Penny Edwards

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Posted by: | Posted on: October 5, 2016

Don’t think we’ve forgotten: why Cambodia’s leadership needs to change its tune

Don’t think we’ve forgotten: why Cambodia’s leadership needs to change its tune

Hobbes’ state of “continual fear, and danger of violent death,” prevails for those thinkers and artists in Cambodia who dare to dream a different future.

Flickr/Michael Coghlan. Some rights reserved.

Flickr/Michael Coghlan.

Some rights reserved.“I am thankful for Hun Sen,” a Cambodian actress once told me. “Without him, the Khmer Rouge would have killed off every last one of us.” Her gratitude is no platitude. It is anchored in grief for the countless theatrical kin she lost to a regime that epitomised Hobbe’s leviathan: “No arts; no letters; no society.”

The Khmer Rouge regime was (per Hobbes), “nasty, brutish and short.” Founded in April 1975, it was toppled on 7 January 1979 not through international action but by a renegade movement, backed by Vietnam and spearheaded by three ex-Khmer Rouge cadre. The most junior in age and rank was Hun Sen, who is now in his thirty-first year in office and Asia’s longest serving prime minister.

The actress who expressed her debt to Hun Sen was speaking from the heart. From such sentiments,

About the author Penny Edwards is Associate Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

About the author
Penny Edwards is Associate Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party have carved their redemption narrative. The message is clear: we have saved you from terror, and if we fall, Cambodia will return to darkness. A major plank of propaganda in the 1980s, this mantra of self-sacrifice has been a mainstay of the Party’s campaign trail since the UN-sponsored election of 1993. A keynote of this anthem is that the Khmer Rouge killed off Cambodia’s artists and intellectuals, reducing a once glorious culture to rubble.

The message is clear: we have saved you from terror, and if we fall, Cambodia will return to darkness.

One such artist was singer and songwriter Sinn Sisamouth (1932-1976), whose genius is celebrated in the 2015documentary Don’t think I’ve forgotten: Cambodia’s lost Rock and Roll. If digital retouch has restored fresh intimacy to Sinn Sisamouth’s voice, the passage of time has worked a different magic, rebirthing the title love-song as a posthumous threnody to its creator and, by extension, to all artists killed by the Khmer Rouge.

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten” Sinn Sisamouth croons, “I remember everything, so many stories.” The Khmer word for “stories”(roeung) has a wide range. It can also refer to “events”, including those of a political nature. To “seek” (rook) roeung means to look for trouble or stir things up.

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Posted by: | Posted on: January 25, 2009

The Recommendations of Ta Meas

Today, it is my prestigious moment to have been reading a political, historical personal memos of Ta Meas during the political upheavals of Cambodia in the rival of Annam (Vietnam) and Siam (Thailand). Ta Meas in that time, according to his memos, he was 80 years old in the year of 1828. The book was recompiled and interpreted by Dr. Khing Hok Dy and in his preface, he described that Ta Meas had spent his life gone through at several Khmer monarchs such as Ang Chan, Queen Ang Mey, Ang Duong, Norodom and the beginning of Sisowath throne. Ta Meas’s narrative is simple, folktale style and reflective the destitute conditions of Cambodian people in that time because of internal divisions and outside invasions.

Dr.Khing Hoc Dy pointed out that this memo was published by French Protectorate with the first arrival of Printer Publishing in Khmer in 1907-1908 and the writing structure was slightly disorganized before the introduction of Cambodian first official dictionary in 1938. The significances of Ta Meas’s memo intrigued my thought to the disintegration of Cambodian nation and her territory integrity. Ta Meas was well aware of the distinction of Cambodian race upon the political interfering of Annam and Siam in that time. His brilliant point of view to seek other outside international partners to stabilize and neutralize Cambodia is fit well to the current survival of Cambodia.

There are many countries he mentioned in his memos that King sought to take their hand. Those countries including Europe, England, French, Portugal, Holland, Java, Sumatra, Singapore and Spain. His description is moving with the King’s international expanding to find supports and Cambodian King saw French as his important supporter to get rid of both Annam and Siam.

According to many academic researches of Post-Colonial countries and politics, there have numerous emerges of national identity, nations and nation states. Those are including new emerges of nation-states without linking to its past line and nation-states that has been strongly inherent to its glorious past. Cambodia has resurvived again in the continuity of Khmer race from Angkor era to present nation-state.

Penny Edwards, in her book “Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation 1860-1945″ fascinatingly articulates the regeneration of Cambodia to become a nation-state. Penny assumed the language, cultural, monumental and religious factors as the substantial premises leading to the formation of Cambodia. The compartmentalization in each of these factors was well prepared and built by French Protectorate. French has played important role in building a fragile Cambodia into a modern nation-state, Penny assumed.

I recommend every one to read The Memors of Ta Meas, it is really joyful reading book. And if you have time, please read Penny Edwards’s.

Orkun

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