Conversation with … Christopher (Kip) Hale
December 19, 2007
While living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Christopher “Kip” Hale, son of Nancy and Tom Hale of Granby, is interning in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia ” a joint UN-Cambodia tribunal aiming to prosecute the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. His wife Tami teaches English to orphans.
Hale’s father was the Granby town manager for nearly eight years and is now vice president of Granby Ranch, and his mother owns Curves in Fraser. He attended boarding school out of state but spent summers in Grand County, where he worked at Winter Park Resort and a few local restaurants.
He completed his undergraduate studies at Denison University in Grandville, Ohio, then went on to the University of Denver Law School, where he graduated last May.
The Rotary Clubs of Granby and Winter Park/Fraser have donated funds to support the work Hale has been doing in Phnom Penh the past three months.
For more information about Christopher and Tami Hales’ work in Cambodia, visit their blog, http://tamiandkiparoundtheworld.blogspot.com.
What is your profession?
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“I am a lawyer who recently graduated from University of Denver law and passed the Colorado Bar in July. I focused in law school on international criminal law, and I am pursuing a career working for the United Nations as an international criminal lawyer.”
How did you decide to go to Cambodia?
“Well, by chance really. A friend of mine from law school who I worked with in the Netherlands at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said some colleagues of hers were asking her to come down to Cambodia to work on the UN-Khmer Rouge tribunal. She could not, and recommended me.
“Forty-eight hours later, I was accepted for an internship and was moving to Cambodia!”
What does your work there entail?
“I work in the Office of Prosecutors who are responsible for the prosecution of surviving members of the brutal Khmer Rouge Communist regime that killed around 2 million Cambodians from 1975-79. That is roughly 25 percent of the local population. These 5-10 suspects are elderly, but have lived in impunity far too long, and the international community is doing something about it.”
How long have you been there, how much longer?
“I have been here three great months and will be here for three more, barring the United Nations hiring me.”
Is your mission successful thus far?
“Extremely successful. We have arrested five surviving members, some of whom were thought to be politically untouchable because of their connections. We are gearing up for trials that should begin mid-2008. International trials take far longer to prepare for than domestic ones, so it is a slow, but necessary process.”
Describe a typical day.
“No day is typical. Some days I write motions, research international law, and take place in strategic meetings, and other days I enter data, print out documents, and proof read legal filings. All of it is very important to the cause, and I enjoy it all.”
Tell us about your surroundings and what you’ve experienced.
“Cambodia is a country with a bloody past while undergoing modernization. It is busy and slow at the same time. The people are amazingly nice and friendly. They are eager to learn about the world and love outsiders. The country is extremely beautiful with Wats (Buddhist temples) and colorful buildings around. Although it is quite dirty and like nothing in the West, it has a charm to it.”
Among the Cambodian people, are memories of the holocaust a part of everyday life and attitudes? What are they doing to heal?
“You will never meet one person who does not have a father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, or some family member that was killed by the Khmer Rouge. It is very personal and it is amazing how people do not start crying every day when you think what they went through. But they are very happy people and have a positive way of handling their past. However, those born after 1979 have little-to-no knowledge about the Khmer Rouge except for myths. They are not taught about the Khmer Rouge time in power, which is disconcerting. The tribunal is also here to set the record straight and teach about their past.”
Do many in the country feel slighted by the international community?
“Many blame the U.S. or China or other countries, but that does not seem to be pervasive or ever-present. Of course, Southeast Asia has many secrets about what Western countries did here, but Cambodia is not preoccupied with that. They are embracing democracy and growth, and are not holding outright grudges.”
Thank you, and good luck with you memorable work.
“I feel grateful for the experience to share with you and Grand Country about this very important tribunal.”
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.