Frontline World

About the Series
<<back

From the producers of FRONTLINE, a series of stories from
a new generation of video journalists.

 

World

Stories From a Small Planet

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE WORLD, three stories from a small planet.

First, a journey to Southeast Asia.

Cambodia

ANNOUNCER: Cambodia suffered one of the worst genocides of the 20th century, yet no one was ever put on trial. Reporter Amanda Pike ventures deep into a strange land to find the mysterious executioner they call "Pol Pot's Shadow."

NATE THAYER, Journalist: And there is just no question he is a mass murderer.

Romania

ANNOUNCER: Next, poet Andrei Codrescu returns to his homeland, Romania.

ANDREI CODRESCU, Reporter: [voice-over] He has returned as a blood-sucking booster of Romanian capitalism.

DRACULA IMPERSONATOR: I am Dracula!

ANDREI CODRESCU: If I don't die of embarrassment now, I think I'll be immortal.

India

ANNOUNCER: And finally, what happens when poor kids in India discover a hole in the wall with a computer inside?

SUGATA MITRA: The hole in the wall gives us a door through which large numbers of children can rush into this new arena. And when that happens, it will have changed our society forever.

Cambodia: Pol Pot's Shadow

Reported by Amanda Pike

AMANDA PIKE, Reporter: [voice-over] Cambodians say that the souls of those who die without a proper burial continue to wander the earth. This is a place still haunted by their presence. In the 1970s, nearly two million people here were killed in the genocide.

I came on a journey to Cambodia to find out why there's been no reckoning here- no trial, no truth commission, no public acknowledgement of what happened and who was responsible. But traveling in this country, you don't have to go far to find the evidence.

On a road outside the capital, Phnom Penh, we found a woman whose story is like so many others. Her name is Samrith Phum. She remembers the night in 1977 when her husband didn't come home.

SAMRITH PHUM: [subtitles] I asked the village chief, a man named Choch, "Brother, do you know why my husband hasn't come home?" He told me not to worry about other people's business. I lost hope. I knew my husband was dead. And then I broke down.

AMANDA PIKE: Samrith later learned her husband had been executed as a supposed CIA spy. Not far from her home is the site of the former prison. The ground is still littered with the remains of execution victims. She says that any one of these bones could be her husband's.

SAMRITH PHUM: [subtitles] In our religion, we're supposed to cremate them. But if we cremate them, there will be no evidence left. That's why all of these bones are still here.

AMANDA PIKE: Samrith is convinced she knows who is responsible for her husband's death. He lives just down the road from her, the former village chief, Choch.

CHOCH: [subtitles] They accuse me, but I didn't do it. They say I killed at Sang Prison. It was outsiders. If I did it, I could not stay here. They say I killed their children. [laughs] It wasn't me.

AMANDA PIKE: Their village is one of thousands across the country, each with its own shrine filled with the bones of victims. One out of every four Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge. Most of them will remain unknown and nameless. But like the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge kept meticulous prison records, victims photographed in the last moments before they were tortured and killed.

In Cambodia today, the killers live side by side with the families of their victims. We know from the prison records some of the leaders who gave those orders. Many of them are alive and free, living in the far northwest of the country. That's where we're headed.

The road took us past Angkor Wat, through the spectacular ruins that symbolize Cambodia's former empire. The Khmer Rouge would invoke this legacy, recalling a Cambodia before it became a pawn of foreign powers. In the 1970s, the Vietnam war spilled into Cambodia. The United States bombed the country relentlessly.

www.pbs.org: More on the U.S. and Cambodia

Out of the chaos, a small rebel army seized control of the countryside. Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wanted to create an agrarian utopia and purge Cambodia of everything foreign or modern. They outlawed books, money and medicine. They forced the entire population out of the cities and into work camps in the country. Many died of starvation and disease. They executed people who scavenged for food, who practiced their religion, who were educated.

The reign of terror lasted four years.

Heading north took us through what was once an inaccessible no-man's land. It's still heavily mined. We arrived in Anlong Veng. This dusty backwater was Pol Pot's jungle headquarters. When the Khmer Rouge were finally driven from power by the Vietnamese in 1979, they retreated here. They continued fighting a civil war until their surrender in 1998.

We found our way to the local school. Just a few years ago, these kids were taught how to plant land mines. Now they're studying the history of 12th century Angkor Wat. This is the only history they'll learn.

UN SOPHAL, Student: [subtitles] I heard rumors that Pol Pot was the murderer, but others said that the lower-ranking cadre committed the murders.

