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Theary C. Seng serves as the founding president of CIVICUS: Center for Cambodian Civic Education, a local NGO registered with the Ministry of Interior. She is also writing her second book. Prior, she founded the Cambodian Center for Justice & Reconciliation, now a major component of CIVICUS. After a 2-year stint as a commercial lawyer, Theary, in March 2006, joined the Center for Social Development, a local human rights organization based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as its executive director until her removal in July 2009 by a politically-motivated court injunctive order.
Theary was born in Phnom Penh, probably in January 1971. Under the Khmer Rouge, she lived in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam, where the killings were most intense and where she spent five months in Boeung Rei prison. The Khmer Rouge killed both her parents. She and her surviving family trekked across the border for Thailand in Nov. 1979 and emigrated to the U.S. one year later.
Since 1995, Theary has been in Cambodia volunteering with various labor and human rights groups. In January 2004, she moved permanently to live and work in her country of birth. Of choice, home is now again Cambodia.
Theary graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (Washington, DC) with a Bachelor of Science in International Politics in 1995 and from the University of Michigan Law School with a Juris Doctor in 2000. Theary is a member of the New York Bar Association and American Bar Association.
Theary has written about her life in a book entitled Daughter of the Killing Fields (London, 2005). Theary made history when she testified as the first ECCC-recognized civil party against the pre-trial detention hearing of the most senior, surviving Khmer Rouge leader, Brother No. 2 Nuon Chea on 7 Feb. 2008, followed by other encounters in the courtroom with Khieu Samphan (whom she met for the first time in 2001 at his home in Palin), Ieng Sary and wife Ieng Thirith.
Theary is the chair of the Board of Directors of the World Bank-funded Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in the East Asia & Pacific (ANSA-EAP) located at (but independent from) the Ateneo School of Government, now an independent Foundation registered in the Philippines; a member of the Preparatory Committee and now the Governing Board of Directors for the Human Rights Resource Center for ASEAN (HRRCA), a Foundation registered in Indonesia;
a member of the Global Advisory Board of Human Dignity and Human Studies (HumanDHS); a member of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA), the World Movement for Democracy, and the Non-Governmental Process of the Community of Democracies; a former Board member of the Cambodian Living Arts (Silapak Khmer Amatak, which produced Where Elephants Weep), a co-founder and former vice-president of Women’s Association of Small & Medium Businesses (WASMB), etc.
Theary and her Civil Party of Orphans Class are members of the Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia (www.akrvictims.org), the first Cambodia-based association to be registered with the Ministry of Interior and the first to be recognized by the Extraordinary Chambers (ECCC).
Theary co-hosted the popular reality-TV program Youth Leadership Challenge aired on CTN and CTN International for five seasons (2006-2009).
Theary is frequently invited to speak at international conferences all over the world on issues of justice and reconciliation, democracy and human rights, faith in action, and is the subject of countless TV and radio broadcasts on CNN, BBC, AlJazeera, ABC, NHK, VOA, DW, RFA, RFI as well as many documentary films, including features film using Theary to tell the larger Khmer Rouge story, including Facing Genocide (Swedish STORY Production), Judging Genocide (ABC Australia, shown on CNN in World's Untold Stories).
When in Phnom Penh, she worships at the dynamic Khmer church of New Life Fellowship (near Olympic Market), and sometimes at the English-speaking International Christian Fellowship (near Tuol Sleng) and International Christian Assembly (near Northbridge International School).
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