang: It is a very good question. There are numerous connections between the PDRK and the Khmer Rouge. But they are multi-layered. First, Kim Il Sung and Sihanouk were genuine "best friends." After Sihanouk was deposed in 1970 by Lon Nol ( of whom you will remember well as his Minister of Information:)), Sihanouk was given a full royal treatment by the PDRK, including a palace near Pyongyang. he spent many years there. of course the personal friendship between Sihanouk and Kim Il Sung added a layer of complexity to the PDRK relationship with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As while Pol Pot was in tactical alliance with Sihanouk, they were in fact enemies and PP put Sihanouk under house arrest after 1975--despite the Prince remaining as head of State. In fact Sihanouk returned to Phnom Penh in after the Khmer Rouge victory after the KR sent a delegation to Pyongyang to tell Sihanouk to come back to Phnom Penh. After the Khmer Rouge were deposed in 1979, Sihanouk returned to Pyongyang where he spent much time by choice in exile. He so trusted Kim Il Sung , that all the Cambodian historical archives of the monarchy were moved to Pyongyang in the 1980's for safekeeping. (I went to Pyongyang in 1992 as a personal guest of Sihanouk to attend Kim Il Sung's 80th Birthday party. The NK had no choice but to give me a visa as to deny one to the guest of the best friend of Kim Il Sung would have been a very serious potential error). However after KIS died, Sihanouk was not close to KJI. He told me so himself. Further they had difficulty retrieving the royal archives. I don't know the current status of those archives. Sihanouk filmed several of his movies in Pyongyang through the 80's and 90's. As for the Khmer Rouge, the connections are strong. In fact, the first time Pol Pot's official biography was ever publicly released was by the NK official press agency KCNA, in 1978--before the KR ever released one themselves. As well, the NK and the Chinese were the only embassies under PP who had relative freedom to operate in Cambodia. North Korea had several thousand workers sent to Cambodia to train and assist the PP KR. After PP was overthrown, senior KR officials told me (as have others) that the Chinese, in private, reamed PP and his loyalists for fucking up big time while in power, bringing unnecessary grief to their prime supporters Beijing. One KR official said to me: "In fact, the only ones who didn't yell at us were the North Koreans."...There are plenty more connections....Nate
North Korea: The World's Only Mafia Crime State How North Korea Funds their Army, Nuclear Weapons Programme. and Small Group of Elite Cadre in Control (Excerpts from an unpublished study of the criminal syndicates run by Kim Jong Il as central State policy) By Nate Thayer North Korea is the only nation where it is central government policy to operate as a systematic criminal syndicate through a myriad of state controlled illicit activities. According to evidence compiled over a recent six month investigation, the North Korean government has, since at least 1974, run a worldwide network of diplomats, intelligence operatives, military, and other government officials, as well as state controlled front companies that use the rights and powers of a sovereign state to manage illegal operations worldwide. North Korean government operatives have intentionally violated laws in at least 106 countries in over 500 incidents as it has repeatedly evaded and ignored a series of multi lateral agreements and increasingly stricter sanctions imposed by the United Nations, as well as the laws of sovereign nations around the world. Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Thayer’s reporting has earned him The World Press Award, the 1997 British Press Awards 2006 Scoop_of_the_Year British Press Award, and the 1998 Francis Frost Wood Award for Courage in Journalism, given by to a journalist "judged to best exemplify physical or moral courage in the practice of his or her craft." He was the recipient of the Center for Public Integrity International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting of the Year. "Upon awarding Thayer the ICIJ Award, the judges noted: :"He illuminated a page of history that would have been lost to the world had he not spent years in the Cambodian jungle, in a truly extraordinary quest for first-hand knowledge of the Khmer Rouge and their murderous leader. His investigations of the Cambodian political world required not only great risk and physical hardship but also mastery of an ever-changing cast of Political faction characters." Thayer is also the recipient of The Overseas Press Club of America Award, as well as the Asian Society of Publishers and Editors Award for "Excellence in Reporting," Thayer was also honored with the SAIS-Novartis "Award for Excellence in International Reporting." He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by The Wall Street Journal Thayer established at the Hofstra Universitys Department of Journalism and Mass Media Studies in the School of Communication the Nate Thayer Scholarship given annually to "a qualified student with the best foreign story idea. Winners are selected on the basis of scholastic achievement or potential as well as economic need." Thayer was also the first person in 57 years to turn down a prestigious Peabody Award because he did not want to share it with ABC News [Nightline] saying publicly lambasting American television news saying:"I in no way want my name associated with such egregious violations of journalistic and professional ethics." He was a visiting scholar at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Otiena: It was coincidence that Lewinsky was the top news story in the hours before it was leaked to the media that Pol Pot was dead. I heard he was dead within 15 minutes of him dying. It was another 7 or 8 hours before the infoo started to dribble out in bangkok. By 12 hours it was a major world story but no confirmation, pictures, or named sources. Just a rumour.It stayed the top news story because readers appetite for voyeuristic entertainment over other people's personal troubles--especially powerful people--are ones they can relate to. Very few people can relate to or understand why Pol Pot did what he did nor relate to a country they never heard of like Cambodia. It is the same phenomana everywhere in the world. But in the US particularly, most people have no idea of what goes on outside the US
