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  • A humble tribute to Cambodia

    Close to two million people were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, a generation lost in a country where the word happiness was eradicated from the dictionary. On board of a bus, fifty survivors, many of them civil parties at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, traveled from different provinces throughout the country to recover a small part of what was murdered by Pol Pot and his “brothers”.

    Since then, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders, including Pol Pot, have escaped judgement, dying of old age before they were ever called to be judged. Yesterday, 35 years after Cambodia was returned to the Cambodians, two of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, were given life sentences for crimes against humanity by a United Nations-backed tribunal that has taken too long to give back a bit of peace to those who lost family during the most horrific period in the history of Cambodia.

    As one of the survivors said after the pronouncement of the life sentence, happiness is too big of a word to describe what this sentence has finally brought to Cambodia and for those who have been searching for justice since 1979.

    “I am not happy. Nothing will bring my family back. But now everyone knows that they were murdered by the Khmer Rouge. Many of the leaders are still there, others have died without being accused. But today finally we have that bit of justice that we have been fighting for since the beginning”.

    Photography: ©Omar Havana / Getty Images. All Rights Reserved

  • Chaos in the Nepali Constituent Assembly on the deadline of the new constitution

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL – 22 January 2015. After Tuesday’s early morning brawl between opposition and ruling party lawmakers at the Constituent Assembly (CA) and a daylong strike that shuttered Kathmandu, Nepali lawmakers met once again to discuss key provisions of the long-awaited Constitution on Thursday. However, chaos erupted soon after the session started, as ruling party lawmakers attempted to put forth a vote on pending issues in the constitution over which the opposition and ruling parties disagree, a move that was obstructed by the opposition. The session was once again delayed to Friday.

    The CA had given itself the 22 January deadline to promulgate a new constitution, but the issue of federalism has been keeping the parties from coming to an agreement over the substance of the constitution. The Maoist-led 30-party alliance has been calling for around a dozen identity-based states in order to address issues of discrimination against marginalized groups, while the ruling Nepali Congress party and the Unified Marxist-Leninist party are against such a system. The Maoists have repeatedly threatened to boycott the new Constitution and to stage mass protests if the ruling party pushes the Constitution through the CA without first establishing consensus, and say negotiations should continue until such a consensus is reached.

    On Wednesday, the international community, through the United Nations Resident Coordinator, issued a statement calling on all parties to return to the negotiating table and condemned “violence or threats of violence.” Analysts fear that furthering delaying the constitution, which is the last step in the peace process started in 2006, will result in increased risks of unrest throughout the country and in widespread disillusionment with the political process on the part of the electorate.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Constituent Assembly is searched by a  security staff member at one of the main entrances to the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Security staff protect the main stage while opposition lawmakers obstruct the resumption of today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition chant slogans while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali opposition shouts slogans while security staff members make a human barrier during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition are pushed back by security staff while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition are pushed by security staff while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition kick a table while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali parliament watches the chaos inside the Constituent Assembly during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali opposition climbs on top of a table during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali parliament takes a photo of the opposition protests inside the Constituent Assembly during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    Photography: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

  • Nepal opposition strike shutters Kathmandu

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL – JANUARY 20, 2015. After a clash at the Constituent Assembly between the opposition and ruling party turned violent late last night, resulting in opposition members throwing chairs and breaking desks and microphones, Nepal woke up this morning to a nationwide strike. The strike had been called for by an alliance of 30 opposition parties, including the United Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN) – Maoists, and has effectively shuttered the country.

    Streets of Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu remained empty of traffic all day, with the exception of official vehicles and ambulances, while most of the city’s public transportation was banned forcing residents to use other method of transportation or to walk long distances. Most schools, shops and restaurants chose to stay closed, bringing most of Nepal’s economy to a halt. Police and army forces have been deployed throughout the country, with police officers in full riot gear present throughout Kathmandu. Opposition supporters enforcing the strikes are reported to have set several vehicles on fire, including trucks carrying copies of local newspapers Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post, in several districts throughout the country.

    Today’s strike follows a series of strikes, known as “Bandhs” in Nepal, held last week and comes two days before the Constituent Assembly’s latest deadline to promulgate a draft of the long-awaited constitution. With the opposition coalition and the ruling parties still at a disagreement over key aspects of the constitution, and in particular the issue of federalism, worries are mounting that the deadline for promulgating the constitution will be yet again delayed.

    Further strikes and protests have been planned by the opposition for the coming days. UCPN-Maoists have stated that they are planning a mass protest and to symbolically burn the constitution if it is promulgated on Thursday. Meanwhile, the country remains on high alert, waiting to see what the newest political developments will be and what the consequences of those developments will mean for the average Nepali citizen.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A woman walks on Kathmandu’s ring road emptied of traffic during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A man sits in the middle of Kathmandu’s ring road during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A stray dog sleeps in front of the main door of a store in the tourist neighbourhood of Thamel during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: Nepali police forces stand in front of closed businesses in the Maharajgunj neighbourhood during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A petrol station is closed in the Baluwatar neighbourhood during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: Two members of the Nepali Police forces stand in front of a closed shop while a young child looks at the empty street in the Lazimpat neighbourhood during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: Members of the Nepali army walk on Durbar Marg street, emptied of traffic during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A group of Kathmandu residents ride in a rickshaw, one of the only forms of public transportation circulating today in the city, during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A group of teenagers play football in the middle of an empty street as vehicles have been banned around the city during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A woman walk near the Japanese embassy while few drivers defy the opposition bandh that shuttered the city and banned vehicles on the streets of Kathmandu on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    Photography: © Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights Are Reserved

    Published by Al Jazzera. 

