Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The Quest for Redemption (Cont.)
As darkness fell upon us, we set off toward the border camp quietly. We walked for a few hours before coming to a stop at one point in a forested area. The soldiers told us to sit down in a single line when they made their round to collect an escorting fee from us, one by one. As a gesture of respect or pity to Om Ok, they did not take a fee from him. After collecting all the fees from us and dividing those fees among themselves, the soldiers took us further into a thick forest. We walked for the rest of the night without stopping. By about four o’clock in the morning the soldiers brought us to a small clearing and told us that we had come to the border crossing area. To avoid running into the rebel forces, the three soldiers could not take us any further. Therefore, we were left to cross the border alone. With some of the seasoned smugglers leading the way, we trekked ahead while it was still dark. About half an hour later, we reached a freshly dug canal marking the Cambodian border. As we walked up the canal’s bank, we saw a lot of trenches dug beside it. Immediately, someone realized that we had walked into a Vietnamese soldier’s outpost. So we made a hasty retreat into the forests. Apparently, that outpost was not guarded at night. It was probably being used during the daytime only. We were also sort of lucky that no one had stepped on a landmine, as that kind of outpost usually had landmines planted around it.

After making a detour, our group finally found a crossing point where we had to wade through knee-deep water to make our way across the canal. While crossing the canal, I took a quick look at it and imagined that it must have been dug by the K-5 workforces as there was no way to bring excavating machines into those dense, isolated jungle areas. It was early in the morning. Hence, we made our way across the canal quickly to avoid being spotted by soldiers from all sides and bandits alike. After we crossed the canal, we walked right into a group of rebel soldiers, the non-communist forces, as they called themselves, who had set up camp under a thick jungle canopy. The rebel soldiers stopped us for inspection lest we carried any contraband, a pretext to extort money from those who might have valuable goods such as snake skins to trade with their Thai counterparts. During their searches, one of the soldiers found sausages in my bag and asked if he could have a couple of links to cook for breakfast. I agreed to his request and tried to break a few sausage links for him but was unable to break it as I needed a knife to do so. Without giving it much thought, I gave all the sausages, about 10 links in all, to the soldier, which he accepted with delight. Once the inspection was finished, the rebel soldiers let us go on our way. While we were walking away from the soldiers, our guide walked next to me and whispered in my ear that I should not give things to those rebel soldiers readily. My generosity could make them think that I was not a real smuggler. To avoid the suspicion, he suggested that I blend in with the smugglers and walk ahead toward Nong Chan camp while he and Om Ok followed behind, for Om Ok was too slow to keep up.

Before reaching Nong Chan camp, I had to go through a couple more of the rebel checkpoints. The last checkpoint, which was located just outside the camp’s perimeter, was reputably the toughest one to get through as rebel soldiers who guarded that checkpoint would conduct a thorough inspection and imposed heavy taxes on smuggled goods which they deemed valuable. They even built holding places (prisons) to keep escapees from Cambodia until significant cash payment was made before allowing them to enter the camp. After learning what were going on at each of these checkpoints from a fellow smuggler, I began to realize that the conceptual definition between rebel or liberation forces and bandits was a blurred line. Practically, it was a matter of survival. In these jungle no man’s land, the rebel forces needed material and monetary resources to survive. To this end, they had to find ways to acquire material and monetary resources from those who traveled through their area of influences as much as possible to sustain their existence, which was not easy given the fact that the smugglers and escapees who were the main sources of their incomes also had tricks of their own.

Just as we were approaching the last rebel checkpoint, one of the smugglers told everyone that he knew a back route which could bring us into the camp without having to go through the checkpoint. In unison, everyone agreed to follow him. Thus, I, too, had to follow him. We walked in the forest for about ten minutes and, voila, a refugee camp was right in front of us. There were no fences or any kinds of obstacle to prevent us from entering the camp. We just walked right in without attracting even the slightest attention from the camp’s residents. It was normal, I guessed, for people to go in and out of the camp at will.

