Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fables and Folktales

រឿង លលកនិងស្រមោច

មានសត្វស្រមោចមួយ ដើរស្វែងរកចំណីនៅលើមែកឈើ ដែលដុះនៅ
ក្បែរមាត់បឹង ។ ខណៈដែលស្រមោចកំពុងវារលើផ្កាឈើ ដើម្បីក្រេប
ជញ្ជក់យកទឹកដមផ្កា ស្រាប់តែមានមែកឈើតូចមួយបាក់ធ្លាក់មកត្រូវវា
បណ្តាលឲ្យវារបូតជើងធ្លាក់ចុះទៅក្នុងបឹង ។ ស្រមោចភ័យណាស់
ព្រោះថា បើមានត្រីនៅក្នុងបឹងមើលឃើញវា វានឹងត្រូវត្រីត្របាក់ស៊ីជា
អាហារមិនខាន ។ ដូច្នេះ ស្រមោចក៏ខំប្រឹងប្រវេប្រវា ហែលទឹកទៅកាន់
មាត់ច្រាំង ដើម្បីវារឡើងគោកវិញ ។ តែជាអកុសល ខ្យល់ចេះតែបក់
ផាត់មក មិនអាចឲ្យស្រមោចហែលទៅកាន់មាត់ច្រាំងបានសោះ ។
នៅក្នុងពេលនោះ មានសត្វលលកមួយបានចុះទៅផឹកទឹកបឹង នៅក្បែរ
កន្លែងដែលស្រមោច ធ្លាក់ចូលទៅក្នុងទឹក ។ នៅពេលដែលលលកបាន
ឃើញស្រមោច កំពុងតែហែលទឹកដោយភិតភ័យ វាក៏គិតក្នុងចិត្តថាៈ
ប្រសិនបើមានត្រី ហែលមកឃើញស្រមោចនោះ វានឹងត្របាក់ស្រមោច
ស៊ីជាអាហារមិនខាន ។ ដូច្នេះ គួរអញជួយស្រោចស្រង់ស្រមោចនេះ
ឲ្យបានរួចផុតពីគ្រោះមហន្តរាយ ។ គិតហើយ លលកក៏បានពាំមែកឈើ
តូចមួយ ហុចទៅឲ្យស្រមោចតោង រួចក៏ស្រង់ស្រមោចនោះ ដាក់មកលើ
គោកវិញ ។ នៅពេលដែលបានឆ្លងផុតពីគ្រោះមហន្តរាយ ស្រមោចបាន
សម្លឹងមើលលលកដោយអំណរគុណ រួចហើយ វាក៏វិលត្រឡប់ទៅកាន់
សំបុកវាវិញ ។ ថ្ងៃមួយ នៅពេលដែលលលកចុះទៅផឹកទឹកបឹងដូចសព្វ
ដង មានអ្នកប្រមាញ់ម្នាក់ បានមកពួននៅពីក្រោយគល់ឈើ ដើម្បីលប
បាញ់សត្វលលក យកទៅធ្វើជាអាហារ ។ នៅពេលបានឃើញអ្នក
ប្រមាញ់ កំពុងយឹតធ្នូតម្រង់បាញ់លលក ស្រមោចក៏បានវារឡើងទៅខាំ
ជើងអ្នកប្រមាញ់ បណ្តាលឲ្យគាត់ឈឺចុកចាប់ ហើយក៏ទន្ទ្រាំជើងយ៉ាង
ខ្លាំង ដើម្បីទម្លាក់ស្រមោចអំពីជើងរបស់គាត់ ។ ខណៈនោះ លលកក៏
បានមើលឃើញនូវការប៉ុនប៉ងរបស់អ្នកប្រមាញ់ មកលើជីវិតរបស់វា
ហើយក៏ហើរគេចខ្លួនបាត់ទៅ ៕

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Goodbye Forever (Cont.)
For the first few months following the Khmer Rouge’s withdrawal from downtown Kompong Cham, I saw airplanes flying to Kompong Cham City very often. Sometimes, they dropped parachutes from the sky with big square boxes of emergency supplies dangling under them and swaying back and forth. With their green or multi-color features, the chutes looked awesome and marvelous. They soon became an instant inspiration for local kids, including myself, to invent parachutes of their own. I remembered joining with a group of youngsters and learning how to make a miniature parachute to play with as a toy.


In order to make a miniature parachute, each of us kids would have to find either a fine piece of plastic bag or a thin linen or silk cloth and cut it into a circle or octagonal shape with a radius of about one foot or so. We then tied small nylon strings, preferably the kind made of tiny fibers like threads, around the edge of our parachute at equal intervals. At the other end of the strings, we tied them to a piece of small rock or heavy object so that it would pull the parachute down as it opened up in the air. However, our copycat ingenuity didn’t seem to go far enough. We lacked the capability of inventing a miniature airplane which could be used to drop our parachutes from the sky. But that didn’t stop us from having fun playing with our parachutes either.

To make our parachute float in the air longer, we would fold it in a conical shape, bend it in half, wrap the strings which we attached to a rock around it, and then throw it into the air. As the projectile slowed down and stopped in mid air, gravity would pull the rock down faster than the parachute. Subsequently, the wind would blow the parachute up, unroll it from the strings, and eventually open it up higher in the air.

As children of a war torn country, whose lives were shaped by the deplorable condition of conflict, violence, and the absence of conventional toys and games, I must admit that we were so thrilled playing with our newfound game. Some of us even took our ingenuity further by, in the absence of our parents, climbing up to the top floor of our three- or four-story homes and throwing our parachutes down from there, while others, impressed and fascinated with the beauty and effectiveness of parachutes, made from fine, thin silk or linen clothes, would take their mother’s scarves and cut them apart to make the desirable parachutes. But our antic did not go unnoticed. Since we were no experts, like those American servicemen whose precision dropping of parachutes carrying emergency supplies that inspired our enthusiasm, a great number of our miniature parachutes, which we crazily launched from the top floor of a flat or from the ground, had landed off our desired course. Some were landing and hanging on tree tops, while others became entangled in electrical cables along the streets throughout the city. Worse still, many more of our miniature parachutes landed on rooftops and, as rain falls came, they floated down the shingles and clogged the gutters which resulted in flooded roofs. In addition, some of our parachutes failed to open up in the air and the rocks which we attached to them fell down so hard onto the ground and caused great damage to both breakable and unbreakable objects that stood in the way.

As more and more of our miniature parachutes fell off course and became a nuisance in town, people began to complain and make their anger and displeasure heard among those whose children played with miniature parachutes. Of course, no one would fuss about the real U.S. parachutes which brought emergency relief and supplies to Kompong Cham and whose appearance became the inspiration of the children’s miniature parachutes. However, as the resentment against miniature parachutes spread, so did the rancor against kids who played with them. Soon we were chased away or barred from playing in nearby residential areas. Moreover, some of our parents discovered that many of us had taken household items such as nylon strings and fine clothes to make our miniature parachutes without asking them first. When they found out that their missing scarves or nylon strings were appropriated by us and used in the manufacturing of our miniature parachutes, many of us became the subjects of scorn, scolding, and even corporal punishment, for as we took things from homes without prior notification to our parents we had broken one of our parents’ cardinal rules.

After having created a great deal of headaches, anger, and nuisance among our parents and neighbors, our enthusiasm with miniature parachutes began to wane. The sad thing about this parachute phenomenon was that neither our enthusiasm with miniature parachutes nor the real parachutes which brought emergency relief and supplies to Kompong Cham would last very long. As the number of kids who played with miniature parachutes diminished, so did the number of airplanes that dropped parachutes or brought emergency supplies to Kompong Cham City. By the end of 1973, the number of airplanes bringing foodstuffs and other essential life-sustaining materials for the displaced population in Kompong Cham grew smaller and smaller every day. By early 1974, one could hardly see any parachute or hear the airplanes flying over Kompong Cham City. Thus, the hardship and hunger which plagued Kompong Cham since the days the Khmer Rouge laid siege to the city continued to mount on an even larger scale. Soon the threat of hunger and starvation loomed, and many people began to feel the impact.