Khmer Rouge, Cambodian Government Suffer Memory Failure in Court: This Might Help By Nate Thayer The witness at the moment on the stand testifying against Ieng Sary in today’s Khmer Rouge trial in Phnom Penh seems to be suffering a memory lapse. Let’s try to help him, and a few others who have remarkably similar maladies. The three leaders of the Khmer Rouge in the docket: Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, and Ieng Sary. The chief witness on the stand is Long Narin, for the last 30 years, Ieng Sary’s chief spokesman and closest loyalist. He seems to be having memory problems. Let me see if this jogs his memory: Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2011 at Nate Thayer
More comments on this post linked to FB: Urs Boegli For me and for the ICRC for which I worked at that time, the ban and ICRC's separate effort to stigmatize landmines makes sense not despite but because your compelling argument for surviving being all that matters in war. It picks on a system small enough to possibly be outlawed and mean enough (mainly by killing when the war is over) to deserve this particular attention. Oh, and harmless enough - strategically - for a ban to succeed. When prohibiting was tried with cluster bombs, the result was less than stellar. And with drones no one will even try. In terms of humanitarian politics (sorry) outlawing landmines kept the rules of war thing alive, somehow. And I think I should like that. Of course, one can argue against any effort to try to regulate the most extreme form of human interaction, and maybe one even should, e.g. by making the point that letting frenzy go to a rule-free extreme might, just might convince mankind that enough is enough. And by the same token one can (and does) accuse the rule makers to facilitate war by making it halfway regulated and thus less unacceptable and more normal. But those who work on rules will always defend their case, as even I do albeit in a rather modest 'better than nothing' tone. That's why, for an organization like the ICRC, the ban has been a good exercise, allowing it to pursue its traditional dual track approach: shut up and help war victims on the one side and try to legislate war on the other, ratcheting up its credibility in both domains. Also, keep in mind that, to put it mildly, these are not great times. The Geneva Conventions, like many other treaties and multilateral rules - e.g. the Refugee Convention - were written in the aftermath, WWII, using a rare and fleeting 'never agin' mood. The GC's offspring, the Additional Protocols have not had the same success and all other recent international instruments, be they on the drawing board, in legislative limbo between signature and ratification, in the dusty drawer of benign neglect or already in the dustbin of history, live with the notion of still-borneness. The landmine treaty got just a little bit more traction - and makes a little bit practical and political of sense. Sense as in not to throw the rules-of-war-baby out with the little bathwater we have. And yes, it gave us IED's and other improvised stuff. They and some other new tools of asymmetric warfare prove that soldiers can do quite well without landmines. But so can the civilians, too, especially when the wars are over. Nate Thayer Urs: Your comments are perhaps the most compelling—from a practical field experience for implementation perspective--on this thread so far to support a ban on landmines. ICRC’s unflinching record of refusal to ever compromise on the rights of civilians, non-combatants, and captured or wounded combatants as being a non-negotiable off-limits issue, speaks for itself. Pressure from armed political factions using political manipulation to barter for partial adherence of these rights in exchange for humanitarian aid is the norm in world humanitarian crisis zones. That ICRC refuses to allow these fundamental issues ever to be on the table for discussion or negotiation has a proven record of easing human suffering and tragedy. The immediate effects of refusal to aid any victims of suffering are often heart wrenching but the long term effects of refusing to barter fundamental principles to save lives and reduce suffering are a matter of crystal clear record of success. If political leaders of civilians or combatant want the services of ICRC—food for the starving, medical care of doctors, drugs, and equipment for the sick or wounded—they have to accept the strictly enforced entire mandate of ICRC on humanitarian, human and political rights, and rules of war. That agreement to allow strictly apolitical ICRC medical and observer unfettered access as a non-negotiable issue is exchanged for provision of ICRC delivered and monitored the distributed food, medicine, shelter and other aid, as well as allow unfettered access to hospitals, prisons, and civilians to ensure their rights are being respected. I witnessed when armed political factions more than once refused these terms and many people died who otherwise would have lived if these services were delivered by ICRC. But I have also witnessed how far more people were saved and were spared suffering because partisan factions knew the importance and moral legitimacy of ICRC services it imparts. And knew they could not manipulate the moral and humanitarian terms by threatening to impose suffering and death of the people under their control if ICRC didn’t cave in to their blackmail. In real terms, many have died by ICRC refusal to agree to tainted terms to supply aid. In the same, much larger real terms many more lived. This stands in stark contrast to far too many well intentioned humanitarian NGO’s who I saw cave to short term compelling reality of saving the lives or alleviating the suffering of many at the moment who indeed would have died or suffered otherwise. But only because the terms of international human rights laws are, in practice and reality, negotiable when faced with implementing them on the ground. I have witnessed both the consequences of effectively aiding and abetting partisan actors in armed conflict and the consequences of refusing to compromise on core humanitarian principles under extremely disturbing pressures of life and death. The former not only saved less from suffering, but prolonged armed violence as a tool of political disputes. So your comment that Landmines “picks