Archive | March, 2013

Oops….Sorry About that Austin, Texas

31 Mar

Oops….Sorry About that Austin, Texas: An Otherwise Excellent Example of Great Journalism was Also a Tad Off

The Korean Central News Agency Friday sent out one of the thousands of meticulously staged propaganda photographs they do each year, this one with a caption which included the description of an “urgent operation meeting on the Korean People’s Army Strategic Rocket Force’s performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang.”

The picture showed Kim Jong Un sitting at a table with military commanders standing behind him. In the upper left, on the wall, was world map obscured in the background with some barely visible Korean language characters and several arrows pointing to different parts of an unmarked global map.

NKNews reporter James Pearson, with the eagle-eyed attention for out of the box details and curiosity which makes for a great reporter, didn’t focus on the staged people in the photo but on the aspects not designed by the propagandists who produced it to draw attention. One was the map in the top left hand portion of the photo. He translated the writing on the map which turned out to read “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan”. annotated photo titled "U.S. Mainland Strike Plan." Original photo by KCNA. Translations and analysis by James Pearson annotated photo titled “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan.” Original photo by KCNA. Translations and analysis by James Pearson

While this photo was released on the English language service of KCNA, whose target audience is enemy foreigners, it originally had appeared in the main North Korean Worker’s party organ, Rodong Sinbun, which targets North Korean citizens, and which often includes entirely different messages that the ruling party wants to send to its own population. What propaganda that appears in the North Korean language domestic press is very different than the propaganda meant for foreign consumption. Niether the map nor caption was either translated or highlighted in the KCNA English language broadcast photo.
Pearson said: “Shortly after breakfast, I called my NK NEWS colleague in D.C. to tell him I’d spotted a KCNA picture that showed Kim Jong Un and his generals studying a not-so-subtle map with the title ‘US MAINLAND ATTACK PLAN’ crudely printed on it. It could’ve been satire but, knowing how most (if not all) NK propaganda is very much intended for an internal audience, it made sense given reports on the ground in North Korea that the state was trying to create a ‘war-like’ atmosphere domestically.”

Pearson, who is in Seoul, also noted three blurry arrows pointing to spots on an unmarked outline of a world map. He, in coordination with NKNews journalists in Washington, superimposed a Google map of the U.S. on the KCNA unmarked map and located where exactly the arrows were pointing to. One pointed at Hawaii; one at San Diego, California; one at Washington, D.C.; and one at Austin, Texas.

Original March 29 KCNA official photo where Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a midnight meeting of top generals to put its rocket units on standby to attack U.S. military bases and "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation", the official KCNA news agency said. Note map has no markings or translations

Original March 29 KCNA official photo where Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a midnight meeting of top generals to put its rocket units on standby to attack U.S. military bases and “judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation”, the official KCNA news agency said. Note map has no markings or translations

Austin Texas? The home of Willie Nelson, hipsters, the South by Southwest music and cultural festival, and great barbecue?

Yep, that Austin. Continue reading

Why I am a Journalist: Continued….From a Daughter in Exile From her Own History

21 Mar

Why I am a Journalist: Continued…

From a Daughter in Exile From her Own History

Dear Mr. Thayer,

I truly enjoy your many articles and writing that you have posted on your website.  Growing up in the States and being around the Khmer community, I constantly remember old folks and even my grandfather blaming the genocide of the Khmer people on foreigners and the Vietnamese.

I recall my grandfather saying that everyone in the Khmer Rouge was Yuon because Khmers don’t kill Khmers.  I didn’t understand his logic, but after reading your posting of KR personalities-Hu Nim, the section where Ta Mok said everyone he killed was a Youn, was an a-ha moment.  His logic was the same as my grandfather, who was an officer in the Lon Nol army.

To grandpa, anybody that subscribed to ideas and thinking that was foreign and not-khmer centric was a blasphemous Khmer. He saw the Khmer Rouge as non-Khmer because they wanted to do away with old Cambodia society. Communism for him was introduced to Cambodia through the Vietnamese, therefore being a Communist was a being Yuon.

Ta Mok’s logic seemed that way with his reasoning of Khmer body, but Yuon heads.  Also that meeting that you attended with the senior ranking Khmer Rouges, Ta Mok, Nuon Chea, and Khieu Samphan was the first I’ve read where the DK secrets about the apparatus were revealed.

Excellent, excellent work Mr. Thayer!  I’m glad I’ve found your blog.  I’ve tried to read your work whenever I could get my hands on it.

