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Cambodian Police Block Mia Farrow

KER MUNTHIT   01/20/08 02:16 AM ET   AP

Mia Farrow

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian police blocked Mia Farrow from holding a genocide memorial ceremony Sunday at a Khmer Rouge prison, at one point forcefully pushing her group away from a barricade.

Farrow, who is working with the U.S.-based advocacy group Dream for Darfur, was in Cambodia as part of a seven-nation tour of countries that have suffered genocide to call attention to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

"My heart _ our hearts _ are breaking for what happened in Cambodia today, especially for the survivors of genocide," Farrow told a news conference after the confrontation with police.

The Cambodian government had barred the ceremony several days ago and police on Sunday sealed off all roads leading to the Khmer Rouge's infamous Tuol Sleng prison, which is now a genocide museum.

The American actress and seven other activists arrived at one of the barricades, about 170 yards from the museum's gate and refused to go away, linking their arms in a human chain.

Farrow held a bunch of white lotus flowers, a traditional offering for the dead.

"Our goal today was to deliver these flowers in deepest respect ... to honor those who have perished here in Cambodia and in Darfur and in all genocides everywhere," Farrow told the police and journalists.

Police started pushing the group, shouting, "Go! Go! Go!" and blowing whistles. Farrow and the others eventually returned to a waiting van and drove off, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

Nobody was hurt or arrested during the standoff, said Theary Seng, director of Cambodian advocacy group Center for Social Development, which was working with Farrow.

Farrow had planned to light an Olympic-style torch outside the former prison to send a message to China _ the next Olympic host and one of Sudan's major trading partners _ to press the Sudanese government to end abuses in Darfur.

More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur since 2003 when ethnic African rebels took arms against the Arab-dominated central government. Khartoum denies accusations it committed widespread war crimes.

The Cambodian government, which has strong economic and political ties with China, said days ago it would prevent the 62-year-old actress from going through with the ceremony. It accused the actress of having a political rather than humanitarian agenda.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith accused Farrow's group of trying "to exploit the bones of the dead Cambodians" to futher a political cause.

"Why don't they just go to China to do that," the spokesman said Sunday.

Farrow denied that her intentions were political in an interview Saturday, and said she was determined to press ahead with the ceremony.

"It's pretty harsh to be against a ceremony that honors the victims of Darfur and genocide survivors everywhere," Farrow said.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge's genocidal reign from 1975-1979. Thousands of Khmer Rouge prisoners were tortured at the Tuol Sleng prison before being executed outside the capital at the site known as "the killing fields."


Filed by Katherine Thomson  |