on a system small enough to possibly be outlawed and mean enough (mainly by killing when the war is over) to deserve this particular attention. Oh, and harmless enough - strategically - for a ban to succeed…That's why, for an organization like the ICRC, the ban has been a good exercise, allowing it to pursue its traditional dual track approach: shut up and help war victims on the one side and try to legislate war on the other, ratcheting up its credibility in both domains” resonates perfectly with me. An unyielding firm stand of defence and adherence of principle when put into practice, and practical on negotiating politically charged issues of more abstract laws. And you’re reasoning “The landmine treaty got just a little bit more traction - and makes a little bit practical and political of sense. As in the sense not to throw the rules-of-war-baby out with the little bathwater we have.” And your practical acknowledgement of its negative side effects but the larger benefit which is outweighed. “And yes, it gave us IED's and other improvised stuff. They and some other new tools of asymmetric warfare prove that soldiers can do quite well without landmines. But so can the civilians, too, especially when the wars are over. The clincher is that IED’s generally don’t remain activated and a threat after the conflict is over. And anti-personnel mines almost always do. It, of course, would be a better option to avoid having to debate the merits, or degree of, or legitimate methods or tools of inflicting pain, suffering, and death. The whole issue makes me feel somehow a collaborator in justifying and parsing something immoral. 4 minutes ago · Like
Urs: Exactly. It is easier to ignore history and much less confusing to ignore the present and detach it from historical precedent
Thread of comments on this blog post on Facebook: Nate Thayer Checkmate International Campaign to Ban Landmines: I retract my initial post...or at least retreat to a more secure forward operating base. Here is their response to the thread of original post substantively and logically refuting most al of the basis of my scepticism. Nate, No worries, however if I can get you to retract your opposition to the Treaty, I'd be pleased, not for intellectual debating reasons but because you are a very well respected writer, especially in these parts (I'm in Bangkok) and you are a mine survivor which allows you to write on the issue powerfully. What forward soldiers currently use are two types of mines not covered by the convention: claymores and tripflares. Claymore's, as you know, are command detonated by a guard. They've been used for decades for precisely this purpose. Tripflares work in the same way as antipersonnel mines, except they don't blow up the combatant, they warn of an intruder and 'light them up' so that guards are alerted to their presence, and they are exposed. This allows for the possibility of withdrawal or surrender, which landmines do not. In original military doctrine, ap mine fields were not to be left unattended but always to be covered by a guard, since mine fields can be breached for an attack, so this does not really call for a change of doctrine, just the tool of the job. Neither claymores nor trip flares carry the liabilities of antipersonnel mines which carry war into peacetime. Hope that does the trick, but if not I stand ready to reply further. :-) As you might have guessed by now, it is my job.... cordially, Yeshua International Committee to Ban Landmines In Response to this from me: (see entire thread of exchange of impressive replies from ICBL in above link) > Yeshua: > > I take no issue with any of the below. And again we are on the same team onn these issues. I am aware of how you described the tactical use of IED's. And I am not trying to much up the debate with Socratic logic to detract from the legitimacy of your premise or the practical compromises that have to be made. > > My original point was the use of a tactic weapon to secure the perimeter of infantry grunts actually at risk and deployed to carry out the combat. If landmines are banned, what will/do they now use in there place to secure their perimeter? I know it is different for newer usage of asymmetrical warfare, "terrorism" which targets civilians, and urban warfare in general (all of which violate existing international rules, laws, conventions, and treties of war), but in the field, say Afghanistan, what do forward deployed soldiers use to secure their AO? If they aren't using landmines, they are replacing them with something. And victim-activated devices may be banned, but thats the only way you are going to secure whatever piece of real estate you are using as a forward operating base. So, are they using imporvised explosives designed for other purposes or homemade or landmines? If not then waht? They certainly aren't going to rely on a gentleman's agreement with the other side when office hours are open for business. That is pretty much the basis of my entire admittedly intentionally provocative post. if you can convince me of another way that two sides on a mission to murder the other can replace that or not need to employ it, then I will promptly retract my (very luke warm and probably not really honestly committed to but meant to initiate a debate) initial opposition to the Treaty > > Thanks for the substantive and thoughtful rersponses, > > Nate 13 hours ago · Like Michael Hayes I'm curious to know what the south Koreans say on this subject. 13 hours ago · Like Nate Thayer They nor the United States are signatories to the Treaty 13 hours ago · Like Nate Thayer But remember the Khmer Rouge signed the International Convention on Human and Political Rights too, in 1980 as the UN recognized government after they slaughtered 1.7 million people. So a few countries then informed the UN they had a few issues with this. Mongolia said "The Government of the Mongolian People's Republic considers that only the People's Revolutionary Council of Kampuchea as the sole authentic and lawful representative of the Kampuchean people . Therefore the Government of the Mongolian People's Republic considers that the signature of the Human Rights Covenants by the representative of the so-called Democratic Kampuchea, a régime that ceased to exist as a result of the people's revolution in Kampuchea, is null and void. The signing of the Human Rights Covenants by an individual, whose régime during its short period of reign in Kampuchea had exterminated about 3 million people and had thus grossly violated the elementary norms of human rights, each and every provision of the Human Rights Covenants is a regrettable precedence, which discredits the noble aims and lofty principles of the United Nations Charter, the very spirit of the above-mentioned Covenants, gravely impairs the prestige of the United Nations." And the Mongolians were followed by a few others including East Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belarus, Russian Federation, and Czechoslovakia. Belarus said “The ratification of the above-mentioned International Convention by the so-called "Government of Democratic Kampuchea"-the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique of hangmen overthrown by the Kampuchean people - is completely unlawful and has no legal force. The farce involving the ratification of the above-mentioned International Convention by a clique representing no one mocks the norms of law and morality and blasphemes the memory of millions of Kampuchean victims of the genocide committed by the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary régime.” And even Ethiopia thre in their two cents: "The Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia should like to reiterate that the Government of the People's Republic of Kampuchea is the sole legitimate representative of the People of Kampuchea and considers the ratification of the so-called `Government of Democratic Kampuchea' to be null and void." As well as Russia: “The ratification of the above-mentioned International Convention by the so-called "Government of Democratic Kampuchea"-the Pol Pot clique of hangmen overthrown by the Kampuchean people is completely unlawful and has no legal force” calling it a “direct insult to the memory of millions of Kampuchean victims of the genocide committed against the Kampuchean people by the Pol Pot Sary régime. The entire international community is familiar with the bloody crimes of that puppet clique.” And Vietnam piped in to the UN: "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam considers that only the Government of the People's Republic of Kampuchea, which is the sole genuine and legitimate representative of the Kampuchean People and rejects as null and void the ratification of the above-mentioned international Convention by the so-called "Democratic Kampuchea"- a genocidal regime overthrown by the Kampuchean people since January 7, 1979. Furthermore, the ratification of the Convention by a genocidal regime, which massacred more than 3 million Kampuchean people in gross violation of fundamental standards of morality and international laws on human rights, simply plays down the significance of the Convention and jeopardises the prestige of the United Nations." So after all that hullabaloo the Khmer Rouge formally amended their signing of International Human Rights Convention, saying it applied only to certain bad guys: :"The Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) reserves the right not to be bound by the aforesaid Protocol as regards any enemy whose armed forces or allies no longer respect the prohibitions contained in this Protocol." These Treaties get complicated sometimes. But everything is under control over there now, right? 12 hours ago · Like · 2 Faine Greenwood Well, that's definitely the most thinking a Facebook exchange has ever forced me to do. More thoughts later. 12 hours ago · Like · 1 Marc Hoogsteyns Nate has a point ! And I share his view for 70 % since war and violence will always be part of human nature. Cambodia is also a typical landmine-country. Other cvountries that have a similar violence pattern (f.i. Rwanda and Congo) don't know the use of landmines. A lot of research and development has been done recently to develop new and 'smarter' weapons. One just has to go out to Afghanistan or Irak to see what kind of weapons the US is using on the battlefield. I'm pissing in my pants when I think about the future use of these weaopons by other people once they'll start filtering down to other armed groups or armies. 12 hours ago · Like Ann Kuzy ‎'Years away from the conflict that spawned them, these murderous devices are out of sight and out of mind...until a child, playing in a field perhaps empty for years, steps on one'.. from my earlier post.. 11 hours ago · Like Michael Hayes An ECCC brochure, signed off on no doubt by RGC friends, still uses 3 million figure. 11 hours ago · Like Nate Thayer Ann: Of course you are accurate. But not exactly right. In every conflict for each soldier a casualty there are an average of 10 civilians. And that is the war itself. The dirty little truth is there are no rules of war in real time. That children women innocents and even the other side get murdered by accident and by intentional choice, people get tortured, women get raped, families have to flee their home, otherwise normal men take pleasure in causing suffering or are permanently scarred from being told to inflict it, not stopping it, witnessing it, and being victims and perpetrators of it. And that is when they play by the rules. Landmines are very very bad, but a small part of the the larger issue. Against indiscriminate causing of injury and death of civilians or the wrong target? U.S. drones do it hundreds of times a year and have killed thousands of civilians. Bin Laden changed the rules into the status quo where targeting civilians is not frowned upon. The US has responded in kind--regardless whether one agrees or not--losing its moral authority with a vast swath of the planet through legalizing and defending torture and random arrest without due process of children and civilians and genuine political enemies and plucking them from anywhere on the globe and putting them in cages and torturing them without giving them any rights accorded to our own citizens. You can argue whether it is acceptable or worth it, but you can't argue that it isn't fact. And then how do we answer when the same tactics are used against us by whomever has a political beef with you or me? The suffering of a child from warfare has no one representing you opposed to it. And for most of the planet that has been true for those representing them for a very long time. War is a failure of diplomacy--or a bully or cowards way to avoid an exchange of ideas over a difference of opinion. You can't have