The delusions of the January 7 debate

Thursday, 07 January 2010 15:01 Sophan Seng

Photo Supplied
A propoganda poster from the Khmer Rouge era calling for solidarity between the citizens of Cambodia and Vietnam.

Dear Editor,

Your article “PM blasts January 7 detractors” (January 5) didn’t demonstrate anything new for Cambodian politics. Leaders have always pronounced strong political rhetoric to create a clear dichotomy of pro- and anti-groups when this day has arrived. In reality, the government has consolidated full power to exercise over everything, including whether to celebrate this day or not celebrate. The current political environment in Cambodia has not given any clue of the possible threat to the stability of government at all. But why every year, when January 7 arrives, is there a flowering of incidents and controversial public speech in Cambodia?

The answers might be diverse. But I am impressed by the Khmer proverb which states: Veay tiek bong-erl trey, or, “to stir the water to see the fish clearly”. It has been 31 years since Vietnamese troops encroached on Cambodia’s borderlands, accompanied by Khmer Rouge defectors, to topple the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot. The argument since has been endless. Vietnamese troops are presented in Cambodia as either liberators, or invaders, or both. In the past decades, the two debaters carried guns and ammunitions to fight against each other, at least between the Khmer nationalists based along the border and the Khmer troops based in Phnom Penh, and backed by a hundred thousand Vietnamese troops. But after the Paris Peace Accords of 1991 and the subsequent power consolidation of the Cambodian People’s Party, the debate remains only on lips and tongues.

Continue reading “The delusions of the January 7 debate”

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A Plea from Afar

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:02 Sophan Seng

Dear Editor,

Reading your article “Three more sought in removal of post at Svay Rieng border” (January 4) broke my heart.

The villagers should be congratulated and taken care of by the government for their courage in publicly claiming their ownership of the rice paddies and denouncing the violation of their territory by Vietnamese authorities who have mismanaged the process of demarcating the border. Instead, as unbelievable as it may sound, these five farmers face a terrifying fate and the loss of their status as “good” citizens.

There have been different interpretations of this story within the media, but at the end of the day, no one can deny the truth: Cambodian people living along the borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam no longer dare voice their concerns about neighbouring countries encroaching on their territory and stealing their land for fear of reprisals.

On one hand, the government may have good reason to accuse opposition leader Sam Rainsy of acting as a provocateur in bringing news of Vietnam’s mismanagement of border posts to the public. But on the other hand, the government is following a course of action that could rob Cambodia of its strength as a nation and destroy the immunity of every parliamentarian.

At the grassroots level, Cambodian people living along the border will no longer dare to stand up and protest against the theft of their land by neighbouring countries. At the national level, parliamentarians – both government and opposition – will lose confidence in their abilities to serve the genuine interests of the people.

The government must evaluate the situation fairly if it is to effectively represent the nation’s interests. I would like to appeal to the government to restore the prowess of elected parliamentarians and allow them to fulfil their duties, which are more important than those of the lower court of Svay Rieng. I would also like to appeal to the government to drop all charges against the five farmers – Prak Chea, Neang Phally, Prak Koeun, Meas Srey and Prom Chea – and release them without condition.

Sophan Seng
University of Hawaii

Original reference: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2010010630653/National-news/a-plea-from-afar.html

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Southeast Asian Immigration to Alberta

Note:
While “Laotian” is used in this article, the usual adjectival form is “Lao”, not “Laotian”. However, to avoid confusion with the Lao ethnic group, “Laotian” is commonly used to describe the people of Laos.

The history of the southeast Asian nations of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam are both shared and unique. Events in one nation often spilled across mutual borders, affecting people throughout the region, as was the case with the Vietnam War. In addition, all three countries have been influenced by outside nations such as France and China. At the same time, each country consists of different peoples and cultures. For example, while Laotians and Cambodians are predominantly Buddhist, Vietnamese traditionally hold a mixture of Confucian and Taoist beliefs. Moreover, each country has large ethnic minorities living within its borders. For this reason, it is best to treat each nation as individual. However, when it comes to exploring the history of immigration to Canada, the three nations share more similarities than they do differences.

Immigration from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to Canada is a modern occurrence. The first southeast Asians to journey across the Pacific were Vietnamese students in the 1950s. These students were awarded scholarships by the Roman Catholic Church. Due to France’s long involvement in Vietnam, many Vietnamese spoke French; consequently; most of these students chose to study in Quebec. While some returned home, many continued to live in Canada upon graduating. Until 1975, scholarship students (some also won scholarships through the Colombo Plan) made up the small stream of immigrants from southeast Asia.

The year 1975 was important in the histories of all three southeast Asian nations. It was in that year that Communist parties gained control of all three countries. After years of fighting with first France, then the United States, the Communist North Vietnamese finally took control of South Vietnam. In the same year, Laos’ monarchy was overthrown by Communist forces and the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia, led by the despotic Pol Pot.

Continue reading “Southeast Asian Immigration to Alberta”

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Former Philippines President Corazon Aquino Dies

Corazon Aquino (1933 – 2009)
Corazon Aquino, the unassuming widow whose “people power” revolution toppled a dictator, restored Philippine democracy and inspired millions of people around the world, died Saturday morning (Friday afternoon Eastern time) after a battle with colon cancer. She was 76.

Friday, July 31, 2009
By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer

Corazon Aquino, the unassuming widow whose “people power” revolution toppled a dictator, restored Philippine democracy and inspired millions of people around the world, died Saturday morning (Friday afternoon Eastern time) after a battle with colon cancer, her family announced. She was 76.

Widely known as “Cory,” the slight, bespectacled daughter of a wealthy land-owning family served as president of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992, the first woman to hold that position.

She was widowed in 1983 when her husband, political opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., was assassinated upon his return from exile to lead a pro-democracy movement against authoritarian president Ferdinand E. Marcos. It was a popular revolt against Marcos following a disputed election that later enabled Corazon Aquino to assume power.

Continue reading “Former Philippines President Corazon Aquino Dies”

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