As soon as we entered the camp, everyone went separate way to go to wherever his or her lodging was. Consequently, I was left to fend for myself. After a few minutes of wandering aimlessly, I stumbled upon a small market in the middle of the camp. To avoid being seen as a new comer and helpless person, who could be taken advantage of by bad people, I decided to ask a man, whose hut located at the far end of the market, if I could leave my bag of smuggled goods with him for a while as I was trying to locate my relatives. The man agreed to let me leave my bag in his hut. So without the burden of my smuggled goods, I blended in with the camp’s residents and walked about to try to find Vuthda, Noeun, and their mother, Om Kin. By sheer luck, after turning a couple of corners, I ran right into Vuthda and his mother sitting under a small hut without any walls around it. I was so relieved to see them.

After going through all of those perilous attempts, we finally made it to a refugee camp. The date was January 27, 1985, exactly one month after I left home. Vuthda asked me if I saw his brother, Noeun, who went to look for us at the camp’s entrance. I told him that I was following a small band of smugglers who entered the camp through a back road. Just as we were talking about them, Noeun, Om Ok, and our guide had also arrived. We all finally breathed a sigh of relief, at least for the time being.

After Om Ok’s arrival, I asked Vuthda to accompany me to retrieve my bag of smuggled goods, which was nothing but cheap Cambodian tobacco. Using the market as guidance, I eventually located the hut and the man with whom I left my bag of goods. I thanked him for safeguarding my bag and asked him if he would like some tobacco for smoking because I didn’t have anything else beside tobacco in my bag. The man politely declined my offer. We returned to our hut and, afterward, I untied my bag to take all the tobacco out to give to Om Ok. As soon as I opened my bag, I realized that a significant amount of tobacco was missing which would explain why the man with whom I left my bag declined to accept my gratitude. It appeared that he had already appropriated some tobacco out of my bag before hand. Well, the theft was trivial anyway. Thus, I kept my mouth shut and pretended that nothing happened.

(To be continued)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

ចំណីខួរក្បាល (ប្រចាំសប្តាហ៍)

