Robert Patrick ASHE MBE
- Born: 11 Feb 1953, Woolwich, England
- Christened: 12 Apr 1953, Blindley Heath Church, Surrey, England
- Marriage (1): Var HONG on 7 Aug 1982 in Painswick, Gloucestershire, England
- Marriage (2): Aam Zamila DACHLAN on 12 Feb 2002 in Guildford, Surrey, England
Another name for Robert is Bobby Rob.
ROBERT PATRICK ASHE
Robert was born on 11 February 1953, together with his twin brother, Francis John, at the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies in Woolwich. His father, the Rev. Francis Patrick Bellesme Ashe, was Vicar of Blindly Heath, Surrey. His mother was Marion Islay Johnston, the daughter of the Right Rev. Frank Johnston, Bishop in Egypt, and later Assistant Bishop of Guildford.
Robert's parents moved to Otley, Yorkshire in 1956 with Lois Mary, his elder sister, and John. In 1961, he and John went as boarders to Dean Close Junior School, Cheltenham, until they won scholarships to Christ's Hospital (CH) at the age of thirteen. He left CH in 1970, and entered the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, after doing a one-year practical working experience on a farm in Warwickshire.
After gaining his agricultural diploma in the summer of 1973, he joined a small voluntary organization called Project Vietnam Orphans (PVO) in late 1973 and worked in their team in Saigon, South Viet Nam amongst orphaned and abandoned children. Medically evacuated in 1974 after a severe attack of amoebic dysentery, he went back to farming in England. Just before the fall of Saigon in April 1975, Robert returned to Viet Nam to help PVO.
After PVO had to leave Viet Nam in 1975, Robert went to Bangkok, Thailand, in September 1975, and started working amongst Cambodian refugees. With his sister Lois, he opened a home in Bangkok, and looked after twelve refugee children until they were adopted.
Robert then started work on the Thai-Cambodian border in refugee camps,and continued his work under PVO, which became known as Christian Outreach, directing a team of volunteers sent out from England. From 1979 to 1980 he was seconded to the International Committee of the Red Cross. He established a cross-border operation, which came to be known as the"Landbridge", taking food, seeds and agricultural tools into Cambodia. In mid-1980, Robert was awarded the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his work among refugees.
Shortly after news of Robert's award was announced, he was captured by Vietnamese troops who had invaded Cambodia. He was marched about 25 kms inside Cambodia through torrential rain and with no shelter at night. After three days he was freed, and allowed to walk over the bridge at the border back into Thailand.
While working on the border in 1979, Robert rescued a Cambodian lady, Var Hong and her two small daughters, Somaly and Panita. They were married in 1982 from the home of Dr. and Mrs. R. Merryweather in Paradise, Painswick. Robert ghost-wrote Var's story of her life under the Khmer Rouge called "From Phnom Penh to Paradise".
In 1983 they returned to Thailand and Robert worked for Food for the Hungry International (FHI) as their Field Director covering Thailand, Laos and Bangladesh. While there, their son, Peter Patrick, was born on 17 April 1984. In 1984 Robert moved to Geneva, Switzerland, for FHI, and in 1986 he joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as their Programme Officer in the Sudan. After two years in Khartoum, he became the Head of the UNHCR Sub-Office in Showak, East Sudan. In 1989, he moved back to Geneva for UNHCR and became the Chief of their Programme Coordination & Budget Section in 1991.
Robert and Var separated in 1991 and the marriage was dissolved in 1993. Peter went to Aldro School, near Godalming, as a boarder, and spent most of his holidays with Robert in Geneva. In 1995, Robert moved with Peter to The Hague, Netherlands, as Head of the UNHCR Liaison Office. Peter attended the British School of the Netherlands. In 1996, Robert was recalled to the UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva to head up their change management programme.
In 1997, Robert became engaged to an Indonesian lady, Aam Zamila Blair (née Dachlan). Peter, and Aam's son, Joel, and daughter, Julia, all attended the International School in Geneva. Robert and Aam were married on 12 February 2002 in Guildford, UK. Shortly afterwards, Robert was sent on a four month mission to East Timor to manage the phase-down of the UNHCR relief operation there. In July 2002, he was appointed as the UNHCR Regional Representative in Jakarta, covering Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Timor-Leste.
Joel studied Chemical Engineering at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), USA, and now has a job in California with an environmental engineering company. Peter studied Economics and Finance at Exeter University in the UK, undertook a one-year work experience with the bank, JP Morgan, in Geneva, and now works for the Barclays Investment Group in London. Julia graduated from the Jakarta International School, studied International Development at Chester University in the UK, from which she graduated in 2007, and now works in New York. Aam manages the family, enjoys gardening, and paints porcelain in her spare time.
Robert retired from UNHCR on 31 December 2009. He and Aam have established their home at Villa Lampu, Senggigi, on Lombok island in Indonesia -- a tropical paradise.
Godfather: Raymond Head
Noted events in his life were:
Went to South Viet Nam, 1973.
Started work in Thailand, Sep 1975.
Awarded the Thai Red Cross Medal of Merit, 1978, Bangkok, Thailand.
Established "Landbridge": Massive food distribution system, 1979-1980, Thai-Cambodian Border.
Awarded the MBE: Given by the Queen in Mar 1981 at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Jun 1980.
Taken prisoner by Vietnamese: Held in Cambodia, Jun 1980, Nong Chan, Thailand.
Joined UNHCR, Jun 1986, Khartoum, Sudan.
Ghost-wrote "From Phnom Penh to Paradise", 1987.
Appointed UNHCR Regional Representative in Indonesia, 16 Jul 2002.
Robert married Var HONG, daughter of Yang HONG and Chhaya TAING, on 7 Aug 1982 in Painswick, Gloucestershire, England. (Var HONG was born on 9 Nov 1948 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.)
Robert next married Aam Zamila DACHLAN, daughter of Mohamad DACHLAN and Sadya SUBU, on 12 Feb 2002 in Guildford, Surrey, England. (Aam Zamila DACHLAN was born on 24 Aug 1958 in Jakarta, Indonesia.)