Euthanasia Promoter Faces Imprisonment In Cambodia
American Euthanasia Promoter Faces Imprisonment In Cambodia
by Richard S. Ehrlich
BANGKOK, Thailand -- An American facing possible expulsion or imprisonment for creating a Web site luring suicidal people to die in Cambodia, said he made no money from his morbid venture and did it after failing to convince a California town to legalize euthanasia.
"I did not start this to make money, I did it because I believe in a person's right to choose the time, place, and manner of their own death," Roger Graham, a former California resident, said in an e-mail interview from his base in Kampot, Cambodia.
"I have made zero dollars off my Web site," Graham said.
"I am semi-retired at 57 years, although I do operate a small coffee and internet cafe in Kampot, Cambodia," he said, referring to a tourist-friendly, coastal town about 80 miles southwest from Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.
"I lived most recently in the (United) States, in Paradise, California. I had an antique shop and sold on eBay, the Internet auction site.
"While in Paradise, California, I founded the Assisted Euthanasia Society of Paradise, and made an attempt at having the city council of Paradise pass an ordinance authorizing a peaceful and painless death. They declined."
Cambodian authorities said they do not want their impoverished Southeast Asian nation to gain a reputation as a great place to die.
Cambodia is trying to emerge from its gruesome history as the "killing fields" of Pol Pot's 1975-79 communist Khmer Rouge regime, which killed more than one million people.
International tourists currently flock to Cambodia to view the ancient, slave-built Angkor Wat temple complex amid jungles in the northwest.
"To take the Web site down now is too late," Kampot Provincial Governor Puth Chandarith told the German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, on Sunday (Nov. 6).
"We will continue the case before the court. We believe the Web site destroyed the honor of Kampot by being there at all.
"Whether he is made to leave the country, or go to jail, is up to the court, but the case is at the court now and it must be heard by the court," the governor said.
"I've had the Web site for a year or so," Graham said in the interview on Sunday (Nov. 6).
Asked about the number of suicidal people who arrived in Cambodia after viewing his Web site, Graham replied: "I have assisted no one with their self-deliverance.
"I have had maybe 100 or so people e-mail me with requests for info, but no pre-arranged arrivals."
Graham created the Web site because "I live here, and it [euthanasia] isn't illegal.
"Expenses involved have been minimal. Listing with Google 'adwords' at about 30 U.S. dollars per month, is most of it."
After www.euthanasiaincambodia.com attracted complaints from Cambodian officials, Graham replaced it a few days ago with a page which said only: "This site is under construction."
But Google allows searchers to access a "cache" of the original site, displaying Graham's effort to convince people to die in Cambodia.
"If You are Considering Taking Control of Your Life by Choosing the Time, Place, and Manner of Your Death Then I Would Like to Recommend that You Visit Cambodia," the Web site's headline said.
"You are going to die anyway, so why not in Cambodia?"
But people should not kill themselves immediately upon arrival.
"There are many pretty girls here and they'll actually speak to you and be honestly glad that you will speak with them," the site said.
Grittier advice includes: "Please do not take an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. It is a slow, painful, agonizing, and uncertain death."
The site allows purchase of Derek Humphrey's "Final Exit" and other books, plus a PayPal link for donations "to Euthanasia in Cambodia."
Graham would not kill.
"If you come to visit me here in Cambodia, I am not going to pull any switches. If all you want to do is kill yourself, do it at home. I am offering you an alternative end-of-life experience, not a suicide pact," his site said.
"I will help you to enjoy what is left of your life. I will help you to visit local Buddhist monasteries and pagodas. I will help you to find the right place for you to be cremated and I will see to the dispersal of your ashes."
His help cost money.
"I will expect you to be able to contribute at least 25,000 U.S. dollars to a local charity, aid organization, or directly into the local economy. Other expenses should be expected," he told viewers of his Web site.
Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 27 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is http://www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent/