Working for the United Nations is often dangerous, and sometimes, an utterly futile endeavour. Human rights lawyer Ronald Poulton has experienced these realities first hand. Pale Blue Hope is his account of working for the UN in Cambodia and Tajikistan.
In Cambodia, Poulton investigated human rights violations and political murders before returning to Canada. Later, at the request of the un, Poulton accepted the position of legal advisor in Tajikistan to investigate the ambush and killing of a UN observer force called Team Garm.
Poulton vividly captures life in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, a city full of fear and general curfews and secure steel doors, where political murders are common and suspicion stalks the streets. He quickly learns that his task will be more daunting than he imagined, complicated by un incompetence and regulations and a Tajik culture that sees him as an intruder.
Haunted by his experiences in Cambodia, Poulton chooses engagement with the Tajik people over the security of the un enclave as he puzzles his way to discovering who really killed Team Garm.
Pale Blue Hope reads "like a thriller, and adopts a sophisticated structure...This is an engaging and insightful account that conveys both the necessity for the UN to intervene more effectively, and the need for individuals involved to escape to private life in order to maintain their sanity."
- Valerie Raoul, Canadian Literature
"Pale Blue Hope is, in the broadest sense, a story about how Canada comes up against the rest of the world - at least its faraway, exotic corners. At the same time, it is a story we hardly ever hear and probably do not really want to hear, for which reason it deserves a wide readership."
- Larry Krotz, Literary Review of Canada
Ronald Poulton began work as a civil and criminal litigation lawyer in 1987 in Ottawa. In 1989 Poulton left his law practice to take up work for the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees in the Vietnamese refugee camps of Hong Kong. From Hong Kong he took up UN posts in Thailand and then Cambodia, where in 1992 he joined UNTAC, the largest and most ambitious peace-keeping operation in history. As a human rights lawyer for UNTAC Poulton was charged with investigating and formulating corrective action against political assassinations, ethnic cleansing, torture and other abuses committed by all sides to the Cambodian conflict. His final posting for the UN took him to Tajikistan, a country which had torn itself apart in a fierce and bitter civil war. As legal advisor to the peace keeping mission, Poulton witnessed the trial of 3 members of a fundamentalist army on trial for their lives over the killing of UN peace- keepers.
In Toronto, Poulton works as an immigration lawyer, where he has acted as counsel in some of the most infamous of cases. In 1996 he successfully defended Joseph Nemsila before the Immigration Adjudication Division, the first alleged Second World War war criminal in Canada facing deportation for allegations that he concealed his past. In 2001, in /Suresh v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration/, he successfully represented the appellant Suresh before the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue of whether Canada could forcibly deport an alleged terrorist to a country which would torture him.
Poulton’s first novel Battambang, published in Singapore in 2001, is a murder mystery set in French Colonial Cambodia in 1948. It was nominated for the Commonwealth Prize for best first book by a Canadian author.
Poulton lives in Toronto with Antonia and his boys, Jack and Matthew.