When I was in college in the late 90’s, I read your work in the Far Eastern Economic Review.  I have always been interested in Southeast Asian and Khmer History ever since I was a kid.  The Democratic Kampuchea era has always been an enigma to me and the closest to my family’s personal experience. Please continue with your wonderful work and expertise.  I will continue to read your work.


Tola Plong

Unpaid Newspaper Blogger Says Enough: New No Pay Contract Now Demands All Rights to Photos, Writing Forever

20 Mar

Unpaid Newspaper Blogger Refuses to Sign New No Pay Contract After New Demand of All Rights of  Her Writing and Photos in Perpetuity: Several of the Papers 28 Bloggers Have Joined Her Refusing to Sign Today’s Contract. Blogs Removed From Paper’s Website

By Nate Thayer

March 20, 2013

This morning,  28 unpaid bloggers for a “big time” New York state newspaper received a new contract which requires them to agree to not only no payment for their work, but demands they turn over all rights in perpetuity for their writings and photographs as well.

The new contract comes shortly after the paper began creating a revenue stream from placing advertisements on the blogs.

One popular blogger said enough is enough, and refused to sign the contract. The paper promptly removed her blog from its website. At least two other of the newspapers bloggers have joined the woman and refused to accept the contract terms, and said enough is enough. A published author, writer, photographer and freelance journalist, Cindi has been a blogger since 2007. You can contact her at  mylifeinfocus (at) yahoo (dot) com

In the wake of  the recent kerfuffle regarding similar practices by the Atlantic magazine, the blogger is among hundreds who have sent me similar messages

A published author, Cindi is a freelance journalist and photographer who had, until this morning, a very popular blog at a “big time” newspaper, which she asked remain unnamed for the time being, for which she was paid exactly nothing–as are all the other bloggers at the paper.

After recently putting advertising on the blog sites, the newspaper, which Cindi asked remain anonymous for now, sent the bloggers an email which mentioned they would be getting a new contract soon. It arrived this morning. Continue reading

Thoughts on the Death of Mass Murderer Ieng Sary:Cambodian Political Culture and North Korea

14 Mar

Thoughts on the Death of Mass Murderer Ieng Sary: The Khmer Rouge and North Korea

It is the Cambodian Political Culture which Should be Indicted

By Nate Thayer

(c)Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No republication in whole or part without express written permission from the author

Pol Pot’s brother in law, Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, one of only five people allowed to be charged and put on trial by this modern day version of a Stalinist style political show trial funded and given credibility by the UN, for killing 1.8 million  Cambodians, has died at 87, Cambodia’s UN-backed court announced today.

I am the only one to have interviewed all five of the defendants, all of whom are guilty as sin, so I have a few thoughts on the passing of Mr. Ieng Sary.

That leaves two more octogenarians the Cambodian government and world community are hoping will die soon so this charade of bringing justice to those responsible will never happen.

That should be soon, and the Cambodian government can finally dispense with this political nuisance of having the harsh glare of public scrutiny focused on their ugly and very much alive political culture.

Thirty years after the Khmer Rouge did what they did during their unspeakable three years, eight months and 30 days in power–committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, mass murder, torture and slave labor as official state policy, and, arguably genocide–this is the current state of justice for those millions dead and those, in many ways, who have suffered a worse fate and were unfortunate enough to survive, shattered and traumatized, their entire culture brought to its knees where the ex Khmer Rouge who control the country today demand they remain.

Of the five predetermined and given political permission to be charged as culpable of these crimes, this is the current status ofjustice dispensed: One mid level party technician who carried  out the political orders to execute 16,000 men women and children, after being tortured and interrogated, has been found guilty. One octogenarian woman had charges dismissed as she was determined  to be senile. Two senior officials, both in their 80’s and will die of old age before being found guilty remain on trial after ten years and $300 million dollars paid by the properly organized world to fund this  monument to a mockery of justice run by the United Nations but controlled by ex Khmer Rouge now running the current government.

And Ieng Sary died today. Continue reading

My Friend, Arthur: Formerly the Planet’s Biggest Dope Trafficker

9 Mar

My Friend, Arthur: Formerly the Planet’s Biggest Dope Trafficker

By Nate Thayer

Arthur Tonzone was, in his arguably misguided youth, the biggest  international drug trafficker  on earth. He also, I feel I have confidently confirmed, a great fucking guy. Arthur contacted me a couple weeks ago and said we had, sorta, crossed paths a few years back. “I know who you are,” he wrote me out of the blue. “We know many of the same people.”At the time he was smuggling 5 tons of marijuana from Cambodia to the U.S., a career path which had allowed him to intimately get to know a good portion of the planet from Jamaica to Thailand to Cambodia.