  • Inside: A Cambodian Slaughterhouse

    In a country where the demand for meat is ever increasing and where pork is generally favoured, Cambodia’s swine slaughterhouses are an important business. The Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture estimates that there is a total yearly production of over 2.4 million pigs.

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A worker removes the insides from a pig while others perform different duties inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    Hidden in the darkness of the outskirts of Siem Reap, the city of the famous Angkor temples, an old abandoned building has been transformed into a pig slaughterhouse, where hundreds of animals are killed every night. Rivers of blood cover the floor of the building while dozens of workers, most wearing nothing but underwear, rush between the cries of the pigs to make a living.

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A young worker places a pig inside a big pot of boiling water to remove the pig’s hair inside a slaughterhouse where he works every night for seven hours in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    Despite lingering fears from the 2009 swine flu epidemic, there is little regulation over these slaughterhouses. The process by which pigs are slaughtered are less than hygienic. One employee in a slaughterhouse can kill and gut up to 30 pigs a night over a seven hour shift. 

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A worker cuts different parts of the pigs piled on the floor inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    As the animals arrive, they are lined up to their death. Those who try to escape are hit with bamboo sticks on the head, just one of the ways in which their lives will come to a brutal end. The animals are then swiftly killed by a knife stab to the neck, and then washed and gutted on concrete slabs and the floor itself. 

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A worker cleans the insides of pigs in buckets of water inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    Between the thousands of flies wandering around, there is little time to waste for the workers, as markets in Cambodia open soon after dawn. Everyone here has a duty, from the young boy hitting pigs with huge bamboo sticks to those who split the animals’ bodies in two, taking their guts out. Two doctors stepping on floors full of blood certify the quality of the product in no more than a few seconds of inspection, and a broker chooses the animals that are going to travel in the back of a dirty truck to the local markets to supply the increasing demand for pig meat in Cambodia. 

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A veterinarian certifies the quality of pigs hanging inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) dictates that the best way to avoid contamination of the meat during the slaughtering process is to avoid contact with the floor, something which is ignored in this slaughterhouse where pigs are thrown to the floor many times during the killing process.

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: Two young men pile cuts of pig meat into the back of a truck outside a slaughterhouse to be sold to vendors in one of the local markets in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A woman sells meat inside Psa Leur market in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

  • Tibetan Refugees gather to celebrate the 55th anniversary of their exile in Nepal

     

    Thousands of Tibetan refugees gathered on the 66th International Human Rights Day in order to raise awareness about the situation of Tibet and to celebrate their 55 years in exile in Nepal at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL. December 10th, 2014. A group of exiled Tibetans, including Buddhist monks, stand in front of a wall painted with the Tibetan Flag during the celebrations of the 55th Anniversary of their exile in Nepal from Tibet at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 December 2014. Photo by Omar Havana

    More than 20,000 Tibetans currently reside in Nepal, many of whom have been there since the exile of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959. Before 2008, as many as 2,000 Tibetans were still arriving in Nepal each year, although that number dropped to less than 200 per year by 2013, trekking across Himalayan mountain passes to reach Nepal. Many of them then cross into India, where they are given political asylum, as they are denied identity documents, access to free education and health services and livelihood opportunities by Nepali authorities.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL. December 10th, 2014. A group of exiled Tibetan monks carry a photo of the 14th Dalai Lama during the celebrations of the 55th Anniversary of their exile in Nepal from Tibet at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 December 2014. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Reserved

     The flight of Tibetan citizens from Tibet began during the Chinese Maoist government’s expansionist policy between 1949 and 1959, with many fleeing to India and some to Nepal. After the 1959 Lhasa uprising, Nepal opened its borders for Tibetan refugees, resulting in a significant increase in the number of Tibetans entering Nepal. However, following the signature of a treaty between Tibet and China in 1986, the flow of refugees into Nepal was substantially reduced. New and even stricter border control policies enacted by Nepal in 1989 due to Chinese pressure resulted in even greater restrictions on the ability of Tibetan refugees to enter Nepal.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL. December 10th, 2014. A group of exiled young Tibetan women put on make up in preparation for the celebrations of the 55th Anniversary of their exile in Nepal from Tibet at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 December 2014. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL. December 10th, 2014. An exiled Tibetan dancer performs traditional dances during the celebrations of the 55th Anniversary of their exile in Nepal from Tibet at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 December 2014. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL. December 10th, 2014. A exiled Tibetan man holds a Tibetan praying wheel in front of a pile of burning incense during the celebrations of the 55th Anniversary of their exile in Nepal from Tibet at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 December 2014. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL. December 10th, 2014. A exiled Tibetan woman places a traditional Katha in front of a portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama during the celebrations of the 55th Anniversary of their exile in Nepal from Tibet at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 December 2014. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL. December 10th, 2014. Two young exiled Tibetan Buddhist monks stand in front of a wall painted with the Tibetan Flag during the celebrations of the 55th Anniversary of their exile in Nepal from Tibet at the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding School in Tinchuli, Kathmandu, Nepal on 10 December 2014. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Reserved