PIN NARY, Student: [subtitles] I heard the killings were done by the Vietnamese. By the Vietnamese.

AMANDA PIKE: It was stunning that something so catastrophic could so soon become such a vague and distant memory.

Down the road we met a couple who should know what happened here. They were with the Khmer Rouge for over 30 years. Pich Chieng was a Khmer Rouge general.

PICH CHIENG: [subtitles] I don't understand why Cambodians would kill each other because Cambodians are Buddhist. In Buddhism, killing is a bad thing. You see, this just doesn't make any sense to me.

AMANDA PIKE: He was also the Khmer Rouge ambassador to China. He's the one behind Pol Pot.

PICH CHIENG: [subtitles] The idea for the killing- did it come from Cambodians? I'm thinking it came from outsiders.

AMANDA PIKE: His wife agrees.

YONG MOEUN: [subtitles] Some people think that we committed the killings, but the politics were influenced from the outside. People just blamed us.

AMANDA PIKE: Yong Moeun was also close to Pol Pot. She was his personal cook. She remembers him fondly.

YONG MOEUN: [subtitles] Pol Pot liked to make people laugh, especially while we were working. He also made jokes about my cooking. If I cooked him too much food, he would say, "Hey, why so little food?"

AMANDA PIKE: This is the Pol Pot they say they knew, a friendly uncle, a father with his only daughter on the beach. It was hard to reconcile this image with Pol Pot the executioner.

NATE THAYER, Journalist: "Do I look like a savage person?" That's what he said. And he didn't.

AMANDA PIKE: Nate Thayer is a journalist, the only person to interview Pol Pot in the last 20 years.

NATE THAYER: I wanted him to be remorseful. He wasn't. I wanted him to admit that innocent people suffered because of his mistakes and that he was sorry. He never did. He made excuses.

AMANDA PIKE: Not far from the town of Anlong Veng is a dirt road that winds up into the Dangrek mountains. Khmer Rouge families make the pilgrimage to visit Pol Pot's grave, the place where he was cremated and his ashes still remain.

KHMER ROUGE PEOPLE: [subtitles] Grandpa Pol Pot, please come and take the offerings. Your children are here.

AMANDA PIKE: They pray for Pol Pot to bless their crops, educate their children and end their poverty.

KHMER ROUGE PEOPLE: [subtitles] Please give us lottery numbers, one or two of them. We are very poor. Your children are poor.

AMANDA PIKE: They call Pol Pot a champion of the poor, a defender of the country.

FEMALE KHMER ROUGE: [subtitles] I lived with him and saw that he was good. Maybe he issued some bad orders. I'm afraid the world will say he's bad. Let them be the judge.

AMANDA PIKE: The faithful sift through Pol Pot's ashes.

KHMER ROUGE: [subtitles] The head's over here.

KHMER ROUGE: [subtitles] Then where are the teeth?

AMANDA PIKE: They're looking for pieces of his bones.

CHILD: [subtitles] That's not an ankle bone, that's just a piece of charcoal.

CHILD: [subtitles] Mom, how about these?

MOTHER: [subtitles] Yes, those are his bones.

CHILD: [subtitles] I saw an even bigger one, but I thought it was a cow bone.

FEMALE KHMER ROUGE: [subtitles] We didn't see with our own eyes who did the killings. It was just a rumor.

AMANDA PIKE: Pol Pot and his close comrades kept their role in the genocide secretive and obscure. But here in Tuol Sleng prison - a school turned into a death camp - many thousands of victims were recorded. And every execution was documented.

The killings were approved by the man standing to the left of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, a mysterious figure barely known outside Cambodia. As Pol Pot's deputy, he was known as "Brother Number Two."

NATE THAYER: Nuon Chea, in my view, is more guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and mass murder than any other single Cambodian. Nuon Chea, there is just no question, is a mass murderer. Every single person who came through Tuol Sleng, Nuon Chea was given a copy of the briefing of the torture and remarked on when it was appropriate to have them killed.

AMANDA PIKE: We've been told that Nuon Chea is still alive, living deep in the jungle, near the Thai border. On our way, we came across an unexpected lead in a school for the sons and daughters of the Khmer Rouge cadre. Their teacher, Suong Sikeoun, was a Khmer Rouge official. He was the first person we met who admitted any responsibility.

SUONG SIKEOUN: The main responsibility were the leaders. I think I was also responsible, but at lowest degree, you know.

