Monday, April 21, 2014

Cambodia, a Land of Endless Suffering (extracts from my Master Thesis 2007)

I- Synopsis (Khmer Wathanakam's Master Thesis 2007)

Angkorean Empire (image

I have chosen to write this report because I would like to testify to the international community and Cambodian people about a cause of suffering that Cambodian people have endured for centuries. Despite the report may not in full detail, but it can help to clarify and explain why Pol Pot had chosen radical revolution that led to mass killing, and finally Vietnamese invasion.

This report examines several themes, and one of them has to do with the effects on Cambodian politics and society of the country's location between the two powerful neighbors--Vietnam and Thailand. Since a downfall of Khmer Empire in 1432, the presence of two powerful, antagonistic neighbors have forced Cambodian monarchs and elites to prefer one over other or both. Now the current Cambodian leader, Hun Sen, has committed himself to Vietnamese patronage in order to maintain his dictatorial power and perverted regime .  Hun Sen's predecessors--Lon Nol and Pol Pot --who had rejected the Vietnamese patronage could not survive more than five years on power. 

The next theme examines more detail about how Pol Pot came to power and why he chose radical revolution to practice in the country that ended up with a great disaster. With my background as a survivor of the killing fields, I would share some of my life experiences under Pol Pot's regime and the Vietnamese occupation. However, I still have a puzzle to understand why Pol Pot imposed too extreme policy on his own people while the country had still struggled to survive from its neighbors' domination, particularly Vietnam which has persistently tried to conquer Cambodia by all means. 

The final two important themes are about the Vietnamese invasion and the UN sponsored election in 1993. Through Cambodia's history, Vietnam is the most trouble maker in Cambodian internal affairs. It has tirelessly ignited fire among Cambodian factions in order to gain political interest and finally to swallow Cambodian land. At least Vietnam had intervened three wars in Cambodia in modern history-- in 1946-54, 1970-73, and 1979-89.  Currently, Vietnam has nearly achieved its final goal to place Laos and Cambodia in the Indochina Socialist Federation under its patronage.  In 1993, when the UN spent more than 2 billion dollars to bring peace and democracy to Cambodia, Vietnam used its Cambodian Puppet, Hun Sen, to launch a bloody coup against a democratic elected government and re-installed its subordinate government to rule Cambodia until today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 17, 1975 From Bloody War to Killing Fields and Vietnamese Invasion

Khmer Rouge Soldiers enter Phnom Penh as Khmer Republic soldiers lay down their arms (Image RNBKK archives)

After a peaceful coup on March 18, 1970, Cambodia plunked into the most bloody war in history followed by a killing field.  The following day after Sihanouk's plane landed in Beijing, Sihanouk told Premier Zhou Enlai, " I'm going to return home and fight."  Nonetheless, Zhou Enlai did not impress with his words; instead he warned the prince that a war would be long, hard, dangerous, and sometimes discouraging.  Then a blue print for the war was created in Beijing when Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Dong flew to Beijing to meet Zhou Enlai and Prince Sihanouk.  Pol Pot was secretly in Beijing but avoided to see Sihanouk.  Now Phan Van Dong and Zhou Enlai arranged Sihanouk to work with the Khmer Rouge, creating the United Front of Kampuchea to appeal all Cambodian peoples to launch a war campaign and civil disobedience against the new Khmer Republic Government.  Through Radio Beijing, Shihanouk denounced the coup and called for the people to join him to fight for justice, by which he meant revenge.  Then the brutal war was enraged after Vietnam had failed to strike a deal with Marshal Lon Nol's new government to reopen a supplies line through Cambodia.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sam Rainsy May Fall into Hun Sen's Political Trap


