Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The rise and fall of a true US patriot

The rise and fall of a true US patriot

The rise and fall of a true US patriot

A MERICAN businessman Larry Bridges and his family have strong feelings about Global

Witness founding directors Patrick Alley and Simon Taylor.

"Get the f*** off my father's land, you motherf***ers," a rather upset

son of Bridges' greeted Alley and Taylor - in full-frame of an NBC camera crew -

at the Bridges' family home in Albion, Michigan recently.

Bridges couldn't help but remember his first meeting with Alley and Taylor, when

the pair posed as log buyers at his luxury penthouse suite in Pattaya, Thailand a

year ago.

Alley and Taylor had a secret video camera pointed at Bridges' Florida timber buyer,

Thomas D. Haylett.

Also in the room was the managing director of Bridges' company DisplayTech (Thailand),

Pairath (pronounced "Pirate") Charoenphol.

While Haylett was boring Alley with details of "board feet of timber" and

"burrows" and other technical timber terms, Bridges - off-camera and out

of earshot - was telling Taylor about paying off the Khmer Rouge for high-quality

rainforest timber out of Cambodia.

"Gosh, guess what Larry just said, you guys pay off the Khmer Rouge," Taylor

exclaimed to get Haylett to shut up; and Haylett proudly repeated the same story

in front of the hidden camera.

Bridges and Haylett provided Alley and Taylor with plenty of ammunition to lobby

Washington D.C. They got unexpected results.

Senate doors opened, and officials from the Appropriation Committee gave Global Witness

a long hearing.

Recently, the Senate passed an amendment to the act outlawing assistance to the Khmer

Rouge. The President can now stop military aid to any country found to be have the

"practice of commercial relations with the Khmer Rouge".

Specifically, the Senate said it was worried by continued reports that the Thai military

was dealing with the KR in the export of gems and timber.

"We don't want to blow our own trumpet but we had a lot to do with that,"

says Alley.

Still more, the State Department "was very interested in Larry's story and wanted

his name and contact. We didn't really want to give them that, but..." Alley

shrugs.

During Global Witness' second trip around the Thai border earlier this year, Bridge's

timber rest area was busy and full of logs.

They decided to arrange a visit with a nation-wide NBC television crew to Bridges'

home town "where every house flies a Stars and Stripe outside and people subscribe

to newspapers like Citizen Patriot," Taylor says.

Larry was less than pleased to see them again, and even less inclined to answer the

polite question: "Larry, why do you pay off the Khmer Rouge?".

"You lied to me, you manipulated me. If you had told me the truth I would have...

" and here Bridges softened his drawl "... invited you in for coffee and

juice."

Hustled off Bridges' land for trespassing, the TV crew set up a shot from the road

when Bridges' son roared out of the drive in a pick-up, threatening to run them down.

Bridges followed himself, after previously having locked himself in his office, and

shouted at Alley and Taylor from inside his smoked-glass truck: "If you are

so concerned about your fellow men why don't you go back to England and teach your

people to read?"

"The relevance was a bit lost on us," Alley said.

Global Witness and NBC eventually departed, leaving the bizarre sight of Bridges

standing on his patio, waving a giant Stars and Stripes flag above his head, yelling

at the top of his voice: "I'm a Vietnam veteran. Get the f*** out of my country."

Alley and Taylor visited Bridges' timber rest site near the border with Pailin last

month. The yard was abandoned and empty, the bamboo guard rail broken.

Locals said that it was only temporarily closed.

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