មានពាក្យអង់គ្លេសមួយឃ្លាពោលថា៖ Putting the horse before the
cart. (ទឹមសេះបញ្ច្រាសរទេះ) ។ ពាក្យនេះ បើយើងយកមកវែកញែក
អត្ថន័យឲ្យបានទូលំទូលាយបន្តិចនោះ គឺមានន័យថា៖ ធ្វើកិច្ចការ
បានឡើយ ។ បើនិយាយជាភាសាសាមញ្ញគឺមានន័យថា៖ ធ្វើកិច្ច
ការគ្មានដឹងទិសតំបន់ ។
អ្វីដែលយើងចង់លើកយកមកវិភាគនៅទីនេះ គឺច្បាប់ប្រឆាំងនឹង
អំពើពុករលួយនៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ។ ច្បាប់នេះ ត្រូវបានស្ថាប័ន
រយៈ ១០ ឆ្នាំ ទើបបង្កើតចេញជារូបរាង ។ ប៉ុន្តែ អ្វីដែលគួរឲ្យសោក
ស្តាយនោះ គឺថា បន្ទាប់ពីអ្នកព្រាងច្បាប់ដ៏កំពូលៗរបស់ប្រទេស
កម្ពុជាចំណាយពេលអស់រយៈ១០ឆ្នាំ ដើម្បីបង្កើតច្បាប់បំបាត់អំពើ
ពុករលួយ សមិទ្ធផលដែលទទួលបាន គឺត្រឹមតែ "ទឹមសេះបញ្ច្រាស
រទេះ" តែប៉ុណ្ណោះ ។ មូលហេតុដែលយើងហ៊ានចាត់ទុកច្បាប់
ប្រឆាំងនឹងអំពើពុករលួយនៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ថាជាច្បាប់មួយ
ដែលគ្មានអានុភាព ឬច្បាប់អត់បានការ គឺផ្អែកលើមាត្រាដ៏សំខាន់
មួយដែលចែងថា៖ អ្នកសូកនិងអ្នកទទួលសំណូក គឺត្រូវមាន
ទោសដូចគ្នា ។ នេះគឺជាចំណុចខ្សោយដ៏ធំបំផុតសម្រាប់ការ
ប្រយុទ្ធប្រឆាំងនឹងអំពើពុករលួយ ព្រោះថាវានៅតែបន្តផ្តល់ឱកាស
ឡើយ ។ ទាំងអ្នកសូក ទាំងអ្នកទទួលសំណូក គ្មានអ្នកណាមួយ
ចង់មានទោសជាប់គុកទេ ។ ដូច្នេះ សូមសួរថា៖ តើមាននរណា
ម្នាក់ដែលឆ្កួតគ្រប់គ្រាន់ នឹងលើកយកទង្វើខុសច្បាប់របស់ខ្លួន
មកលាតត្រដាងប្រាប់គេឯង ដើម្បីឲ្យអាជ្ញាធរ និងសាធារណជន
ផ្តន្ទាទោសនោះ ? គ្មានទេ!!
បើចង់បំបាត់អំពើពុករលួយនៅក្នុងសង្គមខ្មែរនោះ គឺវាងាយ
ស្រួលជាងបកចេកទៅទៀត ។ រវាងទំនាក់ទំនងសាធារណៈ
និងថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំនៅលើលោកនេះ គ្មាននរណាម្នាក់ស្ម័គ្រចិត្ត យក
លុយទៅសូកប៉ាន់ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំ ដើម្បីបំពេញកិច្ចការអ្វីមួយនោះទេ ប្រសិនបើគេអាចធ្វើកិច្ចការនោះបាន ដោយសច្ចៈយុត្តិធម៌ និង
គ្មានឧបស័គ្គរារាំង ។ ដូច្នេះ គេគ្រាន់តែផ្តន្ទាទោសភាគីទទួល
សំណូកនិងធ្វើច្បាប់ការពារឬលើកទឹកចិត្តអ្នកសូក ឲ្យមករាយការ
