Thursday, August 21, 2014

Distorting Khmer History

Wat Khmer in Kampuchea Krom, now South Vietnam, Google image

In the past few weeks, news headlines have dominated with political agreement between the ruling party and the opposition, ending a year-long post-election crisis.  Then another important headline followed, protests against Vietnam embassy in Phnom Penh on a comment this embassy spokesman, Mr. Tran Van Thong, claimed, " France did not give Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam in 1949, but Kampuchea Krom is part of Vietnam land for long time ago." Such a comment has sparked angry protests among Khmer Krom and students, burning Vietnamese flag and  demanding Vietnam to apologize for distorting Khmer history.  However, Mr. Van Thong not only refused to apologize, but he even refused to take petition from protesters; instead he called the protesters the anarchists and extremists who have held illegal protests and urged Cambodian government to take appropriate actions against those groups.  Fallowing the flag burning incident, Vietnam foreign ministry repeatedly called for Cambodian government to take concrete action to prevent further incident in order to maintain good friendship between the two countries.  However, Cambodian government seems careless on such an issue-- either to take action on protesters nor to officially raise the issue with the Vietnamese government.  The government sidelines on the issue creates confusion among people: the protesters claimed the government condoned their actions while government officials warned to take more swift actions on future protest, and Sam Rainsy Party's senators praised Heng Samrin and his delegation in recent visit to Vietnam for not budging to Hanoi demand.  Nonetheless, there is too early to make judgement on the current regime which has reputation in hashed crackdown on all kinds of protesters and full political and economic cooperation with Vietnam.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

To end a culture of vengeance

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 After a political agreement with CPP to end its a year-long parliament boycott, CNRP joined parliament session at first time by pledging to end a culture of vengeance that has dominated Cambodian society for centuries.  Taking this opportunity, Hun Sen has appealed to the opposition and the people not to call him "a Vietnamese puppet", a famous title that most Cambodian people have named him for over three decades.  Does a Vietnamese puppet is just an insult word or a true nameplate for Hun Sen? Indeed, only Hun Sen's background and his actions can prove who he is.  And Hun Sen should not fear that people name him "the Vietnamese puppet" if he is really not, and he should prove it rather than force or threaten the people not to call him "a Vietnamese puppet."  And to end a culture of vengeance,  he should show his role model as a civilized and honest leader by loosening his power grip and gradually taking a concrete step to bring true social justice and  democracy to the nation, an only way to end a culture of vengeance.

A culture of vengeance has prevailed over Khmer society for generations, in the past vengeance not only weakened Khmer nation but created a good opportunity for foreigners, particularly Vietnam and Thailand to seize Khmer land.  A row in taking throne by Khmer royal family members created vengeance, and vengeance forced each side to seek foreign helps, and foreign intervention resulted in losing land and sovereignty.  From French colonial time, a culture of vengeance had deeply spread into Khmer society.   Soldiers employed by French colonial government killed Khmer Isarak troops, accusing them of being bandits while the Isarak troops killed the french government's soldiers for collaborating with foreign occupation.  During an independence time, Sihanouk's soldiers killed and beheaded the Khmer insurgents--Khmer Rouge and Khmer Serey--for fearing they could seize the power for some time.  After 1970 peaceful coup, Sihanouk was sentenced to death in absentia.  During the bloody war 1970-75, both sides rarely took prisoners; they killed one another as vengeance when the Khmer republic labelled the Khmer Rouge as Vietcong, and the Khmer Rouge accused the Khmer Republicans as the American imperialist puppets and the capitalists.  a saga of revenge on the Khmer republic ran high among Khmer Rouge leaderships as they published a list of at least nine traitors to be executed when they liberated the country.