Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sok An Appearance at Cambodian New Year Parade

January 18, 2008

Mayor Bob Foster
333 W. Ocean Blvd 14th Floor
Long Beach, CA 90802

Dear Mayor Foster:

We are writing to protest the appearance of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at this year's annual Long Beach Cambodian New Year Parade, to be scheduled in April.

For over a decade, Cambodia has been under the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a government that has violated an incalculable multitude of human rights with impunity since 1997, so much so that they have simply ceased to meet with the latest United Nations rights envoy this past December. Cambodia has one of the most corrupt governments in the world today, ranked 162nd out of 180 nations according to Transparency International (180 being most corrupt). Mr. Sok An is the head of the Cambodian Council of Ministers and is that government's second in command.

We the undersigned, Cambodians and non-Cambodians alike, are deeply shocked and saddened that the right hand man of such a government has been invited to parade himself in an event purported to celebrate diversity, community, and personal freedom. How does one celebrate these values by welcoming the very figure that is a perpetrator against them? What community and freedom are our brothers and sisters celebrating in Cambodia, where Mr. Sok An and colleagues rule the people with forced evictions and rampant land grabs, where simple freedom of expression is met with incarceration and death?

In their press release on January 9, 2008, the committee that invited Mr. Sok An stated that they "believe in open dialogs and making changes through peaceful means as taught by Dr. Martin Luther King." That may be well and good but a parade is simply not an appropriate venue for having such dialog. While Dr. Martin Luther King met with opposition figures to create open dialog and further understanding, we cannot imagine he would have invited members of the Ku Klux Klan to participate in a parade celebrating the African-American community as a means of opening this dialog.

We implore your understanding and compassion in this matter and fervently hope you will rescind Mr. Sok An's unfortunate invitation.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Download Petition in PDF Form
http://www.myp1t.com/design/pic/SokAnPetition.pdf
Please sign and mail petition to:

myP1T.com
PO Box 4129
Long Beach, CA 90804

or email a scanned copy with signature(s) to:

petition@myp1t.com

http://www.petitiononline.com/newyear/petition.html

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Hor Namhong: Thai comments over Preah Vihear Temple "stupid"

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 January 2008


The lawyers defending Cambodia at The Hague International Court of Justice in 1962 (Photo: NorodomSihanouk.info)

The Hague International Court of Justice which handed the ownership of Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia (Photo: NorodomSihanouk.info)

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong condemned as "stupid" comments made by a Thai official Friday over a disputed border temple in the north.

Preah Vihear temple, known to the Thais as Khao Phra Viharn, has become controversial in the unmarked border area, claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

Thai Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Pichasanu Putchakarn told the Bangkok Post Friday that Cambodia’s recent unilateral request seeking UN World Heritage Site status for the temple could upset relations between the two neighbors.

"Thailand has to think of its national interests. We may protest to the Cambodian government through diplomatic channels and try to explain to other countries that Thailand has tried to cooperate with Cambodia in requesting the World Heritage listing of the sanctuary together," Pichasanu told the Post.

"That general is stupid, as he does not know anything," Hor Namhong said Friday, referring to Pichasanu. "Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia. That we want to put it into Unesco’s World Heritage is our right."

Cambodia had shown a willingness to negotiate with Thailand "several times," Hor Namhong said. "More Thai experts than the international ones showed up in the negotiation. That is a stupid claim."

Cambodia and Thailand both have troops stationed at the border near the temple, Pichasanu said.

"If Thailand still objects to Preah Vihear being listed as a World Heritgage Site, that is fine. We’ll still keep going," said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. "We have warned Thailand that if it blocks the entry to Preah Vihear from Thailand again, we will block it forever. Then it is Thailand that will totally suffer from the loss."

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Military bungles over Preah Vihear

Diplomacy and ancient cultural sites are not the business of the Army; the southern insurgency is Published on January 26, 2008

The military's strong but belated reaction to Cambodia's nomination of the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear as a United Nations World Heritage site raised eyebrows in Bangkok as well as in Phnom Penh. It may be true that the Cambodian authorities last year unilaterally proposed to get the mountaintop temple on the Unesco list of historical and cultural sites of global significance, but the Thai Foreign Ministry has already protested the move and now both countries have been discussing the proposal to jointly list Preah Vihear. The ancient temple is located on Cambodian territory along with secondary ruins on the Thai side.

Cambodia and Thailand have for several years been cooperating on the restoration of the ancient temples - which are easily accessible from the Thai side of the border - as part of a joint tourism development. The timing of the protest by the Defence Ministry, at a time when Thailand is about to revert to democracy after some 16 months of military rule, raises the serious question as to whether there is an ulterior motive behind this uncalled-for protest.

On Thursday, the Defence Ministry accused the Cambodian government of trying to create "false historical evidence" with the intention of laying claim to the area adjacent to Preah Vihear, particularly the access road, which is located inside Thai territory. The Defence Ministry also asked the Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal protest with Phnom Penh. According to the Defence Ministry, Cambodia has unilaterally created a new boundary in order to claim sovereignty over the entire area, including the access road on the Thai side, and is campaigning for international support for this. The Defence Ministry spokesman went as far as saying that the incoming government should take the issue seriously, as Phnom Penh could once again incite anti-Thai sentiments among Cambodians living along the border - and that this could threaten Thailand's national security. He said the Army was on alert to protect Thailand's sovereignty.

Such dramatic posturing by the military comes across as ludicrous and bordering on hysterical. There have been no signs of any possibility of armed confrontation between the two countries over Preah Vihear. The dispute over the site was supposed to have been settled more than four decades ago.

Sure enough, Thai military leaders yesterday backtracked, dismissing what the Defence Ministry's spokesman, Lt-General Pichsanu Puchakarn, said at a press conference was an inaccurate representation of the situation.

Preah Vihear is still something of a sensitive issue in the relations between Thailand and Cambodia. It became a hot issue again early last year when Thailand blocked Phnom Penh's attempt to list it as a World Heritage site on the grounds that Cambodia's annex document claimed some parts in an "overlapping area" claimed by both countries. In 1962, following bitter legal wrangling between the two countries, the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Phnom Penh, which was given sovereignty over the temple compound. But the access route to the site is mainly on the Thai side of the border. Negotiations on the overlapping area are ongoing.

In clarifying the Defence Ministry's clumsy statements, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said yesterday that Thailand and Cambodia had agreed since 2000 to have a joint boundary committee and would not make any alteration to the environment or physical structures in the area before the demarcation is completed.

In the meantime, the spokesman said both countries continued to discuss how best to get Preah Vihear listed as a World Heritage Site for joint tourism development and mutual benefit.

The two countries said there was no dispute, and Thailand agreed to provide technical assistance to train Cambodian workers to restore the temple prior to the proposal to list the site.

If this serves as a lesson to the military, it is this: the armed forces should learn to mind their own business and not over-extend themselves by venturing into unfamiliar territory - like diplomacy - that they know little about. Everybody knows by now that the Thai armed forces have been fighting a losing war against Islamic militants/Malay separatists in the deep South and their prestige is taking a beating. The priority for the military is to disengage itself from politics and put its own house in order.

The Nation

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Word Yuon

By Navy Phim

I was reading Kenneth So's article on the word Yuon. I would like to submit my piece on it to your website also. It is an excerpt from my book "Reflections of a Khmer Soul." Please include at the end that it is an excerpt from my book and include my website on it too.

The word Yuon, like the term ethnic cleansing, has been a topic of many discussions in my journey. Yuon is a Khmer word that means Vietnamese. It is neither derogatory nor flattering. When my parents became friends with our Vietnamese-Cambodian neighbors, we called them Yuon. As we call Cambodia, Srok Khmer, we also called Vietnam Srok Yuon, land of the Yuon.

In "Khmer Language and the Term Yuon," Bora Touch argues:

To say that "yuon" means "savages," critics of the term are likely reliant on the Khmer Rouge's definition from KR Black Book (1978) p.9, a definition that is incorrect and baseless and was included by the KR for the purpose of propaganda. Some Khmer, including Khmer Krom, believe that "yuon" actually derives from "Yuonan," the Chinese word for Vietnam. Others believe it comes from the Yaun (Khan) dynasty, against whose armies both the Khmer and Cham did battle.

But in Cambodia, Yuon has somehow become a politically incorrect word that some view as derogatory.

Many Cambodian-Americans and local Cambodians disagree on the meaning of the word Yuon. If I were to accept that the meaning changed due to some occurrence in Cambodia and that people outside of Cambodia were out of the loop, I would hope that the world could accept that Yuon can still be used neutrally without a supposedly derogatory connotation. But I'm not convinced that the word has changed in meaning. I think people may change it for their own agenda. Unfortunately, it can bring misunderstanding and animosity when Yuon is used in Cambodia.

The new acceptable term for Yuon is Vietnam. As pronounced by Khmer people with our unique accent, it sounds like "Yak-nam," "Yak" being the mystical giant that eats humans. I prefer to think of my Vietnamese friends as Yuon rather than as blood-thirsty giants.

I also saw an Internet discussion asserting that the Laotian word for Vietnamese is Yuon or Kaew. To be able to live and have the dignity to use your language without others telling you that certain words have a negative connotation is a luxury that Cambodians do not have.
Excerpt from "Reflections of a Khmer Soul"
http://www.navyphim.com

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is Using the Word "Yuon" Justified and Beneficial for Khmer?

By Kenneth So

The issue of Westerners objecting to Khmers for calling a Vietnamese "Yuon" has come up over and over again since UNTAC came to Cambodia. We have been called racists for using this word.

I have written many articles responding to those accusations and even sent a letter to The Washington Times defending Mr. Sam Rainsy when this newspaper published a letter from Dr. David Roberts (Lecture from the school of History and International Affairs, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland) accusing Mr. Sam Rainsy as racist. Attached please see my letter that I wrote to the newspaper on September 20, 2002.