ប្រាប់អាជ្ញាធរប្រឆាំងអំពើពុករលួយ ដើម្បីចាប់ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំអន្ធ
ពាលណាដែលទទួលសំណូកនោះ មកផ្តន្ទាទោសតាមច្បាប់ទៅ
គឺវាចប់រឿងទៅហើយ ។ សាក្សីដ៏ល្អបំផុត និងជាអ្នកដែលដឹងអំពី
អំពើពុករលួយពិស្តារជាងគេ គឺអ្នកដែលត្រូវបង្ខំចិត្តយកលុយទៅ
សូកប៉ាន់គេនេះឯង (យើងប្រើពាក្យ "បង្ខំចិត្ត" ព្រោះនៅលើលោក
នេះ គ្នាមនរណាម្នាក់ យកប្រាក់ឬក៏របស់មានតម្លៃទៅសូកគេដោយ
ស្ម័គ្រចិត្តនោះទេ) ។ ដូច្នេះ ការផ្តល់អភ័យឯកសិទ្ធិឲ្យអ្នកសូក ដែល
ភាគច្រើន ច្រើនតែជាជនរងគ្រោះនោះ វាជាយន្តការដ៏មានប្រសិទ្ធ
ភាពជាទីបំផុត ក្នុងការបំបាត់អំពើពុករលួយនៅក្នុងសង្គមខ្មែរ ។
ការផ្តន្ទាទោសតែអ្នកទទួលសំណូក និងការពារអ្នកសូក គឺមិនខុស
ពីផ្លែដាវដែលមានមុខពីរនោះទេ កាប់ខាងណាក៏មុតដែរ ។ ឯអំពើ
ពុករលួយ ដែលជាសត្រូវដ៏គួរឲ្យស្អប់ខ្ពើមនោះ វានឹងរលាយសាប
សូន្យដូចជាអំបិលត្រូវទឹកអញ្ចឹង ។ ចំណែករឿងស៊ុំគ្រលំគ្នារវាសហ
គ្រាសនិងសហគ្រាស វាជារឿងមួយផ្សេងដែលទាក់ទងទៅនឹង
ច្បាប់ពាណិជ្ជកម្ម ។ ឧទាហរណ៍ រដ្ឋអាចធ្វើច្បាប់ប្រឆាំងនឹងការស៊ុំ
គ្រលំគ្នារកស៊ីផ្តាច់មុខ Antitrust Law.
នាក់ ។ ស្ថិតនៅក្រោមច្បាប់ប្រឆាំងនឹងអំពើពុករលួយរបស់
ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាសព្វថ្ងៃនេះ មនុស្សដែលជាអ្នករងគ្រោះ(អ្នកសូក)
ដោយសារអំពើពុករលួយ មិនត្រឹមតែគ្មានមធ្យោបាយអ្វីនឹងកំចាត់
អំពើដ៏លាមកថោកទាបនេះទេ ថែមទាំងត្រូវរស់នៅក្រោមអំពើ
អយុត្តិធម៌នេះ អស់មួយជីវិត ដរាបណាច្បាប់ប្រឆាំងនឹងអំពើពុក
រលួយរបស់កម្ពុជា ផ្តន្ទាទោសអ្នកសូកដូចជាអ្នកទទួលសំណូក
ដែរ ។ តើនរណាមួយស្ម័គ្រចិត្តទទួលរងគ្រោះពីរដងនោះ ? ត្រូវ
គេបង្ខំឬក៏គៀបយកលុយហើយ និងត្រូវមានទោសទៅជាប់គុកជា
មួយនឹងគេដោយសារតែច្បាប់ឆ្កួតលេលានេះទៀត ! ។ មានតែ
មនុស្សវិកលចរិតទេ ដែលអាចធ្វើបែបនេះទៅកើត ។ មនុស្ស
ដែលមានសតិត្រឹមត្រូវ ដាច់ខាតគឺគេមិនធ្វើទេ ។ ដូច្នេះ អំពើពុក
រលួយនៅក្នុងសង្គមខ្មែរ គឺគ្មានថ្ងៃនឹងរលត់រលាយទៅបានឡើយ
ដរាបណាអាជ្ញាធរ និងអ្នកបង្កើតច្បាប់នៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា នៅតែ
បន្តអនុវត្ត និងបង្កើតច្បាប់ដែលគ្មានអានុភាពរបៀបនេះតទៅទៀត ​៕

