Robert Ashe obituary | Refugees


My twin brother, Robert Ashe, who died aged 69 of pancreatic cancer just five weeks after diagnosis, spent most of his working life helping refugees in Southeast Asia, including the Thailand-Cambodia border, where he helped people flee Cambodia. murderous Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.

He also set up what became known as the Landbridge Project, bringing food, seeds and agricultural tools to Cambodia following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.

Born in London, one of seven children of Patrick, a vicar, and Marion (née Johnston), a nurse, Robert attended school at Christ’s Hospital in Horsham, West Sussex, before going to the Royal Agricultural College of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and begin a brief career in agriculture.

In 1973, however, he joined Project Vietnam Orphans, a charity founded by his parents, to work with orphaned and abandoned children in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. It was from there that he became involved in his work on the Thai-Cambodian border which earned him the Thai Red Cross Medal of Merit in 1979, an MBE appointment in 1980 and a three days in prison when he was arrested by Vietnamese suspects. soldiers unaware of his humanitarian work.

Robert’s creation of the Landbridge Project won him the admiration of many – including Martin Griffiths, now the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Relief, who worked with Unicef ​​in Thailand in 1979. “We all relied on Robert and looked up to him,” Griffiths recalled. “It was a brilliant idea, but it took great discipline to make it work – and Robert’s character, quiet and unassuming, was firm enough to get the job done.”

While in Thailand, Robert met Var Hong, who, after the murder of her husband by the Khmer Rouge, had fled Cambodia with her two young daughters, Somaly and Panita. Robert and Var married in 1982 and their son, Peter, was born.

Also in 1982, Robert began working for Food for the Hungry International as a field manager in Thailand. He was to spend the rest of his professional life with UNHCR, where he held senior positions in Sudan, Geneva, The Hague and finally Indonesia, where he was the UNHCR Regional Representative covering Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Timor. -Light. Based in Jakarta, he was well placed to support communities after the disastrous 2004 tsunami.

Robert’s marriage to Var ended in 1991 and in 2002 he married Aam Dachlan, who had two children, Joel and Julia, from a previous marriage. In 2010 they retired to Lombok, Indonesia, where Robert died.

He is survived by Aam, Peter and his grandson Dylan.

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