Because of the expenditure (time, energy, and political) we spend defending our position on this issue and get us back to full circle, I am rethinking my position on this subject. I will always defend our right to use the word "Yuon" to refer to a Vietnamese whenever we speak or write in Khmer. However, we have the choice to use the word "Yuon" whenever we write in English or speak to a Westerner, but is it prudent or beneficial for us to do so?

Before I express my position further on this subject, allow me first to educate the Westerners who think they really understand Khmer people.

There is no doubt in my mind that some Westerners know and understand the Khmer language very well. Some of them who have been staying in Cambodia for a long time may even feel that they know how Khmer people think and behave. However, I don’t believe that the understanding of a Khmer language alone and also living in Cambodia (some for a short and some for a long period of time) will truly open up the Khmer soul to Westerners. Khmerness is more than knowing the language and living in Cambodia. Khmerness is speaking the language, understanding Khmer idioms, appreciating Khmer jokes and their nuances, and enjoying Khmer musics and poetries. It is a feeling that resonates with the feelings of Khmer people living in Cambodia. A Khmer is a person that has never had the comfort and security that Westerners have in which they take it for granted. A Khmer is not synonymous with Pol Pot. The actions that Pol Pot had committed and the Western media description of his evilness have portrayed Khmer people as savage, uncivilized, and racist. A Khmer is a person who is proud of the civilization that Angkor has left as its legacy. Khmers are people that are constantly living under threat, both within and without the kingdom, who have witnessed the disappearance of Khmer territory to their powerful neighbors. If one does not have any of those feelings, one can never totally comprehend a Khmer.

Having said that, I will attempt to explain that the word "Youn" is not a racist word. The word "Youn" in a Khmer language is a neutral word. In general, when we call the Vietnamese "Youn", there is no malice intended.

I believe most Westerners’ confusion come from the fact that there is a word Vietnamese in the Western vocabulary. The misunderstanding is that for Khmer people to opt using the word "Youn" instead of the word Vietnamese give Westerners the impression that we are racists.

I think I can explain this. When we speak in Khmer, it is very awkward and does not sound right to the ear to use the word Vietnamese. However, when we speak in English or French then it is more natural to use the word Vietnamese and it would become awkward to use the word "Youn."

Let me give an example. If I want to say, "Fishermen are mostly Vietnameses" and I want to use both words, "Youn" and Vietnamese, to say that sentence in Khmer. In Khmer we would then say, "Pourk Neak Nisart Trey Keu Chreun Tè Youn" or "Pourk Neak Nisart Trey Keu Chreun Tè Choun Cheat Vietnam". It therefore requires more effort to use the word Vietnam to describe the Vietnamese because we have to say "Choun Cheat Vietnam" to describe a Vietnamese. We cannot say, "Pourk Neak Nisart Trey Keu Chreun Tè Vietnam" because Vietnam is a country. In Khmer, the word Vietnamese alone does not exist unless one uses the word "Youn."

It is rare in Khmer language to have a racist word attributed to different races. However, this does not mean that we don’t have a strong vocabulary that connotes racism. If we hate or disrespect somebody we would add an adjective "A" in front of the word that we intend to use. If we say "A Youn", then it is a sign or disrespect but not necessarily a racist remark. To be racist we would have to say "A Katop", "A Gnieung", or "A Sakei Daung." Some Westerners who compare the word "Youn" that we use to call a Vietnamese to the word Nigger that the Americans use to call a Black is completely misleading and show that they do not know really understand the Khmer language.

If we were to speak in Khmer and call the Vietnamese "A Katop", then I would consider it derogatory and racist in content. If we were to say, "Pourk Youn" or simply "Youn", meaning Vietnamese people or Vietnamese, respectively, then there is no reason for Westerners to condemn us for saying so. If we were to say, "A Youn", again it does not necessarily mean racism but rather a disrespectful way of calling a Vietnamese.

To show Westerners how a meaning is changed when we apply the adjective "A" in front of a sentence. For example, when a Khmer says, "Lombol Yo, Tveu Oy Ahgn Lours Proleung", which more or less means, "Son of a gun, you scare the hell out of me." Now, if I add "A" in front of the sentence such as, "A Lombol Yo, Tveu Oy Ahgn Lours Proleung", then the meaning is becoming more vulgar, which is equivalent to saying, "Son of a bitch, you scare the hell out of me."

I have a Khmer friend who is married to a Vietnamese woman. He calls his wife "Youn" all the time. He said, "Propaun khniom Youn", meaning my wife is Vietnamese. Is he racist then? If he is racist why would he marry a Vietnamese?

It is very dangerous for Westerners who do not know the intricacies and the little nuances of the Khmer language to theorize on the meaning of certain words or phrases. The misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the Khmer language can harm us tremendously.

Many Khmers feel that we should not bend and accommodate to the will and whim of the Westerners because of their ignorance. The inaptitude of the Westerners on the understanding of the usage of the word "Youn" reminds me of a recent case that took place in the United States. The teacher of a high school was using the word "Niggardly" to describe a person that is very stingy about his spending. Because of this, he was reprimanded and told not to use that word again because its sounds too much like the word Nigger.

Now that I have educated the Westerners, should I feel free to use the word "Yuon" from now on? Recently, a friend of mine made a comment that Khmers have used the word "Yuon" over centuries, as recently as during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum of Norodom Sihanouk both in newspapers and over the radio air waves. He further said, there should not be any reasons for Khmers to stop using the word "Yuon" because of complains from the international community and protest from the Vietnamese government that consider the word to be derogatory.

The above comment is fair. Now, let me state my position on this subject. As a pragmatist, I am looking for what is best for Cambodia as she moves into the 21st Century and into the era of internet and globalization.

As I try to remember, I don’t believe I have ever encountered the use of the word "Yuon" in French or English newspapers/magazines in Cambodia back during the era of Sangkum Reastr Niyum. I do not recall Khmers calling a Vietnamese "Yuon" when speaking in French. We, especially my family and I, always said "les vietnamiens et les chinois" and not "les yuons et les chens." However, I think it is still appropriate to us the word "Yuon" when speaking or writing in Khmer

Having said that, I will give my reasons why it is more beneficial for us to stop using the word "Yuon" whenever we speak or write in French or English.

Reason #1
Comparing the time during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum to today is not appropriate. Cambodia was relatively independent and self-sufficient during Sangkum Reastr Niyum. However, Cambodia of today is not independent because we receive about 50% of financial aids from foreign governments and the UN. Because we are at the mercy of foreign governments and the UN for our economic survival, therefore we cannot ignore advices or suggestions from them.

Reason #2
I believe the misunderstanding on the meaning of the word "Yuon" was caused by foreign advisors to Yasushi Akashi when he was the head of UNTAC in Cambodia. Those so-called foreign experts in Khmer language told Akashi that the word "Yuon" was a derogatory word. This misunderstanding then spread out like a wildfire. Now it is impossible to convince Westerners otherwise. We would have spent too much energy defending the usage of the word "Yuon" and reaching only a small percentage of the western population for our explanation. Do we have to defend our usage of the word "Yuon" every time a Westerner questions our intention? Can our valuable time be put to better use instead?

Reason #3
There are words in English or French for Vietnamese or Chinese. If we were to write in French or English and decide to use the word "Yuon" or "Chen" instead of the internationally recognizable words for Vietnamese and Chinese, then it is understandable that Westerners may get confused and think we are prejudiced and racist. Why do some Khmers insist on using the word "Yuon" or "Chen" when writing in French or English? What do we have to gain from using those words?

Reason #4
There are more Westerners and international newspapers and media in the world than in Cambodia. The international newspapers can reach a greater number of audiences in the world than we can. If western newspapers print out in their articles that we are racist because we use the word "Yuon" to label the Vietnamese, it will then reach a very large numbers of readers in the world. It is therefore impossible for us, Khmers, to target that many numbers of readers to counterbalance our view. Additionally, it is very hard to justify our usage of the word "Yuon" or "Chen" to the Westerners when there are acceptable replacements for those words in French or English that are used internationally by every country.

Reason #5
The perception and impression that we portray ourselves to the world are very important. If Westerners perceive us as racist because of our insistence of using the word "Yuon", then it is our duty to change that perception. We cannot just explain away our right of using the word "Yuon" because it has been in our vocabulary for thousands of years. For thousands of years Cambodians speak only Khmer and did not speak French or English. "Yuon" and "Chen" were the only words known to us to describe the Vietnamese and Chinese, respectively. It was then natural to call the Vietnamese "Yuon" and the Chinese "Chen" because there were no other substitutes for these words. Now that we are living in a modern era where everybody communicates in French or English, we are therefore exposed to the new international vocabularies to describe the people of Vietnamese’s and China’s descents. Why can’t we adapt and accept the change? Why do we stubbornly cling to our old way of justifying that we are right and everybody else is wrong? We may be right but our attitude of intransigence give the perception to Westerners that we are arrogant and racist. What is the harm of replacing the word "Yuon" and "Chen" to describe the Vietnamese (or Vietnamien) and Chinese (or Chinois) when we write in English or French?

Reason #6
There is no way we can win the battle of ideas in this one. We are losing the public relation’s war and there is no way we can convince enough Westerners we are right on this issue. I, myself, consider the usage of the word "Yuon" and "Chen" when writing in French or English to be awkward and somewhat pejorative. However, I still believe it is acceptable to use those words when we speak or write in Khmer. It is much harder for me to say "Choun Cheat Vietnam" or "Choun Cheat Chen" than to say "Yuon." Or "Chen" in Khmer.