AMANDA PIKE: In fact, Suong Sikeoun was Pol Pot's former assistant and close enough to confirm the importance of the man we're hoping to find.

SUONG SIKEOUN: Nuon Chea is "Brother Number Two," chief of the Security Committee. They have a lot of documents against him. I think, you know, the strongest man, I think, after Pol Pot, I think Nuon Chea. He was Pol Pot's shadow.

AMANDA PIKE: Then, as we were leaving, we were told that this teenage girl is Pol Pot's daughter. She hasn't been seen for years.

DAUGHTER: [English lesson] I always spend my pocket money on sweets.

SUONG SIKEOUN: One little mistake.

AMANDA PIKE: Now she's learning English, a language her father once banned.

We approached the last place the Khmer Rouge still control. As part of a peace agreement, they were given a small semi-autonomous zone, Pailin, along the border with Thailand. We know we're close when the potholed roads broaden to a smooth, paved highway. This checkpoint marks the boundary between the government of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge territory.

A few years ago, Pailin was the main Khmer Rouge military stronghold, where some of the most pitched battles with the government were fought. The remnants of the Khmer Rouge still govern this area, and the senior leaders live here in peaceful retirement. Pailin is rich in rubies and sapphires. These gems used to fund the Khmer Rouge war. Now the profits go to the former commanders.

TOURISM MINISTER: [subtitles] The Khmer Rouge regime was hard. Capitalism is easy.

AMANDA PIKE: Among the Khmer Rouge elite, we find their old puritanical communist world turned upside down. The former military commander and Pol Pot's nephew is now the minister of tourism. But his idea of a tourist attraction is a sculpture garden depicting the tortures of hell.

The voice of Khmer Rouge propaganda now advises the lovelorn on the local disco station.

RADIO DJ: [subtitles] Even birds and bees have love. Even vegetation has love.

AMANDA PIKE: The Khmer Rouge have turned from communism to karaoke. At night, this town in the middle of the jungle lights up like a low-rent Las Vegas. And judging from the floor show, the remnants of the regime have embraced all the vices they once outlawed. The red light district is packed with brothel shacks. Gambling is a regional obsession. The prime ticket in town? The spectacle of a mentally disabled man boxing a child.

But not everyone has shared in the new Khmer Rouge prosperity. On the outskirts of town, the rank-and-file soldiers struggle to make a living.

LEV MANN: [subtitles] The commanders are doing well now. They have money. But the simple soldiers like us? We are not doing well.

AMANDA PIKE: [subtitles] Lev Mann was a Khmer Rouge foot soldier until the civil war ended a few years ago. Now he digs for gems in an uncleared minefield.

LEV MANN: I'm still afraid because I have to dig here. I'm afraid that I will get my arm or my leg blown off. If I find a big gemstone, I could be rich.

AMANDA PIKE: [subtitles] Lev Mann hasn't found a stone in weeks and has been forced to borrow money to buy rice for his family. Today he is lucky. A small sapphire. He'll get about 50 cents.

After a week in Pailin, we get word that the man we've been trying to see has agreed to meet us. Nuon Chea lives far from the attractions and vices of Pailin. We're not allowed to film as we drive past several security checkpoints. Brother Number Two lives in a simple shack deep in the jungle.

NATE THAYER: Nuon Chea was in charge of the killing machine, a man who is probably more guilty than Pol Pot himself for the actual killings that went on while the Khmer Rouge were in power.

AMANDA PIKE: We asked Nuon Chea what would happen if he were ever brought to trial.

NUON CHEA: [subtitles] If the court calls me, I will go and enlighten the court so they will know what happened at that time.

AMANDA PIKE: But he will not admit to any guilt.

NUON CHEA: [subtitles] I would show my respect for the souls of my people who gave up their lives at that time. And I would express my condolences to the people. And I would tell them that it wasn't the Khmer Rouge that killed our people, it was the enemy, the country that was our enemy. I don't want to name the country and destroy the alliance of friendship.

AMANDA PIKE: We had finally reached Brother Number Two, only to get the same evasions and excuses, veiled suggestions that Vietnam and the U.S. are to blame for the killings. He says his health was failing, but he seems to enjoy being on American television for the first time.

NUON CHEA: [subtitles] I respect George Washington. He sacrificed his life for his country. I learned from him.

[in English] On the great seal of the United States, "E pluribus unum." Is very good.

AMANDA PIKE: The man who helped direct a genocide is unlikely to ever speak honestly, and his time is running out. Evil, it seems, is an old man who calls genocide a "mistake."

NUON CHEA: [subtitles] No person is not always wrong and not always right. Just because you do something wrong doesn't mean you're a bad person. If you do anything, you're going to make mistakes.

AMANDA PIKE: It is the closest he comes to admitting any responsibility.

Back in the capital, Cambodia is still trying to emerge from the shadow of Pol Pot. But Brother Number Two may never be brought before a war crimes tribunal. After five years of frustrating negotiations, the United Nations has given up.

In a Cambodian courtroom, petty thieves are judged while the architects of the genocide go free. The Cambodian government is still fearful of the threat of the Khmer Rouge. And Prime Minister Hun Sen has said, "We should dig a hole and bury the past." So it's left to a few survivors to mark the 27th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge takeover.

GENOCIDE SURVIVOR: [subtitles] I will always remind my children of Pol Pot's genocidal regime!

AMANDA PIKE: At Tuol Sleng, they shout against the absence of justice, the warping of memory.

SURVIVOR: [subtitles] I still bear the scars as evidence to show all who do not believe me. They won't let me forget the torments they've done to me. I beg you not to forget the atrocities and to remember vividly this history!

AMANDA PIKE: Inside, the curator says even his own children doubt what happened here.

CURATOR: [subtitles] When I brought them here, they said, "Why were they so cruel? Why did they kill people this way?" My children do not believe.

AMANDA PIKE: He worries that the evidence, like some memories, is starting to fade.

CURATOR: [subtitles] Look at this. It's already starting to change color.

AMANDA PIKE: He says that, at the very least, a trial would force the world to acknowledge and remember the atrocities here and allow Cambodia to start writing its own indelible history.

www.pbs.org: A history of the genocide

 

ANNOUNCER: Coming up later: India, a story of children enchanted by a strange new machine. But first, Dracula makes a comeback in Romania.

 

Romania: My Old Haunts

Reported by Andrei Codrescu

 

ANDREI CODRESCU, Reporter: [voice-over] Many years ago, when I was a child in Romania, my mother used to wake me up very early in the morning to stand in line for milk and bread. Many times I came home empty-handed. We lived in a socialist utopia where people marched, sang and praised their leaders on an empty stomach.

We used to have a joke about Nicolae Ceausescu: Every night he polishes the inside of our television screens. He is a great leader.

Ceausescu's dictatorship was overthrown in December, 1989. He fled by helicopter.

DEMONSTRATORS: [chanting] [subtitles] Ceausescu won't live to see the new year!

ANDREI CODRESCU: I made my escape 24 years earlier. I was a young poet, writing rebellious verses. Had I stayed, I'd have surely experienced the inside of a communist prison.

How is my native country faring? I'm here to take her temperature. My first visit will be with a brother poet who stayed behind. Once he was an enemy of the state. Now he owns a country estate on the Danube River. He welcomes me like a prodigal son. His name, Mircea Dinescu. At Dinescu's home there are no empty stomachs. After the revolutionaries captured the TV station, they freed Dinescu out of house arrest and put him before the cameras.

REVOLUTIONARY: [subtitles] Brothers, God has helped us enter this studio.

ANDREI CODRESCU: These are images of a moment of sweat-soaked terror and triumph. The revolution was televised, and poets were there.

REVOLUTIONARY: [subtitles] Before you is our hero, the poet Mircea Dinescu.

MIRCEA DINESCU: [subtitles] The dictator has fled! We are victorious!

REVOLUTIONARIES: [subtitles] We are victorious! We are victorious!

MIRCEA DINESCU: [subtitles] So I became an accidental symbol of the revolution. But I rejected the job of professional revolutionary. I put away my revolutionary jacket and started writing journalism. And when I got into publishing, I became a capitalist!

ANDREI CODRESCU: Dinescu recalls the time before the revolution when poetry was more important than the surreal lies in newspapers, TV and radio. Through metaphor, our poems could reflect reality, so people thought of us as heroes, he says, courageous.

MIRCEA DINESCU: [subtitles] Today anybody can write anything. But in the end, liberty can also breed monsters.

ANDREI CODRESCU: These lyrics are untranslatable and X-rated. I am beginning to feel the full charge of the obscene, melancholic and optimistic festival that is Romania today.

Paraziti - "The Parasites" - is one of the most successful bands in Romania's thriving hip-hop scene. Hip-hop is another kind of poetry, but these kids never had to conceal their message. They put it right out for everyone to hear. They hope to conquer Europe and America, and make money doing it.

PARAZITI: [singing] I love it when you call me a genius. I want to change your DNA with my penis.

MUSICIAN: What you call the American dream, I like to call it the Romanian dream. You know, that's a big achievement. You know, coming from where they come from up to here, that's very important.

ANDREI CODRESCU: More than a decade after the revolution, freedom still intoxicates Romanians. The country is on the move. The restless energy is evident in everyone I meet. Take, for example, my new acquaintance, Nicolae Marinescu. He's one of the new breed of Romanian capitalists.

Marinescu's giving me a tour of a changing city. In the 1980s, Ceausescu demolished historic neighborhoods to build the Peoples House, a lavish monstrosity that bankrupted the Romanian economy and brought him international condemnation.

NICOLAE MARINESCU: [subtitles] Now it's history.

ANDREI CODRESCU: [on camera] [subtitles] So you don't care?

NICOLAE MARINESCU: [subtitles] No. No.

ANDREI CODRESCU: [voice-over] Marinescu says his company's worth is about $4 million and growing at 25 percent per year. My capitalist pal brings me to his first company. It is called the Dracula Travel Agency. But he doesn't seem to have any customers. He says he sells a lot of airplane tickets to Japan.

His other company is sending Romanian workers abroad. Now I know why he's selling tickets to Japan. Marinescu is training young women to become exotic dancers, modern-day geishas. They will work in Japanese clubs and Italian go-go bars. These women will be able to earn $1,000 a week, about 40 times more than they could make if they stayed in Romania.

MIRCEA DINESCU: They learn. Now they have English lesson.

1st GIRL: Catherine Zeta-Jones, now Douglas, is my kind of Hollywood star. For a star, she eats everything.

2nd GIRL: I was told that Michael wanted to meet me. And then I thought, "Don't even go there"

ANDREI CODRESCU: Speaking as an English professor, their language instruction isn't half bad. They'll speak excellent business English. It may not be poetry, but it'll do the trick.

2nd GIRL: [subtitles] Some parents are proud of their girls because they realize their children will accomplish more than they ever did.

ANDREI CODRESCU: Capitalism needs capital, and according to Marinescu, women's flesh is the only commodity that survived communism intact. So these women will make money abroad. But they all say they want to return to Romania to invest in their own country. They are patriots.

[on camera] [subtitles] Can you change $100 in small bills?

[voice-over] The Romanian currency, the lei, has been devalued so many times that everyone is now a millionaire.

[on camera] What can 3 million lei buy?

MONEY CHANGER: [subtitles] Almost nothing. Life is very expensive

ANDREI CODRESCU: [subtitles] What's the average salary in Romania, $100 per month?

MONEY CHANGER: [subtitles] No, less- $70, $50.

NICOLAI CODRESCU: [subtitles] May I have some mint?

MINT WOMAN: [subtitles] Sure.

NICOLAI CODRESCU: [subtitles] How much do you sell in one day? Do you make a profit? Is it enough for you?

MINT WOMAN: [subtitles] Just enough for bread, sugar oil.

NICOLAI CODRESCU: [subtitles] Is 30 cents enough for the mint?

MINT WOMAN: [subtitles] No! It's too much. It's only 15 cents.

NICOLAI CODRESCU: [subtitles] Go ahead. Keep the rest.

MINT WOMAN: [subtitles] I will give you your change.

ANDREI CODRESCU: [voice-over] "You're an honest businesswoman," I tell her. But perhaps she is the opposite of a businesswoman, a sweet soul from another age trying to survive in a harsh new reality.

Others can't make it at all. They just wait for miracles. On St. Anthony's Day, Romanians come to church to ask God for favors. The going rate appears to be 10,000 lei, about 30 cents.

[on camera] [subtitles] What are you asking for?

MAN AT CHURCH: [subtitles] We are praying for peace on earth. Look at our country. We kill each other for nothing, for a piece of dirt. No, it is not acceptable.

1st WOMAN AT CHURCH: [subtitles] Life is hard. Food is expensive. Retirement checks are low. It's very hard in Romania.

2nd WOMAN AT CHURCH: [subtitles] We pray to die. After working hard your whole life, to live in misery is not normal. This is not fair in a civilized world.

ANDREI CODRESCU: [voice-over] There is a man in Romania who says he has the answers to the country's problems. His name is Vadim Tudor, a nationalist senator who won one third of the vote in the last presidential elections. I am meeting him at a place called Dracula's Castle, although Vlad the Impaler, better known as Dracula, never lived here.