The meager food and emergency supplies, which the government in Phnom Penh brought in to help avert hunger among the displaced population in Kompong Cham City, had been the only life-sustaining resources for tens of thousands of people who were uprooted from their homes and businesses by the fighting. Once the supplies were reduced and eventually ceased to come, living conditions in Kompong Cham turned from bad to worse. Just within a short period of time, following the Khmer Rouge withdrawal and the cessation of food and emergency supplies from Phnom Penh, food and commodity shortages had been widespread. There were not enough of almost everything -- from consumer goods to basic foodstuffs such as meat, fish, vegetables, and rice. Moreover, foods and commodities were so scarce that even if one had the money, there was not much of anything to buy. Essential foodstuffs such as rice and meat were in great demand that people would go after them instantly as soon as they appeared in the marketplace. As a result, many essential goods were sold at inflated prices. For example, a kilogram of beef or pork cost about ten times the price that existed prior to the Khmer Rouge’s attack, and it continued to rise every day.

The inflation and food shortages were so serious that, by early 1974, many desperate people were driven to the countryside, where it was still relatively safe from Khmer Rouge’s incursion, to look for a kind of wild cassava (known locally as Kduoch) to supplement their diets. Kduoch was a kind of starchy yam which grew naturally in Cambodia’s countryside. However, despite being edible, it was also dangerously poisonous if improperly prepared. One scary thing about eating kduoch was that there was no properly written formula for preparing it. If you did not know how to prepare it, the only way you could turn the poisonous kduoch into food was to ask your neighbors or someone who knew how to prepare it, and hope that the preparing method he/she told you was the correct one; otherwise, the kduoch you prepared could cause sickness to everyone who ate it and, in some cases, death to those who were too weak to withstand the poisoning effect. However, despite this grave risk, hundreds of desperate people were forced to turn to kduoch to supplement their diets, for they had no choices but either eating kduoch or suffering starvation.

Our family was fortunate enough to have never gone through the kduoch-eating experience because my parents owned a groceries stand, and rice, the main staple of our diets, was one of the commodities they sold. When the Khmer Rouge attacked the city and the central market where my parents sold groceries was no longer safe for the conduct of business, they locked up about a ton of rice along with other foodstuffs in the shop. Thus, after the Khmer Rouge withdrew and the city began to experience food shortages, my parents quickly allocated a sufficient amount of rice and other foodstuffs for our family’s consumption. Thanks to their wisdom; otherwise, we might have suffered a great deal during that food shortage.

Throughout the second half of 1973 and early 1974, living condition in Kompong Cham City remained deplorable. Almost every family was struggling to make ends meet. Also, beside hunger and hardship, a lot of people were separated from their family members. Many families, including some of our close relatives, had had members living on either side of the conflict. For instance, one of my aunt’s sons and two of my mother’s siblings were separated from their parents during the tumult and came to live with us as their parents were forced to evacuate out of the city. This separation caused great anxiety among those whose loved ones had been evacuated by the Khmer Rouge, for there was no means of communication between civilian people who lived on opposite sides of the conflict. The Khmer Rouge, in particular, did not allow people to send letters to or make contact with their relatives who lived under the Lon Nol regime.

After spending about a year or so in downtown Kompong Cham, my parents decided to move the family to a bigger house, for there were too many of us to fit into that little flat. The new house was located on the bank of the Mekong River near the old abandoned French tobacco processing plant. Our new home was spacious and beautiful. We all loved it because its location was almost in front of our village, Phum Chi Ro. The only thing that separated us from the village that we used to live in was the Mekong River. Every evening, we would go down to sit on the edge of the riverbank and look with nostalgia across the river to gaze at the abandoned farmlands where reeds and weeds grew undisturbed. Lying beyond the farmlands were the villages where some houses could be seen amid the greenery.

Since the siege of 1973, the Khmer Rouge had moved all the people living in villages located along the eastern banks of the Mekong River opposite Kompong Cham City to resettle in areas where they had complete control. Thus, the entire areas along the eastern bank of the Mekong River bordering Kompong Cham City became a no man’s land. In order to build a defensive perimeter around the city, the government established military posts or fortresses at about one mile or so intervals in every village that ringed the eastern shore of the Mekong River. Starting from the southeastern flank of the city, the government set up military fortresses at Phum Prek Chik, Tonle Bet Krom (Lower Tonle Bet), Tonle Bet Leur (Upper Tonle Bet), Phum Cham, Rokar Thom, Chi Ro Krom (pronounce Jee Ro Kraum), and Chi Ro Leur. Aside from the soldiers who occasionally ventured out of their fortresses on missions to ensure that no Khmer Rouge had come into the villages, the entire areas on the eastern bank of the river looked pretty much like a ghost town. There were more abandoned houses than people.

By late 1974, the Khmer Rouge started attacking the government fortresses along the eastern shore of the Mekong River. Before long, a few outlaying fortresses were overrun by the Khmer Rouge. As soon as they moved in within range, the Khmer Rouge began to fire mortars from across the river into the city, which caused a great deal of terror among the population, especially those who lived along the riverbank. Occasionally, the Khmer Rouge would launch artillery attacks, a few rounds at a time, just to terrorize and create panic among the city’s inhabitants. Because our house was located on the bank of the Mekong River, we found ourselves living just beyond the frontline separated only by the body of the river which was nothing but an empty space barrier. During the summer months, when the lands were parched dry, the sky was clear, and the vegetation was withering, people could even see each other walking on either side of the riverbanks with their naked eyes. Subsequently, the Khmer Rouge would take the dry season as an opportunity to step up their terrorizing attacks on the civilian population who lived on the other side of the river.

The Khmer Rouge’s artillery shells landed in the city indiscriminately, regardless of time or location. So people took all the precaution they could to cope with the danger of being hit by mortar shell’s landing. The scary part about the Khmer Rouge’s artillery attack was that no advanced warning or sign of their attacks could be detected. There could be quiet and calm on one day; and the next day around, a couple of artillery shells were landing on someone’s home. Each time an artillery shell landed on or near someone’s home, it always claimed people’s lives and resulted in casualties. The sad reality about the Khmer Rouge’s artillery attacks was that one could be alive and active in the morning, and a few hours later he or she could be hit, maimed, or killed by a Khmer Rouge artillery shell. Life was as unpredictable as the Khmer Rouge’s artillery attack itself.

One day I walked home from school amid a group of small girls who were attending the same school with me. We were all about the same ages. As one of the girls arrived at her residence, she bade goodbye to her friends and walked toward her house. Minutes later, I heard a sharp whistling sound over my head and, all of a sudden, a loud explosion occurred nearby like a lightening strike. Following the explosion, a plume of dust burst up, and I felt little pieces of gravel falling around me. The next thing I knew was that people in the vicinity, including the girls who walked with me, screamed, cried out loud, and ran for help in a maddening panic. I, too, was terrified and scared. Without wasting a minute of time, I ran home, along with other school children, as fast as I could. About an hour or so after I arrived home, I learned that the explosion, which I had just witnessed, was indeed a Khmer Rouge’s artillery shell. It landed about a few meters from the girl who had just said goodbye to her friends with whom I walked. She was hit by shrapnel and was killed right on the spot. According to the people who came to her rescue, she had just stepped up the stairs as the mortar landed. I was so saddened and shocked by the news. It could have been all of us who walked from school together that day. But the poor little girl died alone so that the rest of her friends could live on.
(To be continued)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Essay on Cambodia

Cambodian People, Society, Culture, and Civilization
As democracy takes roots in Cambodia, so does political patronages and cult of personalities—a time-honored practice dated back to the inception of the Cambodian kingdom. At the turn of the 13th century, Chou Ta-Kuan, a Chinese envoy, wrote a vivid description on how people, who had beautiful daughters, would present their daughters to the king in order to seek favors from him; or, the wealthy elites would go to great length to underwrite or undertake expensive projects to please the king. If there were another Chou Ta-Kuan coming to observe Cambodian society nowadays, he would undoubtedly write the same aspects of life with a modern twist to it: People would buy gifts or offer bribes to influential public officials to seek favors from them. Wealthy people called Oknha would build schools or other public buildings and named them after powerful politicians to secure their protection. Against the backdrops of these retrogressive behaviors, one must raise a question that if the social elites could not shake off the old out-of-date habits, what chances would ordinary Cambodians have to overcome the challenges of making democracy practical and useful for their lives? In other words, is it worth the sacrifices of ordinary Cambodian’s tranquil, easy-going subsistent lifestyles, or, in some cases, their lives, in order to help them lift themselves out of poverty, vis-à-vis, out of a seemingly out-of-date lifestyle?


It is more than a decade now since Cambodia endorses democracy as a mechanism to help uplift itself from social and political ailments. With all due respects to everyone involved in the effort, the prognosis of progress appears to be very grim. Cambodian democracy is, to put it mildly, a joke. People elect their representatives alright. But their elected representatives represent and answerable not to them (the people), but to their (representatives) patrons or political parties to which they belong. Only commune’s (a cluster of villages) chiefs and members of parliament are directly elected by the people; all other public servants are indirectly elected or appointed by the central government—a hybridized practice which allows despotism, cronyism, and patronages to have a pervasive impact on social well-beings. If we were to scrutinize the Cambodian government today, we would see that government administration in Cambodia is a family business. There is no such thing as a conflict of interest. Every government institution, from the Prime Minister’s office down to the district levels, is staffed with mostly relatives of the ruling elites. The priority for giving out government portfolios is as follows: first, family members; second, close friends; third, relatives of close friends; fourth, friends of close friends, and so on, regardless of their qualifications to perform the jobs. In practice, Cambodian democracy functions not much different from the old absolute monarchy regime that Cambodian people have known throughout these years.

If one were to draw comparison between Cambodian democracy in the 21st century to that of the American’s at the turn of the 18th century, one would find a stark difference in terms of local governance. Whereas Cambodians have their provincial governors and district chiefs appointed by the central government, Americans have their state and county officials popularly and locally elected—a crucial difference which could determine the success or failure of a democracy experiment. Imagine if the U.S. federal government were to proclaim in its constitution that it would appoint states governors and counties mayors or managers. The American people would certainly be up in arms and demand that the tree of liberty be replenished with the tyrant’s blood.

It is, to say the least, impossible to make any definitive conclusion regarding the question why or what keeps Cambodian society seemingly stuck in a state of stunted growth. But, based on historical context, we could perhaps, at least, make some observational hypotheses as underlying factors in the scheme of human behaviors. Professor David P. Chandler, a renowned historian on Cambodia’s history insightfully entitled one of his books: The Tragedy of Cambodian History. Chandler was right in equating Cambodian history with tragedy. Looking back into Cambodia’s past, tragedy was an integral part in the evolution of her society. Since the collapse of the Khmer Empire, noticeably after the abandonment of Angkor as a Capital City, each Cambodian generation suffered at least one calamity in life. Be it a domestic upheaval or foreign invasion, the destruction of Cambodian social fabrics has always been severe. A case in point is the destruction committed by the Khmer Rouge, a fanatical Communist group, at the turn of the 20th century. Though it is a bit too extreme to use the Khmer Rouge’s violation of Cambodian society as a frame for reference to study Cambodian history, the destruction has, at least, given us a glimpse of what could have happened in the past. If the distant past is the end product of the recent past, and the recent past is the end product of the present, it is true, or, at least, could be deduced that what has happened in the recent past had, or could have also happened in the distant past.
(To be continued)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

រឿងល្បើកនិងរឿងនិទាន

រឿង អ្នកនេសាទនិងកូនត្រី

(បទ កាកគតិ)
មានអ្នកនេសាទ               ខិតខំសង្វាត                 រកចាប់មឆ្ឆា
យកមកធ្វើម្ហូប                  ស្ងោរចៀនអាំងឆា        ផ្គត់ផ្គង់គ្រួសារ
                                          ជាប្រក្រតី ។
នៅនាថ្ងៃមួយ                   អ្នកនេសាទព្រួយ           រកមិនបានអ្វី
ខំបង់សំណាញ់                អស់ពេញមួយថ្ងៃ           បានតែកូនត្រី
                                         តូចមួយគួរក្នាញ់ ។
កូនត្រីភ័យណាស់           ប្រឹងរើបម្រះ                    មិនចង់ចុះចាញ់
តែឥតប្រយោជន៍             ក្រឡាសំណាញ់             តូចឆ្មារត្របាញ់
                                         រុំជាប់ស្រកី ។
ពេលដឹងខ្លួនថា               មានគ្រោះមរណា            ជីវិតត្រូវក្ស័យ
កូនត្រីអង្វរ                       អ្នកនេសាទត្រី                ឲ្យអធ្យាស្រ័យ
                                         ដោះលែងវាម្តង ។
ខ្ញុំនៅតូចណាស់              ខ្លួនស្គមសែនខ្មាស់          មិនសមបំណង
ស្បែកដណ្តប់ឆ្អឹង             តូចពេកកន្លង                   ធ្វើម្ហូបសោតផង
                                         មិនឆ្ងាញ់ពិសា ។
បើលោកលែងខ្ញុំ              ថ្ងៃក្រោយធាត់ធំ               មាំមួនកាយា
មានសាច់មានឈាម       ជូនជាអាហារ                   ឆ្ងុយឆ្ងាញ់ពិសា
                                          មិនខុសបំណង ។
ទេៗ ! មិនលែង                អ្នកនេសាទថ្លែង              ប្រាប់ត្រីវិញម្តង
បើលែងឯងទៅ                ពិតខកបំណង                 ថ្ងៃក្រោយកន្លង
                                          ចាប់ឯងពុំបាន ៕
"មានត្រីមួយនៅក្នុងដៃ ប្រសើជាងត្រីម្ភៃនៅក្នុបឹង"

Saturday, September 22, 2012

រឿងល្បើកនិងរឿងនិទាន

រឿង អ្នកប្រមាញ់និងសត្វឆ្កែ

អ្នកប្រមាញ់ម្នាក់ បានរៀបចំខ្លួនចេញទៅបរបាញ់សត្វព្រៃ ជាមួយនិង
ឆ្កែរបស់គាត់ ។ នៅពេលដែលគាត់រៀបចេញដំណើរ គាត់បានឃើញ
ឆ្កែរបស់គាត់ នៅក្រាបក្បែរភ្នក់ភ្លើងនៅឡើយ ។ ឃើញដូច្នោះ គាត់ក៏
ស្រែកជេរឆ្កែគាត់ថា៖ “នែ៎ ! អាកំជិល តើឯងនៅដេកដល់ណាទៀត ?” ។
ឆ្កែឮដូច្នោះ វាក៏ក្រោកឡើងបក់កន្ទុយ ហើយនិយាយទៅកាន់ម្ចាស់វា
វិញថា៖ “លោកម្ចាស់ ! ខ្ញុំបានរៀបចំខ្លួនរួចរាល់ហើយទាន គឺនៅរង់ចាំ
តែលោកម្ចាស់ ចេញដំណើរតែប៉ុណ្ណោះ” ៕

ពាក្យចាស់ពាក្យពីព្រេង                 ទោសខ្លួនឯងមើលពុំយល់
ទោសគេតូចសោតសល់                រមិលយល់ប៉ុនទាំងភ្នំ ។
                                                         (ច្បាប់ពាក្យចាស់)
"មនុស្សយើង តែងតែមើលឃើញកំហុសអ្នកដទៃ ប៉ុន្តែ កម្រមើល
ឃើញកំហុសខ្លួនឯងណាស់"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fables and Folktales

រឿង គោព្រៃ កញ្ជ្រោង និង សិង្ហ

គោព្រៃនិងកញ្ជ្រោង បានចងសម្ពន្ធមិត្តនឹងគ្នា ដើម្បីជួយការពារគ្នាទៅ
វិញទៅមក ។ ថ្ងៃមួយ នៅពេលដែលសត្វទាំងពីរ កំពុងដើររកចំណីនៅ
ក្នុងព្រៃ ពួកវាក៏បានជួបនឹងសិង្ហ ។ កញ្ជ្រោងដឹងថា គ្រោះថ្នាក់នឹងបាន
មកដល់ក្នុងពេលឆាប់ៗនេះ ។ ដូច្នេះ ដើម្បីការពារជីវិតវា កញ្ជ្រោងក៏
ទម្លាក់កន្ទុយ លុតជង្គង់ដើរមកជិតសិង្ហ ហើយនិយាយតិចៗថា៖ “សូម
បងកុំសម្លាប់ខ្ញុំ ខ្ញុំនឹងរៀបចំឲ្យគោព្រៃដែលជាមិត្តរបស់ខ្ញុំ ដើរចូលទៅ
ក្នុងស៊ងមួយ ដើម្បីឲ្យបងយកវាធ្វើជាអាហារ” ។ សិង្ហគិតក្នុងចិត្តថាៈ វាមិនអាចលោតទៅសង្គ្រប់ចាប់ កញ្ជ្រោងនិងគោព្រៃ នៅក្នុងពេលតែ
មួយជាមួយគ្នានោះទេ ច្បាស់ជាមានសត្វមួយ រត់គេចរួចជាមិនខាន ។
ដូច្នេះ វាក៏យល់ស្របតាមយោបល់កញ្ជ្រោង ។ កញ្ជ្រោងបានប្រាប់សិង្ហ
ឲ្យទៅចាំនៅកន្លែងមួយ ដែលវាបានឃើញអ្នកប្រមាញ់ជីករណ្តៅ ដើម្បី
ធ្វើជាអន្ទាក់សម្រាប់ចាប់សត្វម្រឹគ ។ លុះសិង្ហដើរចេញផុតទៅ កញ្ជ្រោង
ក៏មកប្រាប់គោព្រៃថា៖ “ខ្ញុំទើបនឹងបញ្ឆោតសិង្ហ ឲ្យទុកពេលឲ្យយើង
ទៅលាបងប្អូនញាតិមិត្តសិន មុនពេលយើងស្លាប់ ។ ដូច្នេះ យើងគួរ
ឆ្លៀតពេលនេះ រត់ចេញឲ្យឆ្ងាយពីទីនេះទៅ” ។ ពោលចប់ កញ្ជ្រោងក៏
នាំគោព្រៃ រត់សំដៅទៅកាន់រណ្តៅអន្ទាក់ព្រាន ។ ទៅដល់ជិតមាត់រណ្តៅ
កញ្ជ្រោងបានឲ្យគោព្រៃរត់នាំមុខវា ដោយយកលេសថា ខ្លួនវាតូចពេក
មិនអាចជាន់បំបាក់មែកឈើដែលដុះពាំងផ្លូវបាន ។ គោព្រៃរត់ទៅមុខ
បានពីរបីជំហាន ក៏ផុងជើងដាំក្បាល ធ្លាក់ជាប់ក្នុងរណ្តៅអន្ទាក់ព្រាន ។
រំពេចនោះ កញ្ជ្រោងក៏ស្រែកហៅសិង្ហឲ្យចេញមក ដើម្បីខាំហែកគោព្រៃ
ស៊ីជាអាហារ ។ នៅពេលដែលបានឃើញគោព្រៃ ធ្លាក់ចូលក្នុងរណ្តៅ
អន្ទាក់ព្រានរើខ្លួនមិនរួច សិង្ហក៏លោតទៅសង្គ្រប់ចាប់កញ្ជ្រោងស៊ីជាមុន
សិន រួចហើយ ទើបវាស៊ីគោព្រៃតាមក្រោយ ៕

Sunday, September 16, 2012

WAR AND GENOCIDE

Goodbye Forever

After having endured the siege of 1973 and narrowly escaping the Khmer Rouge take over, Kompong Cham looked like a wounded, damaged city. Many landmarks, buildings and houses had been destroyed or disfigured almost beyond recognition as a result of the grinding battles between the government’s soldiers and the Khmer Rouge. Along the frontlines where the Khmer Rouge had dug in to resist the government counterattacks, the streets were littered with debris of blown-up brick houses, empty ammunition caches, and bullet shells.

As we went around looking at the areas where the battles between the Khmer Rouge and the government soldiers took place, we were appalled to see the extent of damages and destruction caused by the fighting. Many houses and buildings were either half-burned or totally blown up and reduced to piles of rubble on the ground. Along the path where fighting between the Khmer Rouge and government troops appeared to be most intense, the degree of damage and destruction extended beyond imagination. Nothing, even sacred places such as pagodas, was spared from the destructive forces of gunfire. During the course of the fighting, it appeared that neither side regarded or respected anything at all, let alone pagodas or innocent human lives. They fired their weapons indiscriminately regardless of the destruction and human casualties.

Perhaps the most shocking catastrophe resulted from the blitzgrieg of Kompong Cham City was the destruction of Wat Boeung Kok, a pagoda located on the northern outskirt of downtown Kompong Cham. During the assault on downtown Kompong Cham, the Khmer Rouge had occupied the compound of Wat Boeung Kok and used it as a forward staging area to mount their attack on the city center. To prevent the Khmer Rouge from advancing further into the downtown area, the government troops opened the water lock at Chong Thnol, which were built to control the Mekong River from flooding the lower part of Kompong Cham City, and let the water flooded a strip of mash land which stretched between Wat Boeung Kok and the northern edge of downtown Kompong Cham. As a result, Wat Boeung Kok became an island impediment to the advancing Khmer Rouge guerrillas, who were unable to cross over to the city center; they were stranded in the middle of the battlefield. Subsequently, the Khmer Rouge began to dig in and used the compound of Wat Boeung Kok as their strategic post and protective shield against the government counterattack. When the government troops started to mount their offensive to recapture Wat Boeung Kok, fierce fighting broke out. Both sides, in a determined effort to lay claim to the pagoda’s compound, resorted to using all kinds of fighting strategies to win. They fired at and destroyed anything that stood in their way including the temple. After the fighting was over, I remember seeing people standing, in shock, on the northern edge of downtown Kompong Cham, looking at the temple of Wat Boeung Kok, which bore two giant holes with burning black marks on its eastern wall. The scars resulted from artillery explosions which pierced through the thick concrete wall.

As I lingered around among the people who stood, in awe and disbelief, looking at the destruction of Wat Boeung Kok, I sensed something emotionally appalling hanging in the air. The more I looked at the damaged temple of Wat Boeung Kok the more horrifying and scary I felt because it was the first time I had ever seen a Buddhist temple, the most revered holy institution in Cambodia, being decimated. Like most people who were expressing shock and disbelief while staring at the bullet-riddled temple of Wat Boeung Kok, I felt dismayed and distressed at the excessive damage that resulted from the fighting which seemed to be far from over. The wounds, the scars, and the physical destruction inflicted upon Wat Boeung Kok and many other homes and buildings stood as a grim reminder to the people of Kompong Cham about the trauma and tragedy of war. However, the state of shock and horror about the destruction of homes and holy institutions were soon forgotten and replaced by hunger which swept through Kompong Cham in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge’s siege.

From the time the last Khmer Rouge fired the last shot and withdrew their last rag-tag guerrilla forces from downtown Kompong Cham, they had left behind not only a ruined and deteriorated city, but also a city full of refugees and displaced people. Many shops and businesses were either destroyed or deserted by owners who were either forced to seek refuge in different areas of town or captured and evacuated by the Khmer Rouge during their encroachment. Moreover, many entrepreneurs and business owners like my parents’ acquaintances, who were terrified by the Khmer Rouge attack, decided to pack their belongings and leave for Phnom Penh. What was left for Kompong Cham City to cope with was a large number of displaced, homeless, and hungry people who had fled the Khmer Rouge and flocked into town during the fighting. Though some of these displaced people were able to return to their former homes or businesses and reestablished their livelihood, most of them remained in the city because their homes or businesses were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair. As a result, Kompong Cham City was crowded with a lot of hungry, helpless, and desperate people who were clinging to life by performing odd jobs and relying on the government’s meager handouts.

In addition to crippling the infrastructure and economy of Kompong Cham City, the Khmer Rouge had also cut off the government supply line through the Mekong River -- the only remaining and most vital supply line linking Kompong Cham to Phnom Penh, the capital city. As part of their strategy to cut off and isolate Kompong Cham from receiving military supplies and reinforcement from Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge had effectively blockaded the Mekong River by installing heavy machine guns and artillery batteries along strategic points on both side of the riverbanks between Kompong Cham and Phnom Penh in order to attack and destroy any ship that brought supplies to or from Kompong Cham. Along with their machine guns and artillery, the Khmer Rouge had also stretched steel cables with floating mines attached across the Mekong River to deter and stop all vessel convoys from using the river. The blockade was quite strong that even the government’s Marine Corps, which used the river as part of its base and possessed dozens of American supplied river battle ships with heavy weaponry, had a tough time negotiating through the Khmer Rouge’s obstacle course.

In one perilous attempt, the government sent a fleet of its marine vessels along with their heavy weapon armor ships to escort a convoy of supply barges and ships from Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham. As the convoy went through the Khmer Rouge’s blockade, it endured a fierce and sustained attack, and a number of ships were sunk. The remaining fleet was forced to engage in an all night long struggle in order to pierce through the blockade. At the end, only a few bullet riddled ships made it through to Kompong Cham City. The rest was either forced to return to Phnom Penh or were abandoned along the way because of heavy damages. In addition to the losses and damage, many crew members and soldiers who accompanied and navigated the convoy suffered tremendous casualties. I remembered seeing people unload burned and wounded bodies from the ships as they landed near the old ferry port of Kompong Cham.

After that bloody and disastrous confrontation, the Mekong River, between Kompong Cham and Phnom Penh, was left uncontested to the Khmer Rouge’s control. From then on, any supply Phnom Penh wanted to send to Kompong Cham had to be made by airlifts under the mercy of American support. Even then, serious obstacles existed because of the fact that Kompong Cham’s only tiny airport was unsuitable for large airplanes to land, not to mention if Phnom Penh had any supplies at all to send to the beleaguered Kompong Cham City. Thus, after the disaster of the Mekong River’s convoy, the only remaining means for the government in Phnom Penh to bring emergency relief and supplies to Kompong Cham was either by parachuting the supplies from the air or using small planes to land in the small rutted airfield.
(To be continued)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Essay on Cambodia

Cambodian People, Society, Culture, and Civilization
Toward the end of the 19th century, another attempt to bring about social changes to Cambodia was made. At this time, France which had just established colonial rule over the peninsula of Indochina, namely Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, saw a need to civilize the seemingly primitive people it governed. After successfully convincing the Vietnamese to adapt the Roman alphabets for the writing of their language, France turned its attention to civilize the Cambodians. The first step the French took was to reform the administrative infrastructure in Cambodia by limiting the King’s role in the affairs of the state. Furthermore, the French introduced a more “effective” collection of taxes from the Cambodian people payable in the form of either, cash, kind, or labor forces, which they thought could be used to support both the needs of the colonists and the improvement of Cambodia’s administrative infrastructures. Finally, toward the end of its colonization over Cambodia, the French made the Cambodians adapt the Roman alphabets for the writing of their language just as what the Vietnamese had done.


Needless to say, the French civilizing mission in Cambodia was invariably met with failure for the most part, for it touched on one of the most sensitive issues for Cambodians—that is the changing of their way of life and their identities. Led mostly by Buddhist monks or former Buddhist monks (the Achar), rebellions and protests were to become a regular occurrence every time the French pushed the Cambodians to accept reforms.

The French eventually abandoned their civilizing mission in Cambodia and turned their attention to exploiting the country instead. As a punishment for Cambodian stubbornness, the French made little effort to build schools or institutions for the education of Cambodian children. Basically, education for the general Cambodian population was left to Buddhist monks to take care of.

From the mid 20th century onward, modern ages have added some more dramatic shocks and awes to Cambodian society. In a span of about half a century, Cambodia had seen a coup d’etat, two civil wars, a communist experiment, a foreign army occupation, and 5 different forms of governments. Driven mostly by domestic zealots, whose ambitions were to transform Cambodian society, a series of disastrous attempts were made to bring about social changes to Cambodia. Starting roughly in the early 1950’s, Cambodian society has endured perhaps more radical changes than it could cope with. First was the introduction of a constitutional monarchy—a form of absolute monarchical government where people were allowed to vote. Then, after the experiment got bogged down with political squabbling, a republic was created to replace the decadent monarchy. Before long, the republic was, in turn, replaced by a communist regime which had ushered in perhaps the most devastating disaster in Cambodian history. It took a Vietnamese intervention to stop the upheaval from spinning out of control and paved a path for recovery. In the end, about one fourth of Cambodian population lost their lives, and, after 46 years of harrowing experimentation with political and social reforms, the whole endeavor appears to end up at where it began—a constitutional monarchy.

Since 1993, with a helping hand from the United Nations, Cambodia, as a nation/society, now, once again, embarks on yet another socio-political reform. With democracy (and its underline elements—namely human liberty and all the freedoms it espouses) standing in as a rescue package, the UN (and, in a sense, the world) had persuaded and aided Cambodia to embrace democracy as a way to lift itself out of a socio-politico-economic quagemire. Though it is perhaps too early to call the UN’s effort a success or a failure, it is, nevertheless, very tempting for students of Cambodian history to ask question regarding endeavors to transform Cambodian society: If the Vietnamese could not do it, the French could not do it, the Cambodians themselves could not do it, would the UN be able to do it?
(To be Continued)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fables and Folktales

រឿង លា មាន់គក និង ខ្លា

(បទ កាកគតិ)
សត្វលាកម្លៅ            កំពុងស៊ីស្មៅ                  នៅលើភ្លឺស្រែ
ជាមួយមាន់គក         រកចំណីដែរ                    កៀនគុម្ពសង្កែ
                                   ដុះក្បែរមាត់ព្រៃ ។
មានសត្វខ្លាមួយ        រស់រងទុក្ខព្រួយ              ខ្លួនស្គមរីងរៃ
ព្រោះអត់អាហារ        ស៊ីជាច្រើនថ្ងៃ                ឃើញលាចង់ឆី
                                    ចម្អែតក្រពះ ។
ពេលនោះមាន់គក      ឃើញខ្លាចូលមក          ជាយភូមិក្រោយផ្ទះ
ចង់ចាប់លាស៊ី           ពិតប្រាកដណាស់          វាក៏ទទះ
                                   ស្លាបស្រែករងាវ ។
ដើម្បីប្រាប់លា           ឲ្យរត់គេចវៀះ                 ពីខ្លាហត់ហេវ
អត់ឃ្លានយូរថ្ងៃ          ក្រពះស្វិតជីវ                 លបលូនលឿនស្លេវ
                                    តម្រង់ចាប់លា ។
សម្លេងកញ្ជ្រៀវ          មាន់គករងាវ                  ដាស់អារម្មណ៍លា
ឮដល់សត្វខ្លា             ភ្ញាក់ឈប់ដកឃ្លា          ប្រញាប់ម្នីម្នា
                                   ងាកក្រោយរត់ពួន ។
លាឃើញខ្លារត់          ក្នុងចិត្តសន្មត់                ថាខ្លាខ្លាចខ្លួន
ស្ទុះដេញខាំខ្លា           កំពុងរត់ពួន                   ខ្លាបានជួបជួន
                                   កាច់កលាស៊ី ៕

Monday, September 10, 2012

រឿងល្បើកនិងរឿងនិទាន

រឿង អ្នកបើកបរម៉ូតូតាក់ស៊ីនិងទេសចរ

មានអ្នកបើកបរម៉ូតូតាក់ស៊ីម្នាក់ឈ្មោះ ចម រស់នៅក្នុងខេត្តសៀមរាប
នៃប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ។ ថ្ងែមួយ ចមបានបរម៉ូតូតាក់ស៊ីរបស់គាត់ ទៅរក
ដឹកភ្ញៀវទេសចរ នៅកំពង់ផែភ្នំក្រោម ។ ចមបានទៅស្វែងរក ដឹកភ្ញៀវ
ទេសចរនៅទីនោះ អស់រយៈពេលមួយព្រឹក ប៉ុន្តែ គាត់រកមិនបានភ្ញៀវ
ម្នាក់ឡើយ ព្រោះធាតុអាកាសក្តៅពេក ដែលជាហេតុនាំឲ្យពួកទេសចរ
នាំគ្នាជិះឡានតាក់ស៊ី ដែលមានម៉ាស៊ីនត្រជាក់វិញ ។ បន្ទាប់ពីរកដឹក
អ្នកដំណើរ នៅកំពង់ផែភ្នំក្រោមមិនបាន ចមក៏សម្រេចចិត្តបរម៉ូតូតាក់ស៊ី
របស់គាត់ ទៅកាន់ទីក្រុងសៀមរាបម្តង ដើម្បីស្វែងរកដឹកអ្នកដំណើរ
ដទៃទៀត ។ ខណៈដែលគាត់ ហៀបចាកចេញពីកំពង់ផែភ្នំក្រោម ចម
បានឃើញកូនកាបូបតូចមួយ ដែលអ្នកដំណើរជ្រុះ នៅក្បែរមាត់ទឹក ។
គាត់ក៏ចុះទៅរើសយកកូនកាបូបនោះមកមើល ។ នៅពេលដែលចម
បើកមាត់កាបូបនោះមើល គាត់មានការភ្ញាក់ផ្អើលយ៉ាងខ្លាំង ព្រោះនៅ
ក្នុងកាបូបនោះ មានលុយចំនួន ៥០០ ដុល្លារអាមេរិក ។ ក្រៅពីប្រាក់
៥០០ដុល្លារនោះ នៅមានអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណមួយ ដែលមានតួអក្សរ
បរទេស សរសេរនៅលើនោះផង ។
ចមមិនចេះអានអក្សរ នៅលើអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណនោះទេ ។ បន្ទាប់ពី
ដើរមើលនៅជុំវិញកំពង់ផែ ហើយមិនឃើញមាន ជនបរទេសណាម្នាក់
នៅទីនោះ ចមក៏យកអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណ និងកាបូបដែលគាត់រើសបាន
ទៅបង្ហាញពូចែម ដែលជាអ្នកលក់ម្ហូបនៅក្បែរកំពង់ផែ និងមិត្តភក្តិអ្នក
បើកបរម៉ូតូតាក់ស៊ីមួយចំនួន ក្រែងលោមាននរណាម្នាក់ ចេះអានអក្សរ
ដែលគេសរសេរ នៅលើអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណនោះ ដើម្បីស្វែងរកម្ចាស់
កាបូប ។ ប៉ុន្តែ គ្មាននរណម្នាក់អាចអានអក្សរ នៅលើអត្តសញ្ញាណ
ប័ណ្ណនោះឡើយ ។ មានមនុស្សមួយចំនួន បានឲ្យយោបល់ថាៈ ចមគួរ
តែយកលុយ ដែលគាត់រើសបាននោះ ទៅទុកចាយវាយ ដោះស្រាយ
ជីវភាពគ្រួសារទៅ ព្រោះម្ចាស់កាបូប ប្រហែលជាបានវិលត្រឡប់ ទៅ
ប្រទេសខ្លួនវិញហើយ ។ បើសិនជាចម ចង់រកម្ចាស់កាបូបនោះ ក៏មិន
ដឹងជាទៅរកនៅទីណាដែរ ។ ប៉ុន្តែ ចមមិនដាច់ចិត្តធ្វើដូច្នោះឡើយ ។
គាត់ក៏សមេ្រចចិត្ត បរម៉ូតូតាក់ស៊ីរបស់គាត់ ទៅកាន់ទីប្រជុំប្រាសាទ
បុរាណ នៅម្តុំអង្គរវត្ត ដើម្បីស្វែងរកម្ចាស់កាបូប ព្រោះថា បើម្ចាស់
កាបូបនោះ មិនទាន់វិលត្រឡប់ទៅកាន់ប្រទេសគាត់វិញទេ គាត់
ប្រាកដជាទៅទស្សនាប្រាសាទនានា នៅម្តុំអង្គរវត្តជាមិនខាន ។ នៅ
ពេលមកដល់ ទីប្រជុំប្រាសាទនៅអង្គរវត្ត ចមបានយកអត្តសញ្ញាណ
ប័ណ្ណ របស់ម្ចាស់កាបូប ដែលមានរូបថតនៅលើនោះមើល ដើម្បី
ផ្ទៀងផ្ទាត់រកមនុស្ស ដែលមានភិនភាគដូចរូបថតនោះ ។ ចមបាន
ចំណាយពេល ដើររកម្ចាស់កាបូប អស់រយៈពេលមួយថ្ងៃរសៀល ប៉ុន្តែ
គាត់រកមិនឃើញម្ចាស់កាបូបនោះឡើយ ។ លុះថ្ងៃរៀបលិច ចមក៏ចូល
ទៅអង្គុយសម្រាក នៅលើថែវក្បែរមាត់ច្រក ចូលទៅប្រាសាទអង្គរវត្ត ។
រំពេចនោះ គាត់បានឃើញបុរសម្នាក់ ដែលមានភិនភាគ ដូចរូបថតនៅ
លើអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណ កំពុងដើរចេញពីប្រាសាទអង្គរវត្តមក ។ បន្ទាប់
ពីឃើញអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណ ដែលចមបានយកទៅបង្ហាញគាត់ បុរស
នោះបានប្រាប់ចមថា គាត់ឈ្មោះ គីម ជុងហ៊ី ជាជនជាតិកូរ៉េខាងត្បូង និងជាម្ចាស់នៃអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណនោះ ។ ចមបានយកកាបូប និង
ប្រាក់៥០០ដុល្លារ ដែលគាត់រើសបាននោះ មកប្រគល់ឲ្យលោក គីម
ជុងហ៊ី វិញ ។ បន្ទាប់ពីបានទទួលកាបូបនិងប្រាក់ ដែលគាត់ជ្រុះបាត់
នោះមកវិញ លោកគីម ជុងហ៊ី មានសេចក្តីសោមនស្ស និងកោត
សរសើរ នូវទឹកចិត្តស្មោះត្រង់របស់ចមយ៉ាងខ្លាំង ។ គាត់បានយក
ប្រាក់៥០០ដុល្លារ នៅក្នុងកាបូបគាត់នោះឲ្យទៅចម ដើម្បីជារង្វាន់ដល់
ភាពសុចរិតរបស់គាត់ ។ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែ ចមមិនបានទទួលយកប្រាក់នោះទេ ។
គាត់បានប្រាប់លោកគីម ជុងហ៊ីថា៖ “ខ្ញុំអរគុណជាអតិបរមា ចំពោះ
ទឹកចិត្តរបស់លោក ប៉ុន្តែ សូមលោកទុកប្រាក់នេះ សម្រាប់ការចំណាយ
នៅក្នុងដំណើរទស្សនកិច្ចរបស់លោកចុះ ។ ការដែលខ្ញុំបានរកលោក
ឃើញ និងប្រគល់កាបូបនេះ ជូនលោកវិញនោះ ខ្ញុំត្រេកអរ ជាងបាន
ទទួលប្រាក់នេះទៅទៀត” ។ បន្ទាប់ពីបានស្តាប់នូវសម្តីរបស់ចម លោក
គីម ជុងហ៊ី មានអារម្មណ៍រំជើបរំជួលក្នុងចិត្តយ៉ាងខ្លាំង ។ គាត់បានសុំ
យកឈ្មោះ និងអាសយដ្ឋានរបស់ចមទុក ដើម្បីរាប់អានគ្នាទៅថ្ងៃមុខ ។
កន្លងមកបានប្រមាណជាពីរខែ មានបុរសម្នាក់ បានបើកឡានម៉ាក
តូយូតា ដែលមានដឹកម៉ូតូមួយគ្រឿង មកឈប់នៅមុខផ្ទះចម ។ បន្ទាប់
ពីបានសួរបញ្ជាក់អំពីអាសយដ្ឋាន និងមើលអត្តសញ្ញាណប័ណ្ណរបស់ចម
រួច បុរសនោះក៏យកម៉ូតូថ្មី ដែលគាត់ដឹកនៅលើឡាននោះ និងសំបុត្រ
មួយមកប្រគល់ឲ្យចម ។ នៅក្នុងសំបុត្រមានសេចក្តីជាអាទ៍ថា៖ “ម៉ូតូនេះ ជាអំណោយរបស់ខ្ញុំចំពោះអ្នក ។ សូមអរគុណម្តងទៀត ចំពោះទឹកចិត្ត
ស្មោះត្រង់របស់អ្នក ។ ហត្ថលេខាៈ គីម ជុងហ៊ី” ៕
ទង្វើល្អ រមែងទទួលផលល្អ

