CAMBODIA: “O Khmer euy Khmer, chous ach knong srae”

Khmer expatriate Sophoan Seng, a master’s degree holder in political science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, currently Director of KEEN Investment Groups LTD and president of the Khmer Youth Association of Alberta, acknowledges that many people in Cambodia endorse the “filled stomach and stability” theory for different reasons.

“However,” Seng, a former Buddhist monk in Siemreap for more than a decade, writes, “Buddhists who have learned and experienced deep understanding of Buddha’s teachings, see that the highest goal of Buddhism is ‘liberty’, not the ‘four necessities’,” i.e., food, shelter, clothing, medicine.

His ideas are similar to those of another former monk, Heng Monychenda, who holds a master’s degree from Harvard and heads the nonprofit group, Buddhism for Development. Seng points to Buddha’s teaching that “liberty” or “Nama,” — referring to a person’s mind or spirit — and the “four necessities,” or “Rupa,” — referring to body or physical appearances — must be equalized and balanced. As Monychenda explains, “Nama-Rupa” means that mind and matter must go together. “Mind affects matter and matter affects the mind,” i.e., spiritual and economic development should not be separated into two separate realms, he says.

FOR PUBLICATION
AHRC-ETC-006-2012, February 15, 2012

An article by Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

CAMBODIA: “O Khmer euy Khmer, chous ach knong srae”

Something is changing within the Khmer nation.

Those storied Khmer characteristics – the broad smile; the gentle, peaceful compassionate nature – and the centuries-old traditions of “korup, bamreur, karpier, smoh trang” — “respect, serve, defend, be loyal (to leaders)” — passed down through generations seem to be taking a new course.

A photo floating on the Internet shows Khmer villagers–from youth to middle age–standing barefoot under the hot sun as their colorful sandals are arranged in an empty lot nearby to make up the Khmer word “Aphivath,” or “Development.” Their symbolic protest is directed at Khmer leaders and at those around the world who are sympathetic to the disenfranchisement of the poor in contemporary Cambodia.

Photos and videos of government abuse of citizens’ rights and of citizens’ responses have inundated the Internet. Some postings inform and educate. I recommend recent postings on the Website of Radio Free Asia (February 1, “More Arrests Follow Land Clash”).

The beatings of women and children by riot police are routine — and are routinely condemned by international and national rights groups. The too common sight of Khmer women with clothes torn or ripped off by police during peaceful protests is now replaced by the sight of women protesters taking off their clothes to highlight their protests as they face the police.

Going one step further, RFA posted on its website a photograph of a half-naked Khmer woman protester facing police in full riot gear. Her action was intended to highlight the plight of Cambodian villagers from the Borei Keila community, who were evicted by armed police from their homes, which were dismantled and the co-opted land given to Phan Imex Company for commercial development.

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