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Cambodian Royal Chronicle

2) The Lovek Period

57) King Baramindraraja
(1555--1567, Capital: Lovek)
King Baramindraraja was the son of King Ang Chan I. Three years before his father’s death, he was put in charge of the court on behalf of his father until 1555 when he was formally received coronation to become king.
Early in his reign around 1557, the Burmese (Myanmar) waged war against the Siamese. Taking this opportunity, King Baramindraraja sent an army to invade Siam and recaptured some of the former Khmer provinces lost to Siam. He appointed Khmer military governors to rule those provinces and repatriated some 70,000 Khmers back to Cambodia.
In 1560, King Baramindraraja also captured Laos, took thousands of Laotians as prisoners, and settled them in the districts of Baray, Kompong Thom, and Cheung Prey, Kompong Cham.
Around 1562, the Siamese sent an army to fight with the Khmer soldiers who were occupying their provinces in an effort to expel them. But King Baramindraraja reinforced his army and the fighting dragged on for years. Finally, the two sides agreed to cease hostilities toward each other and sign a mutual relationship treaty in 1567. King Baramindraraja reigned for 12 years. He died at the age of 52 in 1567, after signing the treaty with Siam.

58) Prince Satha I
(1567--1575, Capital: Lovek)
Prince Satha I was the oldest son of King Baramindraraja. He succeeded the throne in 1567 at the age of 25 years old. He appointed his brother named Sri Suryopor, who was 19, as first heir apparent (Moha Uparaja). At the time, Burma once again waged war with Siam and the king of Siam asked the Khmer to send an army to help fight against the Burmese. Prince Satha I ordered his brother, Prince Sri Suryopor, to lead an army to help Siam. After successfully defeating the Burmese, the king of Siam did not appreciate the help from the Khmer court and acted indifferently toward Prince Sri Suryopor. This behavior triggered outrages in the Khmer court.
Before long, the Burmese waged war with Siam, again. Seeing good opportunity, Prince Satha I sent an army to invade and capture some of the Siamese Eastern provinces and repatriated a lot of Khmer citizens back to Cambodia.
Prince Satha I reigned for 8 years, then he decided to abdicate in favor of his oldest son named Jayajetha. He also appointed his second son named Ponhea Ton as heir apparent along with his younger bother, Prince Sri Suryopor.

59) King Jayajetha I [a.k.a. Jayajesda]
(1575--1593, Capital: Lovek)
King Jayajetha I was the oldest son of Prince Satha I. He succeeded the throne in 1575 at the age of 10 years old. His succession to the throne caused great concern and anger among court officials and ordinary people alike because of his extreme youth and inexperience. There were tumults all over the country. Seeing this chaos, Siam sent an army to capture Lovek. However, the Siamese was defeated and had to retreat.
In 1593, the Siamese invaded Cambodia, again. This time, they succeeded in capturing Lovek. The King and his father, Prince Satha I, escaped to Stung Treng province, and both of them died there in 1594. Prince Sri Suryopor and many royal family members were captured by the Siamese who took them, along with 90,000 other people, as prisoners to Siam. The Siamese had destroyed and burned Cambodia into rubbles, which left the Khmer kingdom to face an ominous crisis in the aftermath.

60) King Reamia Cheung Prey
(1594--1596, Capital: Lovek)
After subduing the Khmers and achieving victory over Lovek in 1593, the Siamese put an occupying army to rule Cambodia. During that period, a royal prince named Reamia Cheung Prey escaped from Lovek and went into hiding and mobilizing an army in remote areas of the kingdom. One year later in 1594, he led his army to fight against the Siamese occupying forces. He succeeded in dislodging the Siamese from Cambodia and ascended the throne in that same year.
Later on, two Spaniard adventurers named Diego de Veloso and Blas Ruiz had led an army from the Philippines to invade Cambodia. These two European mercenaries killed King Reamia Cheung Prey in 1596. Afterward, they ascended Prince Ponhea Ton, who was the son of Prince Satha I, to the Cambodian throne.

61) Prince Borumaraja I [a.k.a. Ponhea Ton]
(1596--1597, Capital: Lovek]
Prince Borumaraja I succeeded the throne in 1596 at the age of 18. He was the second son of Prince Satha I.
In recognition of de Veloso’s and Ruiz’s kindness for offering him to rule Cambodia, Prince Borumaraja I appointed both of them as warlord governors of Thbong Khmom (present-day Kompong Cham province) and Trang (present-day Takeo province), respectively. The appointment of these foreigners, who looked nothing like local people, caused outrages among the population. The Cham minorities in Thbong Khmom along with the rest of the population revolted and civil unrest ensued. De Veloso was defeated and killed in the battle. As for Ruiz who led an army to help de Veloso was also defeated and killed. Finally, Prince Borumaraja I, who led an army in an attempt to put down the revolt, was also defeated and killed in 1597.