Conclusion
I personally feel it is in the best interest for us to stop using the words "Yuon" and "Chen" to describe the Vietnamese or Chinese when speaking or writing in French or English. There is nothing for us to gain for using those words. There are too much time and energy wasting on this subject that could have been better served helping the country. We are not living in the 10th century where we have no other options to describe the Vietnamese or Chinese. During that time we spoke only Khmer. Now that we are living in the 21st century and are being exposed to the rest of the world where the communication is conducted mostly in English, it is therefore incumbent upon us to learn and adapt to our new environment. There are internationally recognizable and acceptable words to describe people of Vietnamese’s or Chinese’s descents. We must use those words to communicate in French or English because it is not only the right thing to do but it is also beneficial for us. We are not living in an isolated environment but rather in an era of globalization. We cannot afford the rest of the world to portray us as intransigence and racist. We are the victim of our own intransigence because we refuse to change and allow other people to define us instead. We have to make our image of who we are. We cannot make ourselves be the victim of the whole Khmer-Vietnamese affairs by allowing others to define us as racist and spending our time to defend ourselves. If we remove the racism sticker by stopping the usage of the word "Yuon" at least in the written communication part of it, then many problems will be solved by themselves. More time can be focused on the real problems that exist between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Whenever I need to find solutions to some problems or try to improve on certain situations in life, I always go back to the story told in "La Fable de La Fontaine." There are so many favorite stories, but the one that I like the best and is very relevant to almost every situation is the story of "Le Chêne et le Roseau." The story tells of a strong oak tree (Chêne) falling down and being uprooted while the reed (Roseau) still remaining standing and alive after a strong wind. Vietnam is a powerful country like the wind and if Cambodia wants to survive we cannot be like a strong oak tree but rather like a supple reed. There is an old Khmer saying, "Kom Yauk Komheung Tol Neung Komhol."

Kenneth So's letter to the Washigton Time
September 20, 2002

Dear Sir:

I am writing this letter in response to your Washington Times article of Dr. David Roberts (Lecturer from the School of History and International Affairs, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland) dated 09/13/02, who accused the Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy as undemocratic and authoritarian. In addition, he implied that Mr. Sam Rainsy was a racist, when he used the word "Youn" to refer to the Vietnamese.

First, the Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy is a true patriot and democrat. He is well deserving of the award that was given to him by Senator John McCain.

Dr. Roberts may be an expert in his field but he is no expert in Khmer language. In the Khmer dictionary, it says "Youn" means Vietnamese and is possibly related to the Sanskrit word "Yavana" that means savage. However, this possibility of a link between the words "Youn" and "Yavana" is just pure speculation and has no basis for it.

Anyhow, my own research indicates that the word "Youn" came from the word "Yueh". The Mandarin Chinese calls Vietnam, Yueh Nam. The word "Nam" means south in Chinese. "Yueh" indicates the name of the people of that region. Therefore, "Yueh" means Viet or Vietnamese in Chinese and "Yueh Nam" means the "Yueh" people of the south. In this case, south means south of China. The North pronounces it Yeknam (with a "Y" sound).

Chou Ta-Kuan (Zhou Daguan), the celebrated Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia in the 13th century, indicated in his report that there was already a large population of Chinese settling in Cambodia at that time. He said that the Chinese preferred life in the Khmer Empire because it was easier than in China. There were a lot of Chinese men marrying the native Cambodian women. I don't know when Khmer started to call the Vietnamese "Youn", but the habit may have been picked up from the Chinese settlers who lived in Cambodia at the time. The word "Youn" may have derived from the Chinese word "Yueh" to indicate the Vietnamese. If one starts to think about it, "Viet" (as pronounced by the North Vietnamese) or "Yeak" (as pronounced by the South Vietnamese) sounds very similar to "Yueh"; and "Yueh", meaning Vietnamese, in turn sounds very similar to "Youn". George Coedes, the French expert on the Southeast Asian classical study, found an earlier evidence of the word "Yuon" inscribed in Khmer on a stele dating to the time of the Khmer King Suryavarman I (1002-1050.)

Why do the so-called Western scholars and journalists keep on perpetrating this kind of misinformation about the word "Yuon"? "Youn" does not mean savage as Dr. Roberts had mistakenly indicated in his writing. Savage in Cambodian means "Pourk Prey" or "Phnong". Cambodians calls Vietnamese "Youn" the same way they call Indian "Khleung", Burmese "Phoumea", Chinese "Chen", and French "Barang".

When the Vietnamese calls Cambodian "Mien" why did the Western press and scholars not report it to be a derogatory word also? If I were to follow the logical thinking of the Western press and scholars, then "Mien" must be a derogatory word also. In the late 17th century, the Vietnamese court of Hue had indiscriminately changed the names of the Cambodian princesses Ang Mei, Ang Pen, Ang Peou, and Ang Snguon to the Vietnamese sounding names of Ngoc-van, Ngoc-bien, Ngoc-tu, and Ngoc-nguyen, respectively. Also they changed the name of Phnom Penh to Nam Vang. Why do scholars and press stay silent on these
subjects.

It is very dangerous for foreigners, like Dr. Roberts, to interpret the meaning of certain native words when they do not fully understand the languages and customs of those natives. It is people like Dr. Roberts who helps perpetrate the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the word "Youn" to mean savage. aggravate the mistrust and hate between Cambodian and Vietnamese.

Cambodians have been using the word "Youn" to refer to the Vietnameses before the word Vietnamese had even existed. Because of the ignorance of some scholars and journalists about the meaning of this word, are we therefore supposed to abandon using this word that we have done from time immemorial?

If Dr. Roberts insists on saying that the word "Youn" means savage, then I would ask him to prove to Cambodians how it is so. How does he know that this word means savage? What did he base his knowledge from? If he is a true scholar, then he must not base his understanding on hearsay. Otherwise, his credibility is at risk.


Sincerely,
Kenneth T. So

Trudy's Jacobsen's letter to the Phnom Penh Post in response to the rebuttal provided by Ambassador Truong Mealy and Touch Bora, Esq.


Phnom Penh Post, Issue 15 / 10, May 19 - June 1, 2006

Kampuchea Krom: the friction after the facts

Bora Touch's very detailed critique (Post, April 21, 2006) of my article Kampuchea Krom: The Facts Behind the Friction (Post, March 10) was a welcome change from the vitriolic emails I have been receiving since I first published the piece in March, if indicative that he has too much time on his hands, and too much faith in unsourced revisionist history.

The hatred and irrationality in the personal attacks levelled at me in the past two months have shocked me deeply. I have been accused of being a "red brain container," that I am "in the pay of Hanoi," that due to "marriage problems" I hate the Khmer and seek revenge, and various other charming statements involving my relationship to the "yuon masters," some of which seem anatomically impossible.

More disturbing have been the letters saying "It is easy to shoot down stupid academics" and variations thereof, and the attempt by a group of Cambodians living in Australia to seek an injunction against any future publication of my opinion on Kampuchea Krom, Cambodian-Vietnamese bilateral relations, and the word "yuon."

It is amazing that people can be so selective in the application of the principle of free speech. When Sam Rainsy is threatened for his views, there cannot be enough of it; when a simple academic delves into the Cambodian past and explodes a myth that has perpetuated hatred between two neighbouring peoples, suddenly free speech seems less palatable.

This level of negativity in response to a column that was meant to inform people of events they otherwise may not have known of, based upon Cambodian primary sources, is beyond comprehension.

I am grateful to those who have written thanking me for the 'Lost in Time' series, particularly the many Cambodian students I have taught over the years. They may not agree with everything I say, but they articulate their disagreement without resorting to cheap shots and attacks upon my character.

The older generation is mired in a tradition of Cambodian scholarship in which the veracity of one's work is directly associated with status. Thus appending an ex-ambassador's name to a letter is seen as increasing its veracity. Thus questioning the prestige of the university from which I obtained my PhD, continually reiterating the fact that I am female and therefore prone to emotional, nonsensical outbursts, and pointing out that I am a foreigner diminish my status, in the eyes of those trapped in a social, political and methodological time warp.

Yes, I am a foreigner. However, having spent 18 years living and working in and on Cambodia, I have a fairly good understanding of Cambodian culture and society today.

I would not presume to compare myself to a Cambodian (even those who jet in from Auckland or Long Beach every few years dispersing largesse to their extended families and enjoying the elevated status that being overseas Khmer brings) in terms of cultural comprehension, but the merit in being a foreigner, albeit with extensive experience in Cambodia, is my objectivity. The adverse reactions to my article are subjective, even biased, and hold no weight.

I stand by my assertion that the word "yuon" is pejorative in Cambodian society today. I am not disputing that technically "yuon" is an ethnic appellation. It is the way that the word is used that is pejorative. People who protest that "yuon" is a harmless term of ethnicity are using the same arguments that whites in the US had for the word "Negro." What matters is how the person on the receiving end of the word interprets it and the intent of the person using it. The letters I have received refer continually to the "yuon masters," "the stinking yuon," and how the "yuon enemy" are even now seeking to take over Cambodia through their puppets in the Cambodian government. These are hardly positive epithets.

This episode has at least dispelled my naïve conviction that if Cambodians knew what their own records said about the two events constantly held up as evidence of a historical tradition of Vietnamese aggression prior to the 20th century, perhaps they would rethink their hatred of Vietnamese living in Cambodia and be less inclined to turn a blind eye when Vietnamese fishing villages are massacred; that perhaps they would be less suspicious of the motives of the Vietnamese government when treaties between the two countries are signed, and see such events as two countries moving forward into a shared future of goodwill and cooperation; that perhaps those who feel alienated from Cambodia after many years of living elsewhere will stop perpetuating this hatred in a frantic attempt to have an impact upon Cambodian politics, however tangentially.