VADIM TUDOR, Senator, Greater Romania Party: Dracula was a good king, was a cruel man, but not more cruel than the age.

ANDREI CODRESCU: Like Vlad the Impaler, Vadim is a law-and-order man who has advocated imposing martial law to clean up the country of its criminals, traitors and corrupt officials.

VADIM TUDOR: [subtitles] I am not a dictator. I believe, at this point, Romania needs an iron hand.

ANDREI CODRESCU: Vadim has his favorite targets. Among them are thieves and people who don't like to work. In Romania those are code words for gypsies. "I have nothing against gypsies," he says, "but Romania needs farmers, and they prefer to beg on the streets. In America, you don't yet know about this gypsy problem," he warns, "but if you let them in, you will."

VADIM TUDOR: [subtitles] The gypsies say I'm going to put them in concentration camps or that I want to kill people with a machine gun. It's a lie. Everybody knows I save dogs and birds on the lake. I feed over 200 dogs a week.

ANDREI CODRESCU: Like everyone else in Romania, Vadim is a poet. I am beginning to suspect that poetry serves many masters. In this poem, Vadim declares that he loves his mother. But I doubt that it was his filial devotion that brought him so close to the presidency.

Poetry must be countered with poetry, so I read him one of my own poems, written before I left Romania at the age of 18. It's about pride in my multi-ethnic roots. I am a Jew, a Hungarian, a Romanian and a Mongol. I suspect that more than half of me is on Vadim's enemy list.

Having denied that he has any animosity toward gypsies, whom he has just described as a kind of global curse, Vadim walks past a gypsy stall.

VADIM TUDOR: [subtitles] This kind of music drives us crazy. People say we have something against gypsies, and we don't. But we cannot let this type of music mock the public taste.

NICOLAI CODRESCU: [on camera] [subtitles] What are the lyrics? What is the message?

VADIM TUDOR: [subtitles] The lyrics are meaningless, words written by some retards.

ANDREI CODRESCU: [voice-over] I went to a concert of the gypsy pop music Vadim despises. It's called Manele. Four-foot-seven-inch Adrian Simionescu is better known as the "Miracle Child." He's Romania's most popular Manele singer and a symbol of the strange position gypsies hold in this country. They have been slaves, victims of the Nazi Holocaust and a chronic underclass. In the new, open society, the gypsies have a message: "Our time has come." This is music that speaks directly to the Romanian soul. It's music to heal old divisions and prejudices.

The majority of gypsies live in dire poverty, but some are ostentatiously rich. Even under the communists, the gypsies' nomadic lifestyle allowed them to operate private businesses underground. In the new economy, some have built showy mansions.

[on camera] [subtitles] Can we visit your house?

MAN: [subtitles] Sure.

www.pbs.org: Read an interview with Codrescu

ANDREI CODRESCU: [voice-over] But as long as people make gypsies into scapegoats for Romania's problems, they will continue to live in parallel societies. This graffiti says "The death of a million gypsies is the only solution."

I am meeting with the gypsy queen of Romania's white magic, Maria Cimpina. So appreciated are her clairvoyant skills that she has been given a solid gold purse and a golden wand.

If she is to be believed, she was the personal spiritual adviser to Ceausescu's wife, Elena. She shows me the black card of misfortune that Elena chose shortly before she and her husband were executed. I ask her to predict Romania's future, and the same card appears. On Romania's horizon she sees biblical catastrophes- earthquakes, floods. Only she's not quite sure when.

We all know Ceausescu is dead. We saw it on television. But can he rise again?

My last night in Bucharest, I went to one of the new tourist haunts. We are talking about Romania's best-known export, Dracula himself.

NICOLAE MARINESCU: We can develop our tourism and our market and our- some of our economy, one part of our economy on this story.

www.pbs.org: More on the legend of Dracula

ANDREI CODRESCU: The original Dracula was a cruel 16th century prince who made his reputation by impaling his enemies on sharp stakes. The myth of "The Impaler" traveled to the West, where Bram Stoker, an Irishman, turned him into Count Dracula. When Hollywood got through with him, he was a Hungarian named Bela Lugosi. Now he has returned as a blood-sucking booster of Romanian capitalism.

DRACULA IMPERSONATOR: I am Dracula! Welcome to my house!

ANDREI CODRESCU: If I don't die of embarrassment now, I think I'll be immortal.

Before I leave Romania, I want to indulge myself with a manicure, $2.50, a princely sum in this country. My manicurist says before the revolution she had more business. The party bosses had money to spend. I bet their hands were none too clean.

These last few days in my homeland, I realize that post-communism is a long convalescence. It has to run its course. But my herbal doctor has placebos for sale. He says this will cure fatigue and anemia. It will take more than placebos. Romania has been bled by too many vampires.

Still, with all Romania's problems, these are best pretzels in the world. That's a kind of poetry.

 

ANNOUNCER: Finally tonight, Indian children discover cyberspace.

 

India: The Hole in the Wall

Reported by Rory O'Connor

 

RORY O'CONNOR, Reporter: [voice-over] I first visited India two years ago while directing a film about global poverty. A billion people live here, one of every six on the planet. Only a quarter of them have access to clean water, and half are illiterate.

In a New Delhi slum, I came across an unusual scene, a computer embedded in a wall. It was surrounded by children. Turns out the computer was put here by the company next door, NIIT. While India suffers extreme poverty, it is also home to some of the world's most advanced high-technology firms.

Dr. Sugata Mitra is head of research and development here. For years, his passion has been educating poor children.

SUGATA MITRA: Removing what is increasingly being called the "digital divide" is an important issue, which means that everyone must have access.

RORY O'CONNOR: In 1999, Mitra launched an experiment that came to be known as "the hole in the wall." He connected a high-speed computer to the Internet and placed it in the wall that separates his firm's headquarters from the adjacent slum. Then he watched who began to use it. Curious kids were immediately drawn to the computer.

SUGATA MITRA: So when they said, "Can we touch it?" I said, "It's on your side of the wall." So the rules say whatever is on their side of the wall, they can touch, so they touched it.

RORY O'CONNOR: Within minutes, the children figured out how to point and click. By the end of the day, they were browsing. Given access and opportunity, the children quickly taught themselves the rudiments of computer literacy.

1st CHILD: [subtitles] I learned it on my own. Some kids used to play with it, and I would watch them, so I learned it, too.

RORY O'CONNOR: A young boy named Rajinder was the first to teach himself how to use the computer.

RAJINDER: [subtitles] I play games. I try to use different tools, like the paint tool. And I connect to the Internet. Mainly, I go to the Disney site. I visited a news site a couple days ago. I read about the Taliban and bin Laden. I read that there was a war going on between America and the Taliban. There was bombing, too. I've seen it on the TV, and I saw the bombing pictures on the computer.

SUGATA MITRA: He didn't know what a computer was. He was the first guy to have made the jump across what I guess you could describe as maybe 3,000 or 4,000 years of history- in minutes, actually.

RORY O'CONNOR: Rajinder's self-confidence soared after he taught himself how to use a computer.

TEACHER: Now I've seen a lot of change in him, and he has become quite bold, and let me say expressive, also. And I've got great hopes on this child.

SUGATA MITRA: [to Rajinder] [subtitles] What is your definition of the Internet?

[in English] He says, "That with which you can do anything."

RORY O'CONNOR: By the time I returned to India this year, Mitra had already replicated his experiment in several other settings. Each time the results were similar: Within hours, and without instruction, children began browsing the Internet. Now Mitra was about to place new computers in another poor community.

NIIT REPRESENTATIVE: [subtitles] We have set up five computers here. And please, everyone, send your kids before or after school. If you have girls in your house, you can send them, also.

GIRLS AT COMPUTER: [subtitles] Move it towards the side to make it a hand. Move it a bit. When it becomes a hand, press the green button. Green! Green! Green! Oh, here it comes!

RORY O'CONNOR: In a society where only one in three females can read, Mitra's experiment is a way for girls to overcome barriers. One schoolgirl named Anjana seemed especially enthusiastic.

ANJANA: [subtitles] Today is just my first day. I want to learn more.

INTERVIEWER: [subtitles] How do you feel about all this?

ANJANA: [subtitles] I feel great.

INTERVIEWER: [subtitles] How great?

ANJANA: [subtitles] Really, really great!

SUGATA MITRA: They reinvent even the terms because nobody taught them the words. So they don't call a cursor a cursor, they call it a "suhi," which is Hindi for "needle." And they don't call the hourglass symbol the hourglass symbol because they've never seen an hourglass before. They call it the "domru," which is Shiva's drum. And it does look a bit like that!

RORY O'CONNOR: Before leaving India, I traveled south with Mitra to the rural state of Maharashtra, where he was installing still more computers.

SUGATA MITRA: These computers are going to be powerful, they're going to be connected, and they're going to be free, entirely free, without any restrictions on their usage.