A surprised announcement by both Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy over political agreement on election reform and re-election date has made most Cambodian people inside and outside the country dismayed since the news keep coming up sometimes contradictory and sometimes unbelievable.  When everyone heard Hun Sen said that Sam Rainsy had agreed with him to set election date for commune council on February 2017 and parliamentarians on February 2018, they were stunned and presumed that now Sam Rainsy is an another Ranaridh.  But the news turned to be unconfirmed though Hun Sen insisted he would reveal a voice record.  At the same time, Sam Rainsy clarified that he just surveyed how far Hun Sen could go and took his proposals for further discussion with Kem Sokha and the CNRP's Central Committee.  However, what Sam Rainsy has done may damage his credibility further as some of CNRP's supporters have discontented with the CNRP leadership who have shown its softer stand and too far comprise with the CPP already.  A political development in the past few days not only made the CNRP's supporters dismayed but clearly revealed how poor the CNRP communicates and coordinates among the top leadership members.  To rebuild trust with its supporters, the CNRP must review all its bylaws and policies learning to speak the language in line with the party's policy and focus on what is the best interest for the people and the nation.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kem Sokha and Yim Sovann visit MN to reassure CNRP's committment.

Community members listen to Kem Sokha's speech
Community members listen to Kem Sokha speech

Minnesota is known as a liberal democrat state in the US, but most Cambodian Americans, who have settled here over two decades, are more political and social conservative on the issues relating to their homeland.  In 1980s and early 1990s, the state was a stronghold of Son Sann Party' s supporters and anti-monarchy and Communist.  Then after the 1993's UN sponsored election, the political trend shifted to support Sam Rainsy Party and now predominantly favor for CNRP, a party which at least shows a potential strength to beat a pro-Hanoi CPP if an election is free and fair.  When Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha visited the state previously, the people here insisted the two parties--Sam Rainsy and Human Right Party-- must put aside all differences and merge together in order to save the nation.  After the 2012 commune election, the two parties showed no substantial gain and the Sam Rainsy Party lost a few commune chief seats back, then a notion of unity among all Khmer democrats and nationalists became realistic.  On April 7, 2013, only four months away from the general election, the Cambodian National Rescue Party was created to challenge the pro-Hanoi, CPP which has been installed by Vietnam in 1979 to rule Cambodia until today.
Now when Kem Sokha visited MN again, he thanked all the people here who helped to forge him and Sam Rainsy to work together to win the election but was rigged by Hun Sen again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Russia's Annexation of Crimea Overshadows Cambodia's Koh Tral Future

Koh Tral (image

A recent Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by quiet military invasion along with impromptus referendum has raised a serious question how the international laws and norms are observed in the 21st century.  The political crisis in Ukraine and an annexation of Crimea by Russia have attracted attention from Cambodian politicians, political analysts, and many ordinary people who have clearly seen some analogies between Ukraine and Cambodia's situations.  Cambodia has gone through numerous issues and crises in which international law has becomes a key role in settling many disputes involved with foreign invasions and sovereignty disputes with its neighboring countries such as a Geneva Conference in 1954, a Preas Vihear case in 1962, the Paris Peace Accord in 1991, the second Preas Vihear case in 2012, the multiple criminal cases against Hun Sen at ICC, and a possible legal case on Koh Tral against Vietnam in the future if the current pro-Hanoi regime changed or collapsed by popular uprising or defeating in a free and fair election.  Now we try to examine how Crimea and Koh Tral share a common and different respects, and Can the Crimea situation can be comparable to Koh Tral?

Since Ukraine's Crimea and Cambodia's Koh Tral share some common and different situations, we try to search for if there is a probability for Cambodia reclaiming Koh Tral from Vietnam vis a vis to Russia's annexation of Crimea.  In fact, a situation in Crimea is not much similar to Koh Tral since Cambodia is so weak militarily and politically as compared to Russia. Thus, the probability of regaining Koh Tral from Vietnam's occupation is more unlikely to success.  For Russia, it has strong military and political means to regain Crimea from Ukraine except legal mean that Russia has faced firestorm and condemnation from the UN and the international community because Russia clearly violates all norms and international laws that have been observed by all countries around the world.  However, as the nuclear superpower country on earth, Russia has shrugged off all criticisms and condemnations and unilaterally took over Crimea in a brazen way.