it both ways. Nobody wants to die but almost everyone wants to kill by a set of rules that they don't want the other side to use. There are no good guys and there are no heroes in this debate--yet. 11 hours ago · Like · 1 Nate Thayer Michael: That is another of the long list of notches on the ECCC belt that makes it little different than a Stalin style political show trial. Pick and choose the accused first, gather evidence later, allow use of politically motivated fiction like the 3 million dead figure to substitute for fact, give political protection to many who have court admissible evidence sufficient for indictment and have a judiciary manipulated by politicians in control of the whole process. How is the message that those guilty of violating the rights of your average rice farmer will face punishment get sent when the guilty is still your village headman? It used to be that your average Cambodian had no faith in justice from any Cambodian political figure and put their faith in the promises of the international community. Now they, I assume, know they have no one to turn to to seek redress for grievances. This trial is useful for history and selective vengeance and sealing the past as a chapter that instead of being left behind, is given the green stamp of approval for whoever wants to try it again. Now they know they can get away with it 11 hours ago · Like Faine Greenwood As vastly un-PC as it is, I think your points on 1. war and unfair war and the death of civilians is never, ever going away and 2. how the hell else do you secure your real estate in battle? make a lot of sense. 6 hours ago · Like Faine Greenwood As for the ECCC - so do you think it holds any value as a purely historical exercise? 6 hours ago · Like Kevin Barrington Nate...as anyone who has relied on exposed and vulnerable soldiers for protection can empathise with their reliance on those ugly 24hr sentries. But as we all know sentries doze off and landmines are forgotten about. As mines are a tool of a grunt's defence, provocation is one of journo offense. So let's put that aside. What everyone is in agreement on is the tragic consequence of the unintended victims, civilian or otherwise. I used to find myself in a moral quandry reporting on the early days of the Campaign in Cambodia. I felt somewhat hypocritical as my support seemed to end at situations where my own personal safety was at stake. Perhaps to compensate, I found myself fully, almost overly, supportive of measures such as the call for self destructive, mapping devices etc. However by aiming high, arguably unrealistically so, the campaign has - as been pointed out in response - achieved quite a number of significant goals. Perhaps it's time to see similar energetic campaigns to tackle those weapons, which don't have any semblance of the defence of protecting those often exploited figures at the very bottom of the military food. We're talking about the more "sophisticated" weapons like the cluster bombs we saw in use in both Iraq and the south of Lebanon - indiscriminate like landmines but deployed on an industrial scale. And the white phosphorous we saw in Gaza city. I suppose growing consensus on one issue helps augment the pressure on when tackling the next. I don't think there are any real opposing sides on this issue...just varying shades of pragmatism and idealism. 2 hours ago · Like · 1 Nate Thayer Kevin: Your saying "I don't think there are any real opposing sides on this issue...just varying shades of pragmatism and idealism." is the key point. Anyone with a moral compass that is worthy is in support of whatever measures will be effective to reduce/eliminate civilian casualties, as is already unambiguously black and white in the early post WW2 Geneva conventions on 'rules of war'. The same conventions that outlaw torture and set strict guidelines for treatment of POW's. However, my main single argument against support for a treaty banning landmines was wholly consistent with that. And I retracted my initial statement opposing the ban. It, remains, however, entirely unrealistic, in a real world operational theatre, that the young boys dispatched to the kill zone who actually conduct the warfare will ever, ever divorce themselves from their human instinctual paramount loyalty to self preservation. They will do whatever is necessary to minimize the chances of being killed. It overrides by far any allegiance to the political cause or leader or religion or ethnicity they are willing to kill for, but far less committed to die for. Hence securing their perimeter, in order to most effectively neutralize the desire of the other team to die in order to breach said perimeter to kill the former. That is the overwhelming reason why anti-personnel mines are planted to begin with. It isn't to kill women or children and the thought isn't even a factor, when placed, of whether they will be removed to be no longer a threat years afterwards. The motivation is to not get murdered that night. In fact, in most cases, that position is abandoned under duress and the occupiers flee to a new plot of land where they repeat the process. Hence the key phrase guiding the Ban on Landmines Treaty is "victim-triggered" devises. If an explosive device doesn't get triggered by an enemy whose mission is to kill you, then you have to be alert 24/7 to set it off yourself when the person dispatched to kill you reveals themselves. That doesn't maximize or even effectively allow you to be secure---such as going to sleep or eating or chatting about your girlfriend or hometown etc. The other substitute offered is a non-lethal explosive devise that illuminates an intruder in a momentary light, specifically designed not to harm him. That doesn't address the issue that it leaves him fully capable of still killing you. It gives him an option to change his mind and decide not to try and kill you. A decision he has already been ordered to carry out and a decision he has decided to comply with. That isn't acceptably assuring a deterrent to the one trying not to be killed. It also means that if, say, you are sleeping, you have to wake up, assess an array of factors and then decide how to react. Giving advantage to the said premeditated murderer. i am talking about human nature and instinct to minimize being in danger, pain, injured , or killed. Which is the foremost strategy of every combatant on the planet (OK avoiding the anomaly of suicide bomber fanatics). So, if landmines are banned, the field soldier will create the most effective deterrent on his own from the arsenal of explosive devices he has been issued for other purposes. In other words, crude, far more powerful and destructive IED like devices that are indiscriminate by definition because they have no specific design. It is a simple practical matter of human nature adjusting to rules that decrease his chances of not being dead. If anti-personnel devices are designed to self destruct over time, be mapped by a command structure or otherwise regulated to allow their removal that is a more effective option to the goal of minimizing civilian or other unintended casualties, if the above options are all they are given. I suspect the landmine Treaty folks are far more ahead of this curve and appear to know their stuff far more than I am or do and have thought of this and have an answer. I have no military training, but I do have experience in being places where people object enough to attempt to kill me when I am trying to sleep. As for cluster bombs and drones and suicide bombers, they already violate a slew of existing treaties that most countries are signatories too already. I am not trying to be flippant to just muck up an objective I am in full support of. Just adding my scepticism that an effective strategy to make amendments to rules that legalize murder actually decrease innocent--or ANY victims/ targets/combatants or human life at all actually is best able to be effective in the real world of State sponsored legalized murder. 41 minutes ago · Like
Nate, No worries, however if I can get you to retract your opposition to the Treaty, I'd be pleased, not for intellectual debating reasons but because you are a very well respected writer, especially in these parts (I'm in Bangkok) and you are a mine survivor which allows you to write on the issue powerfully. What forward soldiers currently use are two types of mines not covered by the convention: claymores and tripflares. Claymore's, as you know, are command detonated by a guard. They've been used for decades for precisely this purpose. Tripflares work in the same way as antipersonnel mines, except they don't blow up the combatant, they warn of an intruder and 'light them up' so that guards are alerted to their presence, and they are exposed. This allows for the possibility of withdrawal or surrender, which landmines do not. In original military doctrine, ap mine fields were not to be left unattended but always to be covered by a guard, since mine fields can be breached for an attack, so this does not really call for a change of doctrine, just the tool of the job. Neither claymores nor trip flares carry the liabilities of antipersonnel mines which carry war into peacetime. Hope that does the trick, but if not I stand ready to reply further. :-) As you might have guessed by now, it is my job.... cordially, Yeshua - Hide quoted text - > Yeshua: > > I take no issue with any of the below. And again we are on the same team on these issues. I am aware of how you described the tactical use of IED's. And I am not trying to much up the debate with Socratic logic to detract from the legitimacy of your premise or the practical compromises that have to be made. > > My original point was the use of a tactic weapon to secure the perimeter of infantry grunts actually at risk and deployed to carry out the combat. If landmines are banned, what will/do they now use in there place to secure their perimeter? I know it is different for newer usage of asymmetrical warfare, "terrorism" which targets civilians, and urban warfare in general (all of which violate existing international rules, laws, conventions, and treaties of war), but in the field, say Afghanistan, what do forward deployed soldiers use to secure their AO? If they aren't using landmines, they are replacing them with something. And victim-activated devices may be banned, but that's the only way you are going to secure whatever piece of real estate you are using as a forward operating base. So, are they using improvised explosives designed for other purposes or homemade or landmines? If not then what? They certainly aren't going to rely on a gentleman's agreement with the other side when office hours are open for business. That is pretty much the basis of my entire admittedly intentionally provocative post. if you can convince me of another way that two sides on a mission to murder the other can replace that or not need to employ it, then I will promptly retract my (very luke warm and probably not really honestly committed to but meant to initiate a debate) initial opposition to the Treaty > > Thanks for the substantive and thoughtful responses, > > Nate
International Campaign to Ban Landmines soundly rebuts my blog post opposing landmine treat Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan Research Coordination: Ban/Policy (Asia) Non-State Armed Groups (Global) Dear Nate: Good to see your article, and I couldn't agree more with you on the lunacy of armed conflict as you perfectly describe it. However, your conclusion regarding landmines is questionable. Your argument seems to be since conflict is unlikely to cease soon (agreed) then any international convention to take away a tool of the mass insanity will fail (facts are against you on the later). We watch this carefully, and track it in our annual Landmine Monitor reports (www.the-monitor.org). While there are some ups and downs in the pattern, we are clearly making a difference. Since the 1997 Treaty came into existence, casualties from antipersonnel mines have dropped almost 75%. 80% of the world's governments have joined the treaty, which requires them to destroy their stockpiles and production capacity- they can't give it away or sell it. Known legal trade in the weapon has halted for more than a decade. Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Why Landmines Should not be Banned By Nate Thayer Great piece by Luke Hunt, as is his norm. But with the full knowledge I will get rebuked like a convicted pedophile arguing for the right to work as a summer camp counselor for teenagers, I am opposed to a ban on landmines and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty. I promise I love my mother, dogs, children, and freedom etc. etc. But, in my view, an international treaty making it illegal to manufacture, produce sell, export, buy, and use anti-personnel mines will result in increasing civilian and non-combatant casualties, and increase both the number of combatants wounded and the severity of their wounds. Here is my reasoning: The statistics swing wildly, as does the category what team is allowed to murder whom and when, which team doesn’t have the thumbs up to kill, or whom it is against the rules to murder (see below for far more random data than you want to know), but it is generally accepted that well over 250 million people were killed by political groups in the 20th century—far more than any century in human history. It was a century that began with a murder that sparked a war in Sarajevo, interrupted by an icon event of world harmony and unity—the Olympics—in Sarajevo and ended with a mass orgy of mass killing and atrocities in Sarajevo. And it only seems to be getting worse since. There have been several hundred wars this last century, but the figure swings wildly depending on who is counting what and where. But my conclusion is that it looks like it is going to be a while before people figure out another way to settle their differences. Another way than sending off as-close-to-teenage-boys-that-might-still-think-it-is-a-like-a-video-game as they can get away with, to do their killing or get killed trying to not let the other team kill the guy who sends the other guy who thinks it is like a video game off to prevent him from getting killed while trying to kill the opposing teams elite. But, at the end of the day, anybody who has been to war knows that the first thing you do when you seize a piece of real estate is to protect your perimeter from being penetrated by someone trying to kill you. It is human nature. So you can take care of such matters as eating, talking, sleeping, thinking, and, in general trying not to dwell on the fact that you are unwanted where you are enough that someone will kill you for being there. It has nothing to do with politics. Or country. Or freedom. Or justice. Or ideology. Or patriotism etc. It has to do with not getting killed. To secure your perimeter you must make the other team afraid enough to not risk trying to breach it. So you put things that explode and will kill them under the ground or along a path or between trees to make a circle around you that will kill them so they won’t kill you. So you can eat, sleep, and wake up. It has nothing to do with landmines per se. They make them designed to just blow your leg off and NOT kill you so two other guys will be out of action also because they need to carry you back from whence you came. Actually the good ones are designed to blow three peoples legs off to make SIX other guys, totaling nine, to be out of action. They have landmines that can bounce in the air and instead of blowing your leg off, blow up chest high to kill a bunch of the other team. Or attached in a line down a path so the first guy sets off an explosion that kills a whole line of guys going back, say, 40 feet. There are all kinds of tricks. You can easily make your own landmine from any explosive—a mortar, or artillery shell, grenade or a Budweiser beer can filled with innards of bullets etc. The point being that banning landmines isn’t going to stop some young fellow from doing whatever he can to make sure he can eat and sleep to minimize the chances of someone from the other team trying to kill him successfully while he does so. It is human nature to try and avoid death, pain, injury or danger. Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Otiena: Thank you for your kind remarks. I too have great affection for my time spent in Indonesia. I don't know what exactly you are referring too "How can it be that something this important was washed over by a sexy affair?" But if you explain, I will try to respond
Taking the moral high ground:Swedish Pol Pot supporter apologizes for his mistake By Nate Thayer When Gunnar Bergstrom was a guest in Khmer Rouge Cambodia of Pol Pot in August 1978, the Swede enjoyed a rare meeting and dinner of oysters hosted by Pol Pot. The meal followed a rare interview he and three politcal comrades from Sweden were given by the innaccesible and secretive Pol Pot who was then presiding over the death of more than a million and a half people that was actually escalating and under full rage at the time of that August 1978 feast. he returned to Europe and labeled talk about genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge rule as a Western lie. He has since fully publicly acknowledged his mistake, without mitigation or justification. he simply said he was wrong and asked for forgiveness. "For those still appalled by my support of the Khmer Rouge at the time, and especially those who suffered personally under that regime, I can only say I am sorry and ask for your forgiveness," Bergstrom says in his book, "Living Hell." Full stop. He returned to Cambodia in the mid 2000's and publicly apologized again. He should be commended for having the moral courage to simply admit he was wrong, instead of the decades of silence or mitigation or justification that many others have chosen who shared his views and had a significant influence on public opinion and policy. He has shown moral courage that in contrast is absent from many of his contempraries who remain active in the Cambodian politcal debate today. The young Swedish leftists shared Pol Pot's view, seeing the Khmer Rouge takeover as a revolution to transform Cambodia into a fairer society benefiting the poor. Bergstrom has since realized he was mistaken about Pol Pot's brutal regime, and he has publicly retracted and apologized for his support and the propoganda influencee it had. he took the initiatiove to try and make amends. "We had been fooled by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We had supported criminals," he told The Associated Press from Stockholm. Gunnar Bergstrom has deep regret. He was one of only a handful of Westerners whom the Khmer Rouge allowed to visit during its 1975-79 hold on power. "For those still appalled by my support of the Khmer Rouge at the time, and especially those who suffered personally under that regime, I can only say I am sorry and ask for your forgiveness," Bergstrom says in his book, "Living Hell." Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Evi: I know. I just started this blog a few weeks ago and know little about the whole WWW world, though learning fast. It is about to be totally redesigned. Not to mention the typos and spelling and grammatical errors! Thanks for the kind comment. Your observation is correct....best, Nate