INTERVIEWER: [subtitles] How many of you have heard of the Internet? What is the Internet?

GIRL: [subtitles] It is used to send messages. You can send letters. You can type on your computer and it reaches the other person's computer.

www.pbs.org: More on this experiment

SUGATA MITRA: I don't even want to guess at what computer literacy might do to children, except to say that if cyberspace is considered a place, then there are people who are already in it and people who are not in it. And there seems to be general consensus of opinion that such segregation among cyber people versus non-cyber people is detrimental, and it will cause a divide.

If that is the case, then I think the hole in the wall gives us a method to create a door, if you like, through which large number of children can rush into this new arena. And when that happens, it will have changed our society forever.

 

POL POT'S SHADOW

Producer/Reporter
AMANDA PIKE

Director of Photography
ADAM KEKER

Editors
ANDY GERSH
ADAM KEKER

Additional Materials
DOCUMENTATION CENTER OF CAMBODIA
TUOL SLENG MUSEUM
NATIONAL ARCHIVES
PROM SARIN

Music by
THE CAMBODIAN MASTER'S PROGRAM
PREAH VIHEAR VIDEO
PRACH LY

Special Thanks
PEW FELLOWSHIPS IN INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISM
UC BERKELEY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM

MY OLD HAUNTS

Reporter
ANDREI CODRESCU

Producer/Director
MARIAN MARZYNSKI

Producer
JASON COHN

Associate Producer
JOHN ELY

Cameraman/Editor
JASON LONGO

HOLE IN THE WALL

Director/Reporter
RORY O'CONNOR

Line Producer
GIULIO D'ERCOLE

Editor
KOZO OKUMURA

Director of Photography
BETHIN DAS

Co-Director
GIL ROSSELLINI

Produced in association with
GLOBALVISION, INC.
ROSSELLINI & ASSOCIATI

For FRONTLINE/World

Production Manager
RACHEL RANEY

Associate Producers
JESSIE DEETER
SHERAZ SADIQ

Unit Manager
SUZANNE ROMAINE

Web Producer
ANGELA MORGENSTERN

Web Editor
SARA MILES

Web Design
FLUENT STUDIOS

Promotion
ERIN MARTIN KANE
CHRIS KELLY
BRIAN ELEY

Community Engagement
BRENT QUAN HALL

Satellite Photos
SPACE IMAGING
U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

Theme Music
SUPREME BEINGS
OF LEISURE

Sound Mix
JIM SULLIVAN

Post Production Supervisor
WENDY SMITH

Post production Assistant
CHETIN CHABUK

Online Editor
MICHAEL H. AMUNDSON

Senior Video Editor
STEVE AUDETTE

Series Design
JOHN MACGIBBON

FRONTLINE Coordinating Producer
ROBIN PARMELEE

FRONTLINE Production Manager
TIM MANGINI

FRONTLINE Series Manager
JIM BRACCIALE

KQED VP, TV Station Manager
DEANNE HAMILTON

Executive in Charge for KQED
SUE ELLEN MCCANN

Executive in Charge for FRONTLINE
SHARON TILLER

Series Editor
STEPHEN TALBOT

Executive Producer
DAVID FANNING

(c) 2002
WGBH and KQED
All rights reserved

FRONTLINE/World is a co-production of WGBH Boston and KQED San Francisco, which are solely responsible for its content.

ANNOUNCER: There's more of the world to explore on our Web site, including the untold story of Hungarian Jews in Romania, a lively interview with Andrei Codrescu, Cambodian-American hip-hop music and an inside look at Amanda Pike's reporter's diary. Discuss the world and tell us what you think about our Stories From a Small Planet at PBS on line, pbs.org.

Next time on FRONTLINE WORLD:

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator.

ANNOUNCER: As President Bush continues to build his case, FRONTLINE WORLD takes a harrowing journey inside Iraq-

REPORTER: If you push me, I'll break your arm!

ANNOUNCER: -to investigate the worst allegations of brutality and learns how hard it is to know the truth from lies in Baghdad.

IRAQI MAN: I always support Saddam Hussein.

ANNOUNCER: And more on FRONTLINE WORLD.

Educators and educational institutions can purchase a tape of FRONTLINE WORLD by calling PBS Video at 1-800-PLAY-PBS. [$59.95 & s/h]

FRONTLINE WORLD was made possible by:

ABB, a global provider of power and automation technologies. We enable our utility and industry customers all over the world to find solutions in their quest to improve performance and lower environmental impact.

And by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Corporation for Public broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

<<back