And perhaps kouprey will fly.
Trudy Jacobsen
Phnom Penh

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The Eternal Khmer-Vietnamese and Khmer-Thai Animosity

by KJE

On one of my recent visits to Cambodia I asked a friend of mine whether the Khmer people in Cambodia hate the Vietnamese as much as the overseas Khmer.

His reply was, ‘Nobody likes the Vietnamese, only Hun Sen does.’

I had asked because all the Khmer blogs, forums, and other English-language publications on the web display a thorough, deep-seated, and often-times virulent, hate of the Vietnamese people in general and the Vietnamese government in particular. This seems to be somewhat surprising given the fact that it was the Vietnamese that liberated Cambodia from its stone age Communist Pol Pot regime, which, after all, managed to kill 2 million Khmer, either directly through executions or through starvation.

So perhaps a quick look at its history will reveal some insight into the reasons for this ever lasting hate, which, it appears, goes only in one direction as both Thais and Vietnamese do not harbor the same feelings towards Khmer. Their attitude towards Khmer people can maybe best described by arrogance, or even contempt, though even that has slowly been undergoing change. Nowadays it seems to be more indifference than anything else.

Like all neighboring countries in the world, Cambodia and Vietnam were at war at one time or another throughout their history. War obviously is in the human nature. Whether it is a war to gain territory, a war over birthrights, a war along ethnic lines, or a war over religion, people have always found a reason to go to war.

Cambodia because of its size and population has not been a powerful country in the region for a long time. Bordering Thailand and Vietnam have always overshadowed Cambodia. However, during the Angkor period the Khmer Empire was an advanced civilization. Though it declined after the 13th century it remained a powerful country until the 15th century. Many wars with its neighbors, however, left it weakened, and the Thais finally defeated Angkor in 1432 (see Wikipedia for a full timeline). Even after that, the empire conducted many wars with the Thais and the Vietnamese, which only resulted in the loss of more territory. Ever since the Khmer Kingdom had been subservient to both neighbors.

A king who had been installed by the Thais in the 19th centuries finally sought protection from the Thais from France, which would lead to Cambodia finally becoming a French colony in 1863. In that respect Vietnam did not fare any better as it was also colonized by the French in the mid-1800s.

Thailand has never in its history been a colony of a foreign power with the exception of the Japanese occupation during WW II. The Thai people derive considerable national pride from that.

After gaining independence from France in 1954 following the Indochina War, Vietnam was divided into Communist North Vietnam and republican South Vietnam. Of course, we all know that in 1975 the Communists took over South Vietnam after first having defeated the U. S.’ efforts to defend South Vietnam, who withdrew in 1973, and then the South Vietnamese forces.

After the U. S. withdrew from Indochina the Communist insurgent movements in Laos and Cambodia gained the upper hand, and Pol Pot toppled the Lon Nol government in Cambodia. To pursue its goal of hegemony over the region the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and drove the Pol Pot regime into the jungle 4 years later where the Khmer Rouge continued to battle both the Vietnamese occupation forces and the Vietnamese installed Cambodian government until 1993, when the first free UN-sponsored elections were held. The Vietnamese forces had withdrawn from Cambodia in 1988. Jan. 09 is celebrated in today’s Cambodia as a day of liberation from the evil forces of Pol Pot. The opposition sees it as the day Cambodia lost its independence to Vietnam.

It is widely held that Vietnam pursued a policy of uniting Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam into one Indochinese Communist state under the government or at least leadership of the Vietnamese. Vietnam did, however, lack the economic foundations. History in a way overtook that concept with the Soviet Union’s policy of perestroika and glasnost, finally its collapse. Vietnam itself introduced an opening towards the free world by its own Doi Moi (renovation) policy, which implemented free market reforms in Vietnam.

During Vietnams 10-year occupation of Cambodia they exploited Cambodia’s natural resources to bolster their own weak economy and to preserve their own resources. They literally plundered the country. Before the occupation 80% of Cambodia was covered by forest. That had dwindled to 45% at the end of their occupation in 1988. Unfortunately, the subsequent Hun Sen regime, both under the Communist banner, and as reformed democrats after 1993, continued this exploitation on a large scale.

Thailand on the other border has been a staunch U. S. ally since WW II, which contributed to its economic development. In the late 1960s and 1970s Thailand was a staging area for U. S. forces in the Vietnam War and became infamous as an R&R place for GIs in that time. Though a multitude of coup d’etats hampered modern development, Thailand nonetheless embarked on its road to prosperity in the early 1970 with the advent of international tourism. Heretofore it had been a languid, agricultural, and exotic country. It is now one of the 5 Asian Tigers with a strong economy, and it certainly dwarfs both Cambodia and Vietnam, though the latter has made great strides to become the sixth Asian Tiger.

Cambodia, on the other hand, had remained a backward country due to the Pol Pot period and the subsequent isolation from the outside world. Going to Cambodia in 1989 was like going back in time by about 50 years. Modern development did not start until after 1993, when the first free elections were held.

It would appear that it is exactly this backwardness and their economic inferiority to its neighbors that led to this sentiment of animosity towards both neighbors. These feelings were not helped either by the influx of Thais and Vietnamese after Cambodia opened its borders in 1993 to foreign investments. It was a country for modern adventurers. The state was bankrupt. There was literally no money in the State Bank, Cambodia did not have anything that could be sold to the highest bidder, no industry to speak of, there was no electrical power in most of the country, people survived on subsistence farming. Government officials plundered state coffers of its foreign reserves for their own private purposes. The only money-making business in Cambodia at that time was logging. This is what the Thais and Vietnamese came for. Though it was eventually outlawed in the 1990s, it continued unabated, spurred by corruption. About 40% of the price of the relatively cheap logs and lumber went into government officials’ pockets. Both Thais and Vietnamese businessmen took advantage of this situation, as, despite the high share of corrupt money in the price of wood, it was still cheap by Thai standards, and the Vietnamese just wanted to protect and preserve their own forests. Contributing to this fact was that logging was illegal in Malaysia, Thailand, and parts of Indonesia. These countries initially constituted the main customers for wood from Cambodia. There was and continues to be a very lucrative market for exotic semi-precious and precious hardwoods.

The years immediately following the opening of the country created a climate of free-for-all reminiscent of the robber-barons in colonial America. Adventurous businessmen from neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea streamed into Cambodia. A military clique controlled the forests and were eagerly selling, mostly illegally cut, logs to those rapacious businessmen, pocketing hefty profits. All this money, of course, bypassed the general population. This could not go unnoticed by the population who was for most part still on the verge of starvation and did not know where the food for the next day would come from. But Khmer, in fact most Asian, people are rather stoic, being devout Buddhists, accepting their poverty as their fate, even in the face of a few getting rich. The Communist dictatorship contributed its share of suppressing any nascent form individualism.

Since the Vietnamese were the main buyers of Cambodian wood over a longer period of time the Khmer people came to see them as the main villains, which were later complemented by the other Asian nationalities, such as the Thais, Malays, and Indonesians. The population also knew very well that Hun Sen had been installed by the Vietnamese government during their occupation. So they continued and still continue to see the Vietnamese as their oppressors, trying to steal their land.

Though Cambodia is nominally a democratic free country, Hun Sen and his government rule the country with an iron fist, suppressing any emerging strong opposition with any means available, including intimidation, vote-buying, phony law-suits, etc. The masses remain more or less docile as Hun Sen’s CPP network pervades all strata of government throughout Cambodia. The one opposition party was rendered leaderless at one time for almost 2 years by having the chairman, Sam Rainsy, sentenced to a jail term for defamation of Hun Sen. Sam Rainsy was later pardoned by the King and returned to Cambodia, albeit in a much more agreeable and pliable form.

Nevertheless, Sam Rainsy and his party lambaste the CPP for stuffing voter rolls with Vietnamese nationals to ensure an absolute victory for the CPP in the next elections to be held in July 2008.
Sam Rainsy is practically running on an anti-Vietnamese platform.

Current Khmer society on the whole is rather uneducated, and that includes the upper echelons of the country’s leadership. Cambodia lacks an educated elite, from which impulses can arise and be passed on to the general population. This, of course, is the result of the virtual annihilation of the existing elite under the Pol Pot regime. This tends to make people to think in very simple terms and to see things in black and white. They are not able to make educated and informed assessments and judgments of given situations. They are very susceptible and responsive to blaming outsiders for their misfortune.

Again, looking back in history this appears to be a false impression, as it was their own King who asked the French for help. And it was again their own King who did not object to an arbitrary French ruling that gave the so-called Cochin-China to Vietnam, also called Kampuchea Krom, which covered the Mekong Delta and which had and still has a Khmer minority, when French rule over their Indochinese colonies ended.

Kampuchea Krom is a very serious bone of contention between the nationalistic faction of the Khmer population, especially overseas Khmer, and the current Cambodian government and the Vietnamese government. The resultant dislike or hate from this fact is unfortunately extended to the entire Vietnamese people who are seen as land-grabbers, and generally dishonest and shifty people. But it must not be overlooked that this part of Vietnam, though originally settled by Khmer, has been Vietnamese for 4 centuries. To claim it is still Khmer and to have it ceded back now seems somewhat absurd.

It was again a Khmer king who allowed Vietnamese refugees fleeing from a war to settle in this region in the early 17th century. In the following years ever more Vietnamese settled in the region and roughly 90 years later the Vietnamese installed their own administration, which practically separated this region from Cambodia. Cambodia was too weak to counter this because of its ongoing wars with the Thais. Kampuchea Krom has been Vietnamese ever since. The only chance to get it back was in 1954, but the French granted it to Vietnam without any opposition from the then King Norodom Sihanouk.