62) Prince Borumaraja II [a.k.a. Ponhea An]
(1597--1599, Capital: Lovek)
Prince Borumaraja II was the younger brother of Princes Satha I and Sri Suryopor. He succeeded the throne in 1597 following the death of his nephew, Prince Borumaraja I, and after, of course, suppressing the revolt which caused the death of Prince Borumaraja I.
In 1599, another group of rebels from Takeo village (now part of Capital Phnom Penh) had challenged the throne. The rebel leader, who declared himself king known as Sdach Keo Preah Phleung, led an army to battle with Prince Borumaraja II. At that time, Prince Borumaraja II had secretly had an affair with a wife of an army officer named Ponhea Thei. After Ponhea Thei had known of the affair, he was furious and joined Sdach Keo Preah Phleung to wage war against Prince Borumaraja II. Prince Borumaraja II was defeated and killed in the fighting in 1599.

63) Prince Ponhea Yom
(1599--1600, Capital: Srey Santhor)
Prince Ponhea Yom was another son of Prince Satha I with a Laotian mother. He succeeded the throne in 1599 after having suppressed the rebellion, which took the life of Prince Borumaraja II. However, Prince Ponhea Yom was more a playboy than a ruler. He was more concerned with his personal indiscretion than with the well being of his subjects. Thus, his court officials lost confidence in him, and they asked Prince Sri Suryopor, who was brought to Siam earlier, to return to take the throne.
Prince Ponhea Yom escaped and tried to recruit people to revolt against Prince Sri Suryopor. He died in the struggle.

64) King Sri Suryopor
(1600--1618, Capital: Lovek)
King Sri Suryopor was the second son of King Baraminthraraja and the younger brother of Prince Satha I. When the Siamese overran the Khmer fortress at Lovek in 1593, they took him as captive to Siam and kept him there for a period of four successions in the Khmer throne.
At the onset of his reign, Cambodia was in an awful state of anarchy because of the Sdach Keo Preah Phleung Rebellion and Prince Ponhea Yom’s revolt. However, King Sri Suryopor had successfully suppressed the unrest. During this chaotic period, Siam took the opportunity to invade Cambodia, again. King Sri Suryopor battled the Siamese until they were defeated and withdrawn from Cambodia.
After 18 years of ruling, King Sri Suryopor was tired and ready to retire. He abdicated the throne in 1618 in favor of his son named Jayajetha II. One year later in 1619, he died at the age of 64.
(To be continued)

Monday, April 22, 2013


The Quest for Redemption (Cont.)
We departed for Battambang province in early January, 1985 on board an old bus. Because of too many potholes on the road, the trip took us all day long. After arriving in Battambang City at about 5 o’clock in the evening, Odom took us to a safe house where we would meet a man, presumably his uncle, who lived on the third floor. The next morning, we continued on our journey to the district of Serey Sauphorn (now the provincial center of Banteay Meanchey). During that leg of our journey, Vuthda and I were arrested by police who set up a checkpoint near Phum O Ta Ky. The police, rightly, suspected us of escaping to the border camps. I was so scared and thought of the worse consequence. But just as the police took us into their custody and ordered the transport truck on which we rode to go on its way, we saw Odom, who rode on a different truck, came to our rescue. Upon hearing Odom invoking his uncle’s name and telling them that we were his friends who were going to visit relatives in Serey Sauphorn, the police politely apologized and promised to send us on our way as soon as the next transport truck arrived. I was so relieved to learn that we would not be arrested and somewhat thankful to the dictatorial nature of a communist state where selected powerful individuals stood above the law.

After the debacle at Phum O Ta Ky, we took great precaution despite having a powerful man behind our back. Just before we reached Serey Sauphorn, Odom told the truck driver to drop us off in a village where another police checkpoint was set up near a highway and railroad crisscross. Odom seemed to know the area like the back of his hand. Within only a few minutes, he procured a horse-drawn carriage in which we would ride through the police checkpoint pretending to be local people going about their businesses. We rode that horse carriage all the way to Serey Sauphorn, which was located only several miles from that crisscross point.