It didn’t, as these things tend to do, follow a happy script from there forward. Like many of our youthful choices, his story included a less than happy interval, but not ending.

Arthur was arrested and thrown in one of the worst hell holes on earth—T-3 political prison in Phnom Penh. He was only released into the custody of U.S. federal agents who took him back to the U.S. and to federal penitentiary, where he had the unfortunate, or perhaps enlightening, experience, where he then spent a far from pleasant further chunk of time.

He obviously recovered from his legal unpleasantness, because he wrote a book about all this.

Arthur is pissed off, for perfectly good reason. So he did what free people do when they are free—he objected.

His book, “Herb Trader”, which Arthur sent me by mail last week, is a riveting tale of his life. It is brutally honest, it is tragic, it is inspiring, and, as far as I can tell, spot on correct.

Arthur was a dope trafficker. Arthur is a very good man. I am glad to count him amongst my newer friends, despite the fact he claims we crossed paths while he was smuggling dope and I was tracking Pol Pot in the jungles of Cambodia:

Here is a portion of our correspondence this morning: Continue reading

Susan Brownmiller and Why I am a Journalist

6 Mar

Susan Brownmiller and Why I am a Journalist

Ok, You want to know why I will never cease being a journalist?

 This whole kerfuffle today over a post on my blog, which had perhaps a 100+ followers this morning, about the state of journalism which has gone viral and attracted the attention and comments of hundreds of thousands of people by a few hours later, has drawn supportive comments from umpteen number of people. Plus a few nasty ones.

Among the gems was this comment from someone who asked to be a FB friend: “Nate, I’ve been reading about your Atlantic controversy all over the place– and I remember how generous you were to me in Phnom Penh in the 1990s, in a journalists’ bar, when you asked what I was doing in the city and I said “Doing a story on The Temples of Angkor” and you said–so spontaneously- “The guy you want to speak to is sitting over there…” You are such a great journalist, and the reason I subscribed to the Far Eastern Economic Review for so many years.”

Honestly, I don’t remember the encounter. But I do know, now, who this person is.

Susan Brownmiller is a US feminist, journalist, author, and activist best known for her 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, in which she argued that rape was “nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” That book sent the then equivalent of cyberspace atwitter, prompting a slew of reactions and criticism which forced the debate of women being treated like chattel up for public debate. Angela Davis said her book was tantamount to an “unthinking partnership which borders on racism” and that was friendly fire.

Later, the New York Public Library selected Against Our Will as one of 100 most important books of the Twentieth Century.

Brownmiller spent four years investigating rape, from ancient criminal and civil law to the way rape was  reported in contemporary media,  literature, film, and popular music.

Brownmiller changed the course of the human debate on the rightful role of women in society, and pissed off far from a few people in the process.


Today she asked to be my friend on face book. And she sent me supportive comments for standing up to big media companies trying to fleece journalists to increase their profit margin.

She wrote in a post today I was tagged in on face book: “He was so generous to me in Phnom Penh– he was the dean of the journalists’ community. I was sitting with Kevin’s drunk journalist friends, who were telling their war stories, aggrandizing themselves, when this guy, Nate Thayer, the expert on Pol Pot, came over to our table and with his insatiable curiosity asked me what I was doing in the city–which none of Kevin’s friends had bothered to ask. And then he neatly pointed me in the right direction…giving my Angkor story for Travel&Leisure a depth it wouldn’t have had. I’m so glad his kerfuffle with the dummies at The Atlantic has gone viral.”

Susan wrote some time ago “My parents were so intense about…newspapers and the radio that I became very intense about these things too. My dad worked as a sales clerk in Macy’s and my mom worked as a secretary in the Empire State Building. I was lucky to go to Cornell University for a couple of years on scholarships. When I left school, I was determined to be a Broadway actress. This was, in my case, a very mistaken ambition. So I found a little tenement apartment in Manhattan, got jobs as a file clerk, did some waitressing, got fired a lot, and studied acting. Quite accidentally I started backing into editorial-type jobs for some confession magazines, and learned” how to be a journalist.

Journalism has permitted me to be in the mix of people like Susan Brownmiller—whose unyielding, curmudgeonly refusal to accept what is unacceptable, has directly contributed to making this a better world for uncountable millions.

Thank you Susan.

You, and that, is why I will die being a journalist.

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