Lately, the relatively unhindered immigration of Vietnamese in practically free Cambodia has also irked most Cambodians. They also perceive them to receive very favorable treatment by the current government. Additionally, 2 years ago Cambodia and Vietnam concluded a border treaty delineating a firm borderline for many previously contested regions with Vietnam. Large chunks of Cambodian territory are considered to have been ceded to Vietnam by the current government. This claim is made not only by the opposition party but also by the former King Sihanouk.

It appears that all the Khmer contentions that they were wronged by their neighbors is not borne out by historical facts. But nonetheless a sort of inferiority complex evolved from this, which continues to make this a very volatile issue in some quarters. The Kampuchea Krom and border issues also leave the very bitter taste that the Cambodian people always get the short end of the stick in their relationship with their neighbors.

Nevertheless, the Vietnamese ‘guest laborers’ that had come to Cambodia in search of jobs in the early 1990s were considered good and reliable workers, much better in many respects than their Khmer counterparts. This fact was underlined by many Khmer builders who exclusively used Vietnamese workers in the construction business in that time. This picture has slowly changed over the years as Khmer workers acquired the skills to put them on an equal footing with the Vietnamese.

The U. N. sponsored elections in 1993 and its preparation brought in a great number of U. N. forces from all over the world, which was seen as a great opportunity to make money by prostitutes. Consequently, a great number of Vietnamese ladies of the night came to Cambodia to ply their trade there. As a matter of fact, during that time about 90% of all prostitutes in Cambodia were Vietnamese. Decent Khmer people saw this with dismay and lumped all the Vietnamese together as pimps, prostitutes, and thieves. Seeing Cambodia as a practically lawless country at that time this also appears to have been the time when criminals began using Cambodia as a major transit point for human trafficking. Again, many of those gangsters have been Vietnamese, though many young rural Vietnamese girls are also their victims.

In comparison to Vietnam Cambodia is a free country, though not fully by Western standards. But this continues to lure Vietnamese (and Chinese) people in search of jobs to Cambodia. Unlike Vietnam (and China) life is virtually uncontrolled by any authority, nobody pays taxes, and if you are apolitical Cambodia compares very favorably to their home country. Vietnamese do not need visas to enter Cambodia but Khmer need visas to go to Vietnam.

The Thai and Vietnamese economies are much larger and stronger. Vietnam, despite its still Communist authoritarian rule, managed to elevate its country from a developing to a threshold country in the past 19 years, whereas Cambodia in almost 15 years of quasi-democratic rule is still dependent on foreign aid for 50% of its budget. Before Cambodia will reach the same level of development it will take at least another 10 to 15 years. There are, of course, vast disparities in both countries’ infrastructure, but it would seem that the rigid authoritarian Vietnamese rule accomplished more than the robber-baron rule of a capitalist Cambodia. The ruling clique there is seen to line its pocket to the detriment of their own people hampering progress for the benefit of the people.

Given all these facts and aspects it is easy to understand, at least on the surface, the dislike, aversion, or even hate some Khmer people harbor against the Vietnamese. On the other hand, there is a great number of marriages between these two nationalities. There seem to be two factions utilizing this anti-Vietnamese feeling – one, the overseas Khmer who for the most part are very nationalistic, similar to their overseas Vietnamese counterparts, and two, the opposition parties in the country. Overall the population in Cambodia might not really like their neighbors but they have come to accept their presence and live with it. At worst, I believe it may be called an ambivalence.

For the overseas Khmer, however, judging from their publications, it is outright hate. Of course, it is safe for them to rant and rave living more or less comfortably in the U. S. or France. But their contention that Vietnam will one day occupy Cambodia again is outright ludicrous. Of course, Vietnam and Thailand will pursue their interest in their dealings with Cambodia, but the times of outright colonialism in any shape or form are forever over. No Western or Asian power will stand by and watch Vietnam annex Cambodia. Thailand has never committed any acts of aggression against their neighbors in modern times anyway and one is hard-put to see Thailand invading Cambodia.

Both Thais and Vietnamese are very friendly and hospitable, the same as Khmer. It is hard to understand for a foreigner to see some Khmer to usurp these sentiments for their one-sided goals. Shouldn’t reconciliation be the major objective? One can only hope that the younger generation, which will be more educated and because of their exposure to the mass media and internet, will come to see these things in their proper context and use their minds and ambition to build a better society free from hatred against their neighbors.

Europeans know about this best. They managed to unite countries that had been at war throughout history into one union without borders, with a common currency, and a joint political body. Yes, there are still resentments among certain nationalities. It is noteworthy, though, that it is mostly lower class people who hold those resentments. The better educated the more open-minded the people will be. Similarly, once the young Khmer will have achieved at least a semblance to other nations in the region, and have gained some stature among their neighbors, those resentments or harsher sentiments will slow diminish and finally disappear, maybe not completely, but they won’t be a significant factor in their relationships with their neighbors.

As for overseas Khmer, their views ought to basically be discounted as they have no major influence in Cambodia itself. They are too far removed from events and do not have the wherewithal to play a major role in Cambodian politics. There are about 300,000 overseas Khmer in the U. S. and Europe. Most of them have enough on their hands carving out a living in their host countries to care about politics in Cambodia. Eventually, the second and third generation will assimilate into their host societies completely and not think of themselves as Khmer but as Americans and French, or whatever they are. But the present anti-Vietnamese, anti-Thai propagandists should try to educate themselves a little more in order to understand that the world is not black and white, and that fostering hate is self-defeating and negativistic. Hate has no long-term chance of survival.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

SWEDISH MPs SAW THE MISERY OF RUBBER PLANTATIONS WORKERS





By SRP Cabinet,

On 9 January 2008, two Members of Parliament from Sweden, Mr. Kent Harstedt and Ms. Magdalena Strejffert from the Social Democratic Party, and Mr. Johan Mostrom from the Olof Palme Foundation, went to Kampong Cham province to meet with rubber plantations workers in Chamcar Leu district. They were accompanied by Sam Rainsy and other SRP Members of Parliament and were welcome at Ta'ong commune by about a hundred workers and worker representatives from several rubber plantations. The Swedish parliamentarians saw with their own eyes the misery of rubber plantations workers

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16th June, 2006

Misery of Rubber Plantation Workers

Last 10th June, I visited the district of Chamcar Leu in the province of Kompong Cham where I was elected. In this district located about 100 kilometers to the northeast of Phnom Penh, rubber plantations extend beyond sight. They employ thousands of workers whom no one knows much about, specifically about their living and working conditions. If one takes the time to learn more, one discovers that these workers' villages disseminated in these plantations form a world apart. Even though I am used to see poverty in Cambodia, I was struck by the misery which prevails in these villages. Children are in larger number than anywhere else. Clearly malnourished, they are skinny and pale looking. The rags they wear do not even cover half of their bodies. They play and live in the dirt. Most of them have never seen a school.

We are in the Chamcar Andaung commune, the location of a large plantation of the same name. It is almost five o’clock in the afternoon. The workday had ended (it starts everyday at 5 a.m.). A small crowd is gathering at my arrival at Village 33. Since the French colonial times, the workers' villages do not have a name but they bear a number indicating the plantation lots in which they are located. The village looks like a small island lost in the middle of a dark ocean of aligned trees extending beyond sight. Here, everybody earns a living from latex (rubber), a milky material secreted from the trunk of the rubber trees (Hevea tree) that are bled at regular intervals according to very precise rules.

Attracted by a microphone recently installed for the occasion, the workers, men and women, the majority of them young, came out from their small dilapidated homes; they were preceded by a crowd of noisy children. I spoke in front of Phan Ret’s house, a 20-year-old young worker whose husband, Plech Nol, also a worker, was killed last 14th April by plantation guards for stealing a few kilograms of raw rubber. The widow, a small woman who herself looks like a child, dragged two children after her.

I invited the workers to present their problems to the representatives, Mao Munyvann, Thak Lany and myself, who had come to meet them. I felt as if I was hearing stories right out of Emile Zola or Charles Dickens’ books on the condition of workers during the 19th century:

1. Starvation wage: The word which often comes round during the talks is hunger. Each worker receives a fix daily salary of 3,000 riels (US $0.73). There are no weekends or holidays. One day of absence carries a penalty of 10,000 riels ($2.43) which is taken out of the salary paid at the end of the month. The fixed monthly salary of 90,000 riels ($21.90), for 30 days of work, must also be used by the workers to purchase their work tools needed for latex collection (bleeding knife, collecting cups, ladder). Besides the fixed salary of 3,000 riels per day, the workers can also get a productivity bonus of up to 1,500 riels ($0.36) per day depending on the amount of rubber collected. In the best case scenario (i.e. for a strong and solid man who is never ill), a worker can only earn 4,500 riels ($1.09) per day at most which is not sufficient to feed a family. They would need two to three times this amount. This leads to the hunger which torments them all the time…
2. No social protection: A worker who falls from his/her ladder during the bleeding of a tree trunk from several meters above ground, can easily break a leg or pelvis. He/she must personally bear the entire medical cost from the accident. The victims are mainly women, this can result in dramatic family consequence for these very poor families.
3. Barbaric punishments: A worker who is accused of selling some pieces of dry rubber outside the plantation to supplement his/her meager salary, is severely punished: he/she is arrested by the plantation guards and beaten; he/she can then be tortured with electricity and confined half naked (an even greater humiliation for women) for several days in an iron cage. If he/she does not answer quickly enough when summoned by the guards, he/she is shot dead, just like Plech Nol, the husband of Phan Ret. Since the beginning of this year, two workers have been shot dead and another has been seriously injured by a bullet. No sanction was given to the guards.
4. Child labor: To help increase the family income, children usually go with their parents to work. They help their parents reach the daily bonus of 1,500 riels, or they collect small pieces of coagulum (1) for sale for a few pennies a piece. This explains why the children do not attend schools, thus perpetuating the cycle of misery. Hunger push these children to steal food in the neighborhood, and they are severely punished when caught stealing a few bananas in the neighboring farm.
5. A climate of violence and fear: The workers and their families depend entirely on their employer who manages not only the plantations where they work, but also the villages where they live. Because of the total control, the geographic isolation of the workers, and the feudal mentality which still remains in Cambodia, the rubber plantations form special communities where a climate of violence and fear rules. This climate is maintained by the guards who form a kind of a private militia. These armed guards terrorize the workers and their families; they do not hesitate to use torture and are also trigger-happy. In addition to the workers who are shot or wounded with bullets (see above), another act of violence took place this year in the same Chamcar Andaung plantation: on 10th January, two women “caught stealing food” were assassinated (2).
6. Layoff without warning, without compensation: I learnt that in Village 35, some 200 workers were laid off without warning, without compensation nor any help in finding another job. This took place a few years ago when their employer decided, for technical or commercial reasons, to cut down all the rubber trees located in the plantation lot where they worked. In this village forgotten by the employer, which I also visited, misery is even more severe than in Village 33.