Sunday, September 9, 2012

រឿងល្បើកនិងរឿងនិទាន

រឿង កណ្តុរពាក់កណ្តឹងឲ្យឆ្មា

កណ្តុរមួយហ្វូង បានបើកសម័យប្រជុំមួយ ដើម្បីរិះរកមធ្យោបាយ ទប់ទល់
នឹងឆ្មា ដែលតាមយាយីពួកវាគ្មានឈប់ឈរ ។ នៅក្នុងសម័យប្រជុំ កណ្តុរ
ខ្លះនិយាយថាដូច្នេះ ខ្លះថាដូច្នោះ ប៉ុន្តែមិនមានកណ្តុរណាមួយ រកឃើញ
នូវដំណោះស្រាយ ដែលមានប្រសិទ្ធិភាពនោះឡើយ ។ នៅទីបំផុត
កណ្តុរតូចមួយបានងើបឈរឡើង ហើយនិយាយថា៖ “ខ្ញុំមានយោបល់
មួយ ដែលខ្ញុំជឿថា អាចរំដោះពួកយើង ឲ្យរួចផុតពីការគំរាមកំហែង
របស់ឆ្មាបាន” ។ ឮដូច្នោះ កណ្តុរដទៃក៏នាំគ្នាមកឈរជុំវិញកណ្តុរតូច
ដើម្បីស្តាប់យោបល់របស់វា ។ “អ្នកទាំងអស់គ្នាដឹងហើយថា” កណ្តុរតូច
ចាប់ផ្តើមនិយាយ “ឆ្មាវាបានប្រើល្បិច លបសម្លាប់ពួកយើងពីក្រោយខ្នង
ឬក៏នៅពេលណា ដែលយើងមិនបានប្រុងប្រយ័ត្ន ។ ដូច្នេះ ខ្ញុំគិតថា បើ
យើងយកកណ្តឹងតូចមួយ ទៅពាក់លើ ក ឆ្មានោះ យើងនឹងបានដឹងមុន នៅពេលដែលវាដើរមកជិតពួកយើង ព្រោះសម្លេងកណ្តឹងនៅនឹងកឆ្មា
វាជាសញ្ញា សម្រាប់ឲ្យយើងរត់គេចខ្លួន បានយ៉ាងងាយ” ។ បន្ទាប់ពី
កណ្តុរតូចនិយាយចប់ សមាជិកអង្គប្រជុំជាច្រើន បាននាំគ្នាទះដៃ គាំទ្រ
យោបល់វាយ៉ាងកុះករ ។ រំពេចនោះ កណ្តុរចាស់មួយបានងើបឈរឡើង ហើយនិយាយទៅកាន់អង្គប្រជុំថា៖ “គំនិត ដែលប្អូននិយាយអម្បាញ់
មិញនេះល្អណាស់ ខ្ញុំសូមគាំទ្រ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែ ខ្ញុំសូមសួរថា ក្នុងចំណោមពួក
យើងទាំងអស់គ្នា តើមាននរណាម្នាក់ស្ម័គ្រចិត្តយកកណ្តឹងទៅពាក់
នៅលើ ក ឆ្មាដែរឬទេ ?” ។ កណ្តុរទាំងអស់បាត់មាត់ដូចគេចុក ។
ម្នាក់ៗមើលមុខគ្នាទៅវិញទៅមក ដោយគ្មាននរណាម្នាក់ និយាយស្តី
អ្វីឡើយ ។ “វាងាយបំផុតក្នុងការនិយាយ” កណ្តុរចាស់ពោលបន្ត “ប៉ុន្តែ
អ្វីៗ វាមិនងាយដូចមាត់យើងថានោះទេ” ៕
អ្នកថា មិនដូចអ្នកធ្វើ

Thursday, September 6, 2012

WAR AND GENOCIDE

The Siege of 1973 (Cont.)
One day we heard rapid gun fire raging about several blocks from where we lived. Along with the gunfire, we heard grenade and small artillery explosions occurring nearby. At our neighbor’s request we decided to abandon our trenches and went across the street to stay in the bunker with them. It was located under their house. Minutes later we saw some government soldiers walking by the house--apparently, they were retreating. We asked one of the soldiers how was the situation at the frontlines and what were the gun fires we heard from the direction where he had just come. The soldier told us that the situation at the frontlines was deteriorating badly, and the gun fires we just heard were exchanges between his column and the Khmer Rouge who had mounted an attack and overran his post minutes earlier. He also told us that the Khmer Rouge had already captured the intersection of Neang Kung Hing, a main thoroughfare connecting roads around Kompong Cham City, and were advancing toward where we were.


Neang Kung Hing was located about one quarter of a mile away from where we lived. Without wasting a moment of time, my parents decided to take the family to seek refuge with one of their acquaintances who lived in the center of downtown Kompong Cham near the traffic roundabout adjacent to the central market. Our neighbors also decided to move to the downtown area in order to get away from the Khmer Rouge’s advance.

It was late in the afternoon. The streets were full of panicky people who tried to hotfoot it away from the Khmer Rouge’s advance or to avoid being caught in the crossfire. We spent almost an hour traveling on foot along the crowded streets before arriving in the commercial areas in downtown Kompong Cham. We stopped in front of a small flat. A middle-aged couple emerged from the house and welcomed us inside.

The house was packed with people, about 50 in all, who had nowhere to sit or sleep but on the floor. However, in time of emergency like that, inconvenience appeared to be the last thing in anyone’s mind. Most of us, the 50 people or so, who crammed into that little flat, were more worried and concerned about the Khmer Rouge’s encroachment than lacking personal space or convenience. Soon after we arrived in the downtown area, the government put the entire city under curfew. No one was allowed to walk the streets except for the police, armies, and other important officials whose tasks were to maintain order and security in the city. All civilians had to remain inside the house day and night.

