Cambodia’s New Intellectuals

by Geoffrey Cain

After France granted Cambodia independence in 1953, an impassioned renaissance swept Phnom Penh in the 1960s, a resurgent Angkorian nationalism alongside a potpourri of foreign influences tha included Beatlemania and existentialism. Many saw the city— once called the “Pearl of Asia”—a neutral safe haven from the havoc that rocked neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. Artists, writers and scholars frequented Phnom Penh’s beautified universities and cafés, discussing the great works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Picasso, while musicians and dancers revived traditional Khmer styles from the country’s Angkor-era height. Even then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the movement’s figurehead, was a filmmaker and singer who led a jazz band.

Fast forward a few years. Bombing campaigns, military coups and civil war rip the country apart. Intellectuals are targeted and wiped out under the Maoist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-79 and their works​​​ destroyed. A former Khmer Rouge cadre named Hun Sen bullies his way into power in 1993 against United Nations-backed election results, and then orchestrates a coup against his co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranarridh in 1997. His ruling Cambodian People’s Party consolidates power in the media, and rampant corruption rankles the universities. Debate and discussion are left dead and a country is in ruins.

Yet today a brimming young movement of intellectuals resembling those of the 1960s is quietly—and sometimes anonymously— creating change in Cambodia. They mostly draw on the same inspirations and discuss the same topics of culture, politics and romance—the latter remains a highly taboo topic. Some even listen to the same music, writing about the classics of Simon and Garfunkel. Yet unlike their predecessors, these intellectuals do not mingle in French-style cafés and art galleries, but in the new wireless Internet cafés springing up in Phnom Penh.

Continue reading “Cambodia’s New Intellectuals”

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My Recommendations to SRP

Sam Rainsy’s words have wholly based on empirical observation. Academic analysts have previously found that decentralization and good governance reform in Cambodia is just a step for controlling party to renew their power.

Culture of communist politics is to strengthen its power at the grassroots level, so the introduction of governance/decentralization from aids donors have been helpful to this basic concept. Aids donors have mismatched the concept of governance and decentralization in Cambodian context.

SRP would be the very important party to reveal the misbehavior and unwillingness of the controlling party. Now Sam Rainsy has his inspiring words but it might not be effective at all. To ameliorate the shortage of this genuine decentralization, civil societies and aids donors are the most effective drive.

Considerably, there are some few factors for SRP to develop itself to become the strong opposition party as well as to prepare itself to become government leader. 3 things to consider:

Continue reading “My Recommendations to SRP”

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If the World Could Vote

I recommend visiting http://www.iftheworldcouldvote.com if you haven’t heard about it. The website, created by a few guys in Iceland, gives anyone with internet access to vote for who they wish to be the next US President, no matter where in the world they are. Of course, only American votes in the November 4th elections count, but it is great to see what people outside the US think.

Barack Obama 86.8% (544,439 votes)
John McCain 13.2% (82,485 votes)
Total number of votes: 626,927
Countries voted from: 207

Votes received the last…

Hour: 1,473
24 hours: 43,499
7 days: 204,133
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A disaster resilient city?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dear Editor,

Flooding in Phnom Penh city  and the surrounding areas has been featured in the news almost every day. This is alarming for the city and its uncertain future.

That some officials in the Phnom Penh authority have laid the blame for such flooding on rainy season is ridiculous. However, this is, to an extent, true because there is a great loss of natural reservoirs that were used to retain rain and storm water. Before they used this excuse, they should have asked how often such occurrence had happened in the past.

Continue reading “A disaster resilient city?”

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