In these rubber plantations, work consists mainly of bleeding the trees. While leaving the village at dusk, I realize that most of all, it was the workers who are bled.
Sam Rainsy

Notes:

(1) Coagulum: stuck on tree trunks or spread on the ground, these pieces of coagulum (solidified latex) are waste resulting from multiple small losses occurring during the industrial collection and gathering of rubber which was originally liquid.

(2) They were Nay Theng, 32-year-old, and Nay Sokhoeun, 44-year-old. They lived in Village 32. They were sisters. Nay Theng was three month pregnant. They were caught in a banana plantation.

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Cambodia Town Delegation, a Serpent of Multiple Head






by Kok Sap

In reference to 12/26/2007 article by Greg Mellen - Long Beach Press Telegram, 'Cambodian's planned visit draws protest Deputy prime minister plans to appear in New Year Parade in Long Beach.'

To an outsider eyes, there appears the so called Cambodia Town Delegation is shared umbilical cord of the same personalities with Cambodia Town Inc., Long Beach Sister Cities, the Cambodian Coordinating Council and the Cambodia New Year Parade and Cambodia Chamber Commerce. The CPP lackeys aka Delegates are short changing all Long Beach residents. This is much in collusion on the Delegation credibility.

No question both, Richer and Sothea San, are educated, but they still need to learn more of social morality and responsibility. It was rather amused that Mr. Richer San says Mr. Anthony Ly was an opponent of the New Year Parade since its inception (2005). While he supported Mr. Ly's right to hold a different opinion, he said Cambodian Americans need to put homeland politics aside. This is politically incorrect, and what is he saying to himself?

In 2005, the Cambodian Americans across the region were livid with the group insult. Then young Sans insensitivity and arrogance insisted on scheduling the New Year Parade on the Cambodia tragic day, April 17 1975. This date is a remembrance day for victim family. Since then most Cambodians mourn the loss of millions of life in private homes and some in the community gathering on such date. This was the root for not only Mr. Ly but others who opposed Mr. San group in staging New Year Parade on such day.

Also people remember the very same Mr. Sok An who has stalled the Khmer Rouge Trial for so many years already. The world and Cambodians are still concerned but it seemed unimportant to the Sans and co-conspirators. This much ignorance in the Delegation part to continue to offend the majority sensitivity. By far, the Delegation is a serpent of multiple head with self elevation campaign at the expenses of the uninformed Khmers in Long Beach.

No recollection, Mr. San is too arbitrarily in painting his opponent, (Diep) Anthony Ly, as an anti New Year Parade in 2005. Mr. Ly has been known for decades to Cambodians as a publisher one of the oldest Khmer Newspapers, Angkor Borei, in the region. Also Mr. Ly is a known critic of oppressive regimes from past and present. That alone puts Mr. San in a difficult position to face other survivors. To note Mr. San did not say Mr. Ly was a survivor and victim of the April 17, 1975 tragedy.

So in a new scheme took place last month in Phnom Penh, Mrs. San made herself Chairperson of the Cambodia Town Delegation to personably invite the oppressive regime agent, Sok An, to insult people in Long Beach once again. Both Sans never learned but again assume all Cambodians in Long Beach are in agreement with their personal's caveat. This time is a much bigger mistake to assume people will receive Cambodia dictator agent Sok An, with gongs and drums. The rumor says Sok An is actually a Viet Cong agent in disguise. Nevertheless all remain to be seen at the City Council and Mayor future convening.

Mrs. San and the self serving Delegation are treading on the imminent self implosion. The public needs an open explanation from the Cambodia Town Delegation. At this stage, the opposition is in momentum to not necessary challenge the opportunistic Mrs. San Delegation personalities, but to the thrust of current Cambodia oppressive regime leadership. People wonder who are actually behind the Communist People Party conspiracy to insult Cambodians in Long Beach city. It seems ludicrous in this, which San claims "aside from homeland politics." Seemingly it is time for Cambodians to catch the multiple head snake once for all.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More than 10 Funcinpec government officials defected to the CPP



Monday, January 07, 2008
Koh Santepheap newspaper
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

Phnom Penh – Khieu Kanharith, CPP spokesman and minister of information, said on Friday 04 January that about 10 Funcinpec government officials, holding the rank of ministers and state secretaries, have defected to the CPP. On the other hand, Funcinpec party officials also claim that it is true that about 10 Funcinpec party members defected to the CPP since long ago, except that they did not dare reveal their defections openly.

The defection of Funcinpec officials to the CPP take place at the same time as the general election is approaching. A source close to Funcinpec revealed that the defectors are:

1. Kong Vibol, the state secretary of the ministry of economy and finance,
2. Muong Khim, an official from the ministry of Interior,
3. Nuth Sokhom, the minister of health,
4. Chumteav Ing KanthaPhavy, the minister of women affairs,
5. Chea Peng Chheang, the state secretary of the ministry of economy and finance,
6. Chumteav Senator Khlot Tong Phka,
7. Khun Haing, the minister of cult and religion,
8. Trak Thai Sieng, the deputy governor of Phnom Penh,
9. Veng Sereivuth, the minister of culture and fine arts,
10. Kol Pheng, the minister of education,
11. Sun Chanthol, the minister of public works and transport.

Nov Sovathero, Funcinpec spokesman, declared that, indeed, there were defections of Funcinpec officials to the CPP, and for the majority of them, their defections were known since long ago. He added: “The management of people is not an easy thing, because we don’t know what they are thinking. … This is not something new because we knew that some let it be known about their actions and their unhappiness with the party leadership, whereas others have high hopes on their new party.”

At the end of December 2007, Prince Ranariddh said that the Funcinpec party faces serious internal discord that cannot be mended, and even the party leadership cannot mend this discord. Prince Ranariddh said: “We stop talking about the Funcinpec party from now on, because they fomented a coup de party to remove me from the party presidency in October 2006.”

Nov Sovathero claimed that: “Funcinpec has (internal) discord since long ago, this is like a cracked glass.” He added that this discord started since Prince Ranariddh was still leading the party, and if the prince was clever, he should have mended the discord way back when. However, Nov Sovathero said that a number of the officials listed above have not made up their minds yet, these include: Kol Pheng, Sun Chanthol, Nuth Sokhom, and Veng Sereivuth, but for all the others, they have already defected.

On 06 January, Koh Santepheap tried to reach the officials listed above to ask for their explanations on this issue, but we couldn’t reach any of them. However, Nov Sovathero added: “Even a couple of husband and wife who are close to each other, sometimes, they cheat each other, and for members of a political party, we cannot look inside their minds.” Nov Sovathero said that these defections will surely affect the party goals, however, the party cannot bar these individuals from defecting. When asked about the future of Funcinpec with the arising of such event, Nov Sovathero declined to comment.

Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec secretary-general, told VOA that there seems to be pressure applied from the other party (CPP), and all these Funcinpec officials had no choice but to defect to the CPP. Nevertheless, Nov Sovathero declared that there are a number of Funcinpec government officials at the provincial and municipality levels who also defected to the CPP since long ago, such as Thach Khon and Say Hak (governor of Sihanoukville).

Ok Socheat, a high-ranking Funcinpec official, declared that this is political labyrinth for every political party. He claimed that some Funcinpec party officials defected to serve the CPP since long ago, like Ou Bun Long and Kong Vibol, for example. Khun Haing also defected long ago, and the majority of those defectors are people who were close to Prince Ranariddh. Nov Sovethera added: “They want to preserve their (juicy government) positions for the remaining few months, or they can represent their new party for the election also, and since the National Assembly mandate is not expired yet, there will be no position shuffling that will take place.” We praise the Funcinpec party leadership which (decided) to preserve the government positions for these party defectors. There is no immediate reaction from the CPP yet about the comments made by Nhiek Bun Chhay.

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7 January 1979 Weight and Lies



CFC/CBC 07 01 08 01A

On December 6, 2007, AKP, Phnom Penh’s official press agency, wrote that, while receiving Nguyen Van De, an official from the Vietnamese communist party, “Sok An, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers … declared that he was proud to see a government by the Cambodian People Party (CPP) can remain in power for 29 years. ‘It is rare to see a political party holding up to power as long as this,’ he said. He also expressed his pride to see peace, social order and political stability established in the entire country, according to him, this favors the economic development. ‘These successes cannot be separated from the tight cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam,’ he added …” The rest, such as the more than $25 billion of Western aids and the “unconditional” Chinese donations that Sok An and his people received since 1991, seems to be unimportant.