We were the last people to move in and seek safety inside that little flat. As we quietly sunk onto our knees and lay down on the floor near the front door, the entire city seemed to go to sleep with us. Except for the sounds of mortar explosions, helicopters bringing in reinforcement troops from Phnom Penh, and the occasional rumble of police or military vehicles around the block, the atmosphere in the city was in a state of complete silence as if it were a ghost town. To cope with this stressful anxiety, we listened to the radio for news from the battlefields and asked our neighbors who had access to or had relatives working in the outside world about the situation surrounding the city itself.

From the very moment we locked ourselves inside that flat, the situation around Kompong Cham City was getting worse and worse every day. As the Khmer Rouge tightened their grip and advanced toward the center of downtown we began to hear the sounds of machine guns and grenade explosions moving closer and closer to our shelter. Our neighbors, whose family members had the privilege of moving about the city, told us that the Khmer Rouge had already captured a portion of the commercial section in the southern part of downtown Kompong Cham which was not very far from where we were. They also told us that the downtown itself was now surrounded by the Khmer Rouge, and that only a few square kilometers of the downtown area remained under government control. The news made us both nervous and frightened, for if the fighting between the Khmer Rouge and government soldiers swept across downtown where almost every house was packed with people, we could expect the worst to happen. Furthermore, given the fact that we were living under curfew and surrounded by advancing enemies from all directions, there was nothing we could do to escape danger except to wait for the inevitable.

One day a couple of small artillery shells, presumably M-79s, landed in front of our shelter and slightly wounded two people who sat near the front door. At first, we were not sure what was happening, or how many artillery shells had landed. All we could hear was a nearby explosion and after that we saw two people bleeding. After determining that they were hit by shrapnel, the two victims were taken through the backdoor alley to be treated in a clinic which was fortunately located next door. The victims were treated and discharged from the clinic to return home the same day.

That evening, as things appeared rather calm, one of us quietly opened the double doors and sneaked a peek outside to investigate the aftermath of the explosions. There were two shells that landed behind one another, one landed about 5 feet from the door and the other landed about 10 feet away. The double doors, which were built of metal on the outside and wood on the inside (a typical construction for shop houses the world over), were riddled with shrapnel holes. After the incident, most of the people who stayed near the front door moved to the middle of the house and, as a form of protection, we stacked all of our luggage and other belongings near the front door.

While we were barricading ourselves inside the flat and prepared for possibly more artillery shells landing in the future, we learned that the Khmer Rouge’s encroachment appeared to halt because the government had brought in enough reinforcement troops to stop their advance. Actually the tide of the battle was about to turn in favor of the government.

After the Khmer Rouge’s advance on Kompong Cham was brought to a standstill and many of the defeated and hastily withdrawn soldiers from outposts around the city’s premise were reorganized and regrouped, the government began to stage a counterattack.

The offensive to liberate the besieged Kompong Cham City from the grip of the Khmer Rouge’s stranglehold appeared to be very bloody and destructive because of the nature of house to house combat both sides had to engage in. From our barricaded house, we could hear the sounds of rapid gunfire and explosions coming from almost every corner of town. Sometimes, we could hear the exchanges of gunfire and artillery going on for fifteen minutes or half an hour at a time which seemed to indicate that the fighting was fierce. But despite the intense nature of the operation, the government’s offensive appeared to be quick and decisive. It took the government’s troops only a few days to loosen the Khmer Rouge’s stranglehold on the city and push them back to a respective distance from the center of town.

As the city’s perimeter was secured and the Khmer Rouge and the battlefields were moved outside the city limit, the government lifted the curfew and allowed people to venture about the city’s streets again. People emerged from their homes with mixed feelings. They were either cheerful, fearful, or anguished because many of them were separated from loved ones during the tumultuous escape from the Khmer Rouge’s incursion on the city.

The escape and confinement during the siege on Kompong Cham City was quite an experience for all of us. It lasted for a few weeks. As I recalled my earlier confinement during the pro-Sihanouk demonstration in 1970, when my father told me to stay inside the house for a few days, I realized that this was the second time that I had been going through anxiety and fear. And there were probably more to come. The siege of 1973 on Kompong Cham City created a rather psychologically traumatizing impact on our mental well being. Unlike our earlier experience in 1970, which we remained quiet, maintained low profile, and escaped a possible Khmer Rouge persecution by fleeing our home, the siege of 1973 on Kompong Cham City was one of the most horrifying moments in our lives. It was fearful and terrifying. And worst of all, it was a close call, for we had no more place for escape.

Throughout the confinement ordeal in downtown Kompong Cham, I felt rather confused about the fact that we tried so desperately to run away from the Khmer Rouge while there was so little chance that we could get away from them once they captured the entire city. Amidst the fear, the fright, and the anguish of a possible Khmer Rouge round-up as they zeroed in toward our hiding place, I sometimes wondered whether our effort to barricade ourselves in downtown Kompong Cham would make any difference at all once the Khmer Rouge overran the city. However, after the besieged Kompong Cham City was liberated and finding out how close we were to being captured by the Khmer Rouge, I began to realize the importance of self-confinement and hiding. I also began to understand that, living in a state of warfare, escape and self-confinement were part of the game, and that it was safer to be hidden and barricaded because one could never know when or where a mortar shell would land.

In a rather freedom frenzy, the streets in downtown Kompong Cham were full of people. Some were returning to their old neighborhood while others were traveling around from place to place to look for missing relatives or simply just to look at different parts of town which were occupied by the Khmer Rouge during their assault on the city. In an effort to locate some of our distant relatives who lived in the southern part of Kompong Cham City which was briefly captured by the Khmer Rouge, my father sent two of my older brothers to look for them. But not a single relative of ours was found. Instead, my brothers met one of my second uncles named Yin Bunleng, an officer in the Cambodian Marine Corps, who was brought into Kompong Cham City as part of the reinforcement troops. His unit was put in charge of liberating and securing the southern part of Kompong Cham City -- the commercial area which was heavily occupied by the Khmer Rouge.

Through my uncle’s account we learned that most of the people who lived in the areas captured by the Khmer Rouge were force-evacuated to the liberated zone where they (the Khmer Rouge) were in full control. Furthermore, we learned that the operation to liberate Kompong Cham City was some of the bloodiest fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the government soldiers. Most of the fighting involved house to house combat. According to my uncle, both sides suffered heavy casualties, especially during the fight to liberate the southern part of Kompong Cham City, where a lot of the Khmer Rouge guerillas barricaded themselves in buildings and fought to the death. He recalled that many Khmer Rouge combatants he encountered were suicidal. They rarely surrendered. Thus, in order to recapture a building or villa which was occupied by the Khmer Rouge, a commando-styled raid was needed to dislodge them. Sometimes, marines were sent into the building to conduct room to room combat. This was probably the most horrifying combat story I had ever heard. But the carnage didn’t stop there. On one occasion we learned that several government soldiers were wounded by a suicidal Khmer Rouge who wrapped himself with explosives and pretended to be surrendering by raising his hands and ran toward a group of marines. As he came within striking range, he put his hands around his waist and blew himself into pieces taking down with him a number of unsuspecting marines. After spending a few hours sharing his combat story with us, my uncle returned to his station.

For the next few days, we spent most of our time lingering in downtown Kompong Cham because we were undecided about going back to live in our old neighborhood. In the meantime, my parents’ friends, the couple whose house we sought refuge during the Khmer Rouge’s attack, were considering moving to Phnom Penh. They wanted to rent us the second floor of their house while keeping the first floor for their relatives to live in. After narrowly escaping the Khmer Rouge capture, my parents found the offer a suitable idea, and we decided to make the middle of downtown Kompong Cham our new home.
(To be continued)