Khmer Rouge Apologist Noam Chomsky: An Offense to all who died under Pol Pot A Review of his record to date By Nate Thayer Professor Noam Chomsky is a brilliant man. He is without question the world’s leading scholar on linguistics, a long deserved tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and speaks 32 languages. He so dominated the international field of linguistics, that he created another school of linguistic theory for the purpose of encouraging debate within his specialty. However Chomsky is best known as a very active political critic. He refuses to attach an ideology to himself, but has described his politics in their past as similar to an Anarchists. He is too smart to simply not understand the political writing he has made a career out on the Cambodian debate. And they are nothing less than intellectually intentional, knowing lies designed to mislead people as to the true facts, origins, and cause of the Cambodian suffering. His writings on Cambodia has done more damage, though its surface logic, to allowing those responsible for mass murder to avoid facing justice, and to misdirect that responsibility on peripheral players in the 20 year old drama. Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Your scoop? Nah. It's ours if we want it 'Ethics' and 'large media organisation' are terms that look less and less comfortable together. Paul McCann profiles a recent conflict involving star foreign reporter Nate Thayer, Pol Pot and America's ABC News By Paul McCann Monday 25 May 1998 Nate Thayer is the kind of reporter that makes idealistic youngsters want to be journalists. He has risked his life in jungles, crossed the front lines of a civil war, been expelled from his home for exposing corrupt ministers and made secret rendezvous with genocidal killers. All for what is universally acknowledged to be the scoop of the decade - finding Pol Pot. Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2011 at Nate Thayer
Thank you John. The blog is really mostly me digitally archiving a couple thousand published articles that I have stuffed in hard-copy in file cabinets. Many I still don't have copies at all of, as they were written from remote locations and published in various outlets in a number of countries and I never saw the printed results. Plus, I do have some current writing and musings. Thanks for taking the time to read it and you generous comment
HHmmm....who is Private Investigator NYC? and why is it "perfect content" worth "more than I expect"?
'We are the World!’ By Nate Thayer After threatening to assassinate American civilians, the Khmer Rouge leader continued. “Why don’t we join hands in national reconciliation. Join together! We are with you, the West!” he said, growing increasingly animated, half breaking into song. “‘We are the World!’ Who is that singer? Johnny Jackson? Like he says, ‘We are the world!’ Let’s join together!” (Copyright Nate Thayer. All Rights Reserved. Excerpts from unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.” No republication in whole or part without express written permission from the author.) By Nate Thayer A non-descript Khmer Rouge operative, dressed in civilian clothes was standing in the hallway outside my seedy hotel room in the still dark hours before dawn in The Thai border town of Surin. He waved me out urgently, nervously checking to see that the hallways were clear and I accompanied him at a pace too fast to be inconspicuous through the hotel lobby outside to a beat up pickup truck with a Thai civilian in the driver’s seat who refused to identify himself. The truck had Thai civilian license plates. Tuoch, the Khmer Rouge agent, refused to tell me where we were going or with whom I was scheduled to meet. “You will see,” he said solemnly. He probably didn’t even know himself. He would not have had to be instructed to be vague. His mission was only to retrieve me from the hotel and deliver me safely to Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia without drawing the attention of anybody. In late July 1996, now more than ever, the Khmer Rouge believed that enemies were everywhere and they were right. Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2011 at Nate Thayer
The Night Pol Pot Died: From the Jungles of Northern Cambodia By Nate Thayer (Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No publication or transmission in whole or part allowed without express written permission of the author. Excerpts from the unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.”) I was alone in a hotel the night Pol Pot died, in the small, remote Thai border town of Surin, abutting the Khmer Rouge controlled jungles of Cambodia, where I had been urgently summoned by the Khmer Rouge a few days earlier in a phone call which betrayed no specifics of why they wanted to see me, only that it was urgent. General Khem Nuon, the Khmer Rouge army-chief-of-staff and top field commander for Ta Mok had said only: “What you have been asking for we have agreed to.” I took that to mean that I had been granted another interview with Pol Pot, but I was to learn it was even more significant. They had decided, as I had been pressing them for months, to turn Pol Pot over to the international community to face a trial. I was summoned to discuss how to actually handle the logistics of handing over Pol Pot. It was an attempt to play their last card to garner international support and stem metastasizing mutinies and all out warfare raging in their jungles which threatened to finish their organization for the final time. I had spent several days along the Thai-Cambodian rebel held border discussing their plight and interviewing their top cadre. Earlier that day I had filed a story with my magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review, on the Khmer Rouge decision to hand over Pol Pot. The Review goes to press at 5:00 pm Hong Kong time on Wednesdays—this one being the 15th of April, 1998. “We have decided to turn Pol Pot over to the Americans. But we can’t get in touch with the Americans. We discussed it again this morning and Ta Mok agreed. So we want to give him to you,” said the guerrilla commander. Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2011 at Nate Thayer