Evidently, Sok An, as well as his comrades, had to continuously renew his required allegiance to the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) which tightly dominates the CPP since 1979. The CPP, formerly known as the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK), which celebrates, each year, the anniversary of its formation on “June 28, 1951,” never dares denying its communist origins nor its Vietnamese roots, whereas, its historical leaders – Heng Samrin, Chea Sim and Hun Sen – belonged to Pol Pot’s Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) founded in 1960, up until 1978. According to Stephen J. Morris, at its foundation in 1951, the PRPK included mainly Vietnamese. “In 1952, the cell of its Phnom Penh secretariat office consisted of 34 members, 27 of whom were Vietnamese, 3 Chinese, and only 4 Cambodians. The PRPK by-laws had to be translated from Vietnamese to Khmer (for the attention of the Cambodians members).” (1).

In 1979, the PRPK central committee had less than a dozen members and had a hard time finding “good Khmer communists” to fill in the government positions of its republic. Thousands of Vietnamese “experts” thus led the party, the government, the army, police, the justice, and the newly created mass organizations, as well as the provinces, all the way down to the smallest village were controlled by their troops. Cambodians were forced to learn Vietnamese to be able to understand the orders and the teaching of the new masters. Since 1979, in order to favor the Vietnamese control on the management of the country and the Cambodian personnel, a political administration system was set up in Cambodia, based on the principle of a “complete decentralization” between the central administration and the national collectivities, with a large “autonomy” granted to each government ministry and to each province. Thus, the central administration practically had no provincial services under its responsibility: the Prime Minister no longer gave orders to the army and the police; the provinces were able to decide their fate with the local Vietnamese “experts” without having to confer to the directives issued by the Ministry of Interior, etc… Thus was the spirit of “fraternal Vietnam-Cambodia cooperation at all levels.”

A sham “total withdrawal” of Vietnamese troops was organized by Hanoi in September 1989 in order to show that the Cambodian conflict was being simply a Cambodian “civil war.” In fact, at least two million Vietnamese settlers and their militias were already settled in the country, and half of the early “experts” also remained behind, under adopted Cambodian names, as party leaders, generals, high-ranking officials, governors or deputy governors of large cities and provinces, to keep on “cooperating” for a smooth functioning of the CPP and the Cambodian State. The Vietnamese decentralization system was thus reinforced up until now, to a point where Hun Sen and Sok An had to form their own “micro government” – with the Council of Ministers – complete with their own army, their own police and their own “authorities” within the royal government itself. On the other hand, the provincial governors still represent the party more so than the government itself. It was thus that, following his inability to force Hok Lundy’s police to intervene against the rioters who were torching the Thai embassy and sacking Thai companies in Phnom Penh (on January 29, 2003), “Strongman” Hun Sen showed his powerlessness to put into application his sanction threats against the generals, whom he denounced, for their unrelenting abuses in the anarchic deforestation and their scandalous land-grabbing in rural areas. On their end, the provincial governors can still negotiate directly with the Vietnamese on social and economic establishment of the Vietnamese settlers in their respective provinces, or to decided on security measures and “technical” questions for the installation of border posts along the Eastern borders, including those located in the “Indochinese development Triangle,” where Vietnamese soldiers proceed with mining exploration, deforestation, and the establishment of rubber tree plantations, as well as the installation of border posts, etc…

Obviously, the continuity of the system is assured by the Vietnamese “fraternal cooperation” (i.e. “the control”) of security and defense of Cambodia. This reason justified, in 1979 and in the 80s, the signing of Hanoi protectorate Treaty, and the cession Agreements to Vietnam of Cambodia’s maritime and land territories. In March 2006, Hanoi’s official press agency wrote, without concerns for the various political circumstances, that: “… On the cooperation relationships in security and defense, both parties (Vietnam and Cambodia) signed the Agreement on the zone of common historical waters, the Agreement on the border statute and the Treaty on the delineation of national borders between the two countries. They signed in October 2005, the supplementary treaty to the 1985 Treaty for the borders delineation” (2). The illegal cession to Vietnam by Hun Sen – through the July 07, 1982 Agreement – of the Cambodian islands Koh Tral and Koh Krachal Ses, as well as 30,000 sq. km. of Cambodia’s maritime territories, and 10,000 sq. km. of “common historical waters” was accepted (under what guise?) by the Kingdom of Cambodia which was created by the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, on the altar of the “security and defense cooperation” with Hanoi! Will this be the same for the annexation by Thailand of 30,000 sq. km. of Cambodian waters, following the treaty which Vietnam signed with Thailand on August 11, 1997, based on the 7 July, 1982 Agreement that Vietnam signed with Hun Sen? (3)

Since 1979, one can see that the behavior adopted by Hanoi towards Cambodia since its inception – as Hun Sen usually recalled, albeit indirectly – led to the irrevocable condemnation by the International community of Hanoi’s military invasion and occupation of Cambodia. Hanoi, in its relationships with the latter, deliberately rejects all frameworks of International laws, UN conventions and historical International Agreements concerning itself, just as it did towards the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements which Hanoi itself was one of the signatories. All had to happen, and must happen as if Cambodia was only and still remains a Vietnamese province or colony, just like under the French colonial period. Decisions taken on the border issues – a “domain reserved” by Hun Sen – as well as in other domains of Vietnamese “cooperation” were and are still shrouded in deep secrecy. In the end, all decisions made by the State and its administrations, yesterday as well as currently, are sealed in secrecy. Now, the secret of the illegal and unfair connections between Vietnam and Cambodia, or the secret of the actions taken by the Cambodian authorities could and can only be protected by agreed upon lies, and necessarily, by the continuing and increasingly violent repressions of opponents and protesters. On the other hand, those who accept these lies are benefiting from favoritism, from the “right” to practice corruption, and from the regime impunity.

The weight and the obstacles erected by the system set in place by Vietnam are so restricting that, even if Hun Sen or someone else sincerely wanted to, they could never realize the political, judicial, or administrative unity required for the country, and, a fortiori, for a rule of law in Cambodia and for the transparency of its government. Meanwhile, the country is further sunk in lies, corruption, all kinds of repression, and it can no longer finds a solid popular support. The so-called “spectacular” economic development, obtained through foreign help and foreign capitals – mainly under the guise of speculative investments – is only artificial, and could – as Hun Sen said and kept on repeating it – “crumble under the slightest change in political direction.” Hun Sen is conscious that, even after 29 years of existence, his regime remains fragile.

At this pace, taking into account the historical evolution, faced with a revolt which was bottled up too long, and faced with the patriotic conscience of the Cambodian people who no longer support the celebration of the 7 January 1979, the myth of the liberation of Cambodia by the “Vietnamese brothers,” the myth of the “fighting solidarity between two fraternal nations” constitute nothing more than a shame for a free people. It is the “vox populi, vox dei” (“The voice of the people is the voice of God”) which will also end this illusory long reign of the spirit of Evil.

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(1) Stephen J. Morris, Why Vietnam invaded Cambodia: political culture and the causes of war, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999.
(2) VNA 14 March 2006 - 18:14(GMT+7), Traditional Vietnam-Cambodia relationships intensify.
(3) According to Vietnam – and now by Thailand also – the borders of Cambodia left by France are “imprecise” and its delineation are broken by numerous “white zones,” both on land as well as on seas.

Done in Paris, January 6, 2008

The Cambodia Border’s Committee in France and Worldwide

Dy Kareth
Vice-President

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Friday, January 04, 2008

JANUARY THE MONTH THAT BRINGS HORROR TO CAMBODIA IN 1975 AS WELL IN 1979

By Bury Chau (CAMDISC)

-1975 January brings this bad memories : Jan. 1, 1975 Khmer Rouge launches final offensive against the capital, Phnom Penh that led to April 17, 1975 Khmer Rouge captured the capital Phnom Penh and began the evacuation of its inhabitants.

-1979 January Jan. 1, 1979 KUFNS make their first victory statement, claiming capture of the town of Kratie.

Jan. 2, 1979 Dep. PM Ieng Sary and Pres. Khieu Samphan appeal to the UN to condemn what they call Vietnamese and Soviet aggression against Cambodia and to seek aid to counter the Vietnamese offensive.

Jan. 3, 1979 Vietnamese and KUFNS troops moved rapidly toward the capital Phnom Penh and the vital seaport of Kompong Som. Khmer Rouge officials conceded that the invading forces had already gained control of a fourth of the country.

Jan. 7, 1979 Vietnamese and KUFNS troops capture Phnom Penh, ending the murderous regime of Pol Pot in which more than one million Cambodians perished. Jan. 8, 1979 The Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Council (KPRC), head by Heng Samrin was set up as a provisional govt. to run the country.

10 UN RESOLUTIONS,(1979-1988) VOTED BY 116 UN MEMBER COUNTRIES ,CALL VIETNAM TO CEASE HER OCCUPATION OF CAMBODIA & REMOVE ALL HER TROOPS FROM THE COUNTRY ARE NOT RESPECTED.
VIETNAM INVASION & OCCUPATION OF CAMBODIA IS CONDEMNED:Oct. 21, 1986 The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution A/RES/41/6, by vote of 116-21 with 13 abstentions, calling for a withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from CambodiaUS president Reagan said :America calls Vietnam to restore Cambodia Independence . President Reagan's address to the 43d Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York,September 26, 1988. "Mr. Secretary-General, there are new hopes for Cambodia, a nation whose freedom and independence we seek just as avidly as we sought the freedom and independence of Afghanistan. We urge the rapid removal of all Vietnamese troops ...." First, we must understand the behavior and character of a VietnameseVIETNAMESE CHARACTER as described in this book : " THIEF, LIAR : BOOK " GIAI PHONG " by T Terzani describes a Vietnamese as THIEF, A LIAR, A KILLER, A DECEIVER , a sleeper .....

