Cambodia bars Mia Farrow from holding ceremony

January 16, 2008 9:43:13 AM PST
The Cambodian government said Wednesday it will not allow Mia Farrow to hold a ceremony at a former Khmer Rouge prison as part of her efforts to draw attention to the crisis in Sudan.

The 62-year-old actress, working with the U.S.-based Dream for Darfur advocacy group, had planned to light an Olympic-style torch Sunday at the Khmer Rouge's infamous Tuol Sleng torture house to urge China to press Sudan to end abuses in Darfur.

The group claims China, host of the 2008 Olympics, has protected Khartoum at the U.N. Security Council and sold weapons to the Sudanese government, while making Sudanese oil purchases that have helped fund genocide there.

"We will not allow them to hold the ceremony because they are not doing this for humanitarian reasons but because they have a political agenda against China," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

China is one of Cambodia's major trading partners and was also the biggest backer of the Khmer Rouge's communist regime in the 1970s, which led to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians.

Thousands of Khmer Rouge prisoners were tortured at the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh before being executed outside the capital at the site known as "the killing fields."

Theary Seng, head of the Cambodian Center for Social Development, which was to host the event, said the group was trying to negotiate with the government in hopes the ceremony could still take place.

The event was intended to "commemorate past victims of genocide and to remind us what happens when the world looks away, as is happening in Darfur currently," Dream for Darfur said in a statement.

The torch has toured countries that have suffered genocide and has so far been lit at the Darfur-Chad border, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Cambodia was to be the last stop before it heads to China.