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Government to Ban Darfur Torch Relay

Government officials said Wednesday they would ban a US-based advocacy group from holding a ceremonial torch relay to raise awareness of rights abuses in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The group, Dream for Darfur, has held similar relays in other countries and is urging the Chinese government—host of the 2008 summer Olympics and friend of the Sudanese government—to stop the abuses in Darfur. Cambodia enjoys a close relationship with China.

The relay was to be initiated by US actress and activist Mia Farrow and joined by survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide and US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday the government would not allow the Olympics to be politicized.

If rights groups want to help Cambodian athletes go to the Olympics, he said, “we wish to very much welcome that.”

Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development, which was helping organize the relay, declined to comment on the ban.

Vann Nath, a survivor of the Tuol Sleng torture center under the Khmer Rouge, who was supposed to take part in the relay, said he hoped to use the event as a way to raise awareness of the suffering that takes place under genocidal regimes.

The US supports events that memorialize those killed during the Khmer Rouge regime and focuses attention on genocide, US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said.