VIETNAM IS JUST BECOMING A UN MEMBER OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL AND Vietnam pledges to abide by UN charter ?
WHILE VIETNAM CONTINUES TO OCCUPY CAMBODIA .

VIETNAM HAS TO CHOOSE TO CONTINUE TO LIE OR NOT TO LIE .

THEN ALL VIETNAMESE INVADERS AND ILLEGAL VIET SETTLERS MUST COMPLY TO THE 10 UN RESOLUTIONS AND GO HOME.

BURY

========================================

PRESIDENT REAGAN INSISTS THROUGH 10 UN RESOLUTIONS
1. that the KR regime must not allowed to come back to power in Cambodia
2. that Vietnam cease her occupation of Cambodia followed by total withdrawal of Viet troops from Cambodia.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Legitimacy and Monarchy in Cambodia

By CAMDISC: Khmer Quorum
Cambodia has experienced long rule of monarchy for centuries except from 1970-93. The monarchy is not only a top administrative body, but it is also a real symbol of legitimacy, sovereignty and independence of the country. When the royal institution has gradually lost its power and gotten weaker, many foreigners and politicians have used the monarchy as a tool to gain their political ambition and legitimacy.

Since the beginning of the first century, Cambodia was ruled by many kings, queens, and usurpers who had illegally seized the throne and proclaimed themselves as legitimate rulers. Without proclaiming themselves as a king or a queen, they would lose their legitimacy and recognition from the people. When foreigners had conquered the country, they also crowned the king or queen whom they had chosen. From 16th-19th centuries numerous kings and queens were put into the throne on the wills of Thai and Vietnamese conquerors in order to gain their legitimacy for their occupation.

In 1863, when the French had placed Cambodia under their protectorate, They still preserved the throne for King Ang Duong and his dynasty. The French realized that without the monarchy, they lacked legitimacy to rule Cambodia. The monarchy not only helped to legitimize the French rule, but it performed many functions that cemented the good relationship between the French administrators and the common people. When people discontented with the French administrators, they always brought their complaints to the king and asking him to intervene. Sometimes the king took side with people or vice ver sa. The French also had to balance their own interest with the interest to preserve the throne too.

After independence from France, the monarchy still has been used by many politicians as a tool to gain their popularity and support from the people. In 1970s, Pol Pot used King Sihanouk's popularity and his image to mobilized poor peasants in his revolutionary movement to gain power in 1975. But after Pol Pot completely gained power on his hand, Sihanouk and his family members were put into house arrest, and some of royal family members were killed or starved to death.

In 1979, the Communist Vietnamese had invaded Cambodia and installed their puppet government to rule the country until today. But this government severely lacked its legitimacy because the UN and the international communities did not recognize it except a few countries in the Soviet's Bloc. Until 1990, when Vietnam unilaterally claimed that it fully had withdrawn its troops from Cambodia and allowed a free and fair election supervised by the UN. As a result, the Ex- communist Party (CPP) led by a strong man Hun Sen lost the 1993 election to the Royalist Party (FUNCINPEC). To save his power, Hun Sen proclaimed himself as a faithful royalist and even became an adopted son of King Sihanouk. At the same time, he threatened the civil war if Prince Ranariddh refused to share power with him.

To avoid an unpredictable civil war, Prince Ranariddh forced himself to accept a sharing power formula set by Hun Sen and approved by King father. The new coalition government was formed under a co-premiership of Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen. Again, Sihanouk was crowned as a constitutional monarch who has limited power in a new constitution. Not much different from his predecessor Pol Pot, Hun Sen has gradually consolidated all power into his hand, and abused all King Sihanouk's constitutional power. Sihanouk then being used as a tool to legitimize Hun Sen's rule. Being abused and violated his constitutional power by Hun Sen, King Sihanouk had abdicated his throne in 2004, and he favored his son Prince Sihamony, who has no political experience and a former ballet dancer, to succeed him. Cambodia constitutional monarchy is meaningless compared to the other constitutional monarchies around the world such as Thai Land, Malaysia, Japan, Britain, Sweden and so on. Thai King, for instance, is highly respected by all Thai people regardless what political and religious faith they have. Thai King sometimes intervenes in political conflicts by using his ultimate constitutional power to solve the problems based on his impartial judgment and wisdom. In 1992, Thai King Phumipon Aduljadej was praised by many political observers when he carefully helped to end a bloody military coup and to restore democracy to his kingdom.

In 2001, when Cambodian mobs orchestrated by Hun Sen, stormed and burned Thai embassy and their business properties in Phnom Penh, and at the same time, Thai demonstrators were ready to storm Cambodian embassy in Bankkok in retaliation, King Aduljadej called for his people to go back home, for he believes that violence cannot subdue by violence but by tolerance.

In 2006, Thai Land again fell into political chaos; a number of large demonstrations on the streets in Bangkok demanding Prime Minister Thac Sin to resign for his corruption and abuse of power. Thac Sin had rejected the demand and continued to rule the country without parliament, which previously dissolved. Legitimacy of Thac Sin's government was in question, and it led to another military coup against the Thac Sin's government while he was outside of the country. Fortunately, no blood had been shed at this time, and the King again had used his constitutional power to appoint a new interim prime minister to rule the country until a new election took place on December 2007 that brought back the pro-Thac Sin party to power. The Thai King is not only a real symbol of unity and legitimacy of the country, but he also represents a source of ultimate power and wisdom, who helps to preserve stability and democracy for the country. On the contrary, Cambodian monarchy is so weak and not represented an ultimate source of power that can help to protect national sovereignty, stability, and democracy in the country even though the new constitution explicitly granted the power to the king in a chaos period. When Hun Sen launched a bloody coup to oust Prince Ranariddh from power in 1997, he ignored all King Sihanouk's calls for peaceful negotiation. And he continued his bloody battle until he gained full control of power. the King 's constitutional power has been deprived by Hun Sen, and he uses the king as a rubber stamp and shield to legitimize his dictatorship. It is very shameful for our country which has claimed to embrace the constitutional monarchy based on democratic principle. In fact, the constitutional monarchy in Cambodia has only a title. In real practice, the country has been ruled by a dictatorial regime.

Pol Pot and Hun Sen are the two famous dictator in Cambodian modern history; they have manipulated the royal institution to gain their legitimacy and political ambition. From now on, our king should no longer be a political captive of any politician. He should adhere to the principle of the constitutional monarchy which states that the king reigns but not rule. In this sense, the king and all royal family members must stay clear from politics in order to protect their royal integrity. But if the politicians violate the king's constitutional power, he should abdicate the throne better than being reigned as a puppet king.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Parade Controversy 2008

by Navy Phem
A Writer's Journey - Blogging Reflection
Please post your comments on the author's blog,
http://navyphim.com/blog/?p=144

There is yet another controversy surrounding the Cambodian New Year parade in Long Beach. In 2005, it was because the chosen date happened to be April 17, which marked the 30th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge victory. People who opposed the date protested, held candle vigils and attended the city council meetings to request a date change. Even though, I did not protest the chosen date, I attended the meeting to listen to the opposition and tried to understand their views. The discussions that took place during the conflict were heated and many things could have been handled differently. The community was divided on the issue but the people who opposed the date organized themselves and made their point known. In the end, it was resolved and the community was able to come together to celebrate New Year and made the parade a success.


This year, the controversy is surrounding the invitation that was given to Sok An, a corrupted official in the Hun Sen government, to attend the parade by a delegation from Long Beach visiting Phnom Penh recently. The delegation included representatives from Cambodia Town Inc., Long Beach Sister Cities, the Cambodian Coordinating Council and the Cambodia New Year Parade.


The article can be read on the Press Telegram Website:


http://www.presstelegram.com


It was also posted in KI-Media and you can also read the comment on it:


http://ki-media.blogspot.com/2007/12/cambodians-planned-visit-draws-protest.html


I first read about it on http://www.myp1t.com/forum/posts/id_913/page_last/ and it is also being discussed.


Some years ago, after I was over my initial shock that there are Cambodian-Americans who supported the Hun Sen government, I tried to understand why. One of the answers is that it was a lesser evil than the Khmer Rouge regime, but evil is evil whether something else is more evil than it. I also noticed that some of the supporters have relatives in Cambodia who are government officials or rich individuals who greatly benefit from a government that exploits the poor. There are also those who values power and wealth at all cost whether it was obtained through corruption or exploitation. They are opportunists who will turn a blind eye to the suffering of others as long as they benefit. They support high-ranking officials in Cambodia and brag about staying at five-star hotel and how they know people with big mansion who are driven around Cambodia in limousine with bodyguards surrounding them at all times. It never occurred to them that those individuals are the destroyers of Cambodia and many of us do not admire who they know and what they do in Cambodia when we see them as blood-sucking leech.


As for the present conflict in Long Beach, it is providing the Cambodian community an opportunity to voice their opinions and inform our so-called community leaders who they represent. As individuals, if they support the Hun Sen government and want to kowtow or kneel down in front of Hun Sen and their cronies, they have the right to do it. They should do it in the privacy of their own house or when they are visiting Cambodia. In term of inviting them to the parade, this should be a community decision. These representatives should have taken the time to understand the people they represent and know how many of us would appreciate (or not appreciate) seeing members of Hun Sen government at our event. The community leaders may know someone personally and think the person is an inspirational figure, but the greater community may not and in those instance, they should also refrain from forcing these so-called inspirational figure on us.


The invitation has been given but with the petitions being circulated, we will know too how many of us do not want Sok An to be at our event. After seeing the result of the petition, I hope these leaders will amend their actions and listen to the people they represent.


I would be surprised if there is a higher number of people who would condone having Sok An at the parade. We’ll find out. For those who oppose, please sign the petition.

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