Serey Sauphorn was a bustling smuggling town. It was the hub of both human and goods smuggling. From the town center to the border area the distance was only about 40 miles. Thus, after a lengthy, cross-country trip, we were finally near the end of our journey. But before we made our last move to complete our quest for redemption, we had to wait yet another period of time as it was January 7th, Victory Day, when the Khmer Rouge was toppled from power. To score political points, the Vietnamese soldiers used this commemorative date to launch attacks on the border camps and send their inhabitants scattering all over the jungles along the border. Unable to cross the border, we were forced to stay in Serey Sauphorn indefinitely to wait for the chaos to subside.

Towards the end of January, we received word from smugglers that new temporary camps had been set up along the border again. Before we could reach the border area, there was another police checkpoint, a tough one, located on the outskirt of Serey Sauphorn, which we had to cross. In a very elaborate scheme, Odom arranged for us to travel in groups of no more than two people. In the case of Vuthda and me, we had to travel alone pretending to be local merchants going to buy smuggled goods from the border area. Upon learning that I would be traveling across a notorious police checkpoint alone, I turned pale and started to have a panic attack. Odom took me aside, gave me a pep talk, found me two local merchants as companions, and a bicycle which I would use to ride to the border area. After making it across the police checkpoint, I traveled about 25 miles to reach a safe house in probably less than an hour. Fear seemed to give me the greatest motivation to reach the destination way ahead of my escorts.
We regrouped in a village called Nimith, a place where smugglers and human traffickers prepared for their perilous journey across the borderline. Odom came to see us one last time to ensure that we were in the good hands of experienced smugglers who would act as our guides to take us across the border. Because he brought us to the border area for almost free, Odom would not risk his life bringing us across the border himself. A major concern for him in traveling across the border area was that the bandits and rogue soldiers from both sides of the border, who ply their robbery trades along the borderline, did not discriminate between the weak and the powerful.

After spending a couple of days in Nimith, our guides told us that it was time to depart. We were divided into two groups. Om Kin and her two sons, Vuthda and Noeun, were under the helm of one guide, while Om Ok and I were led by another. Together, we joined a larger traveling group of about 50 people. The larger group was, in turn, led by three armed government soldiers who would escort us to the border crossing area for a fee, of course. Just before we departed, our guides told us to set aside a specific amount of money to give to the soldiers who escorted us.

At about seven o’clock in the evening, we set off on foot in a single file under the cover of darkness. Two of the soldiers led the way, while the third, with a B-40 grenade launcher, walked at the rear. In a strictly-enforced smuggling code of conduct, we all had to walk in complete silence. Thus, we had to stay close to our guides at all times as they would be the ones who showed us what to do when dealing with certain situations. After walking for several miles across the rice fields, we reached a forested area where the column came to a sudden stop. Because of the code of silence, information had to be passed in a whisper from the front to the rear as to what was happening. We learned that a small band of rogue Vietnamese soldiers were stopping the column to demand some payments. It was a dog eat dog world indeed. As the two Cambodian soldiers at the front negotiated with the Vietnamese soldiers, the one at the rear was concerned that his comrades at the front might have been neutralized. So he launched a B-40 grenade at a bush nearby to send a message to the Vietnamese soldiers that there was more firepower at the rear. Just as the B-40 grenade exploded, all hell broke loose. We all ran in different directions. In a panic, Om Ok and I, along with our guide, ran all the way back to the village. Since it was around midnight, we decided to stay in the rice field for the rest of the night and entered the village at predawn hours.

In the commotion, our two groups were separated from each another. However, by evening of the next day, the guide who was in charge of overseeing Om Kin and her sons, Noeun and Vuthda, returned to the village. He informed us that they all made it across the border safely and now stayed at a camp called Nong Chan. Upon learning of our colleague’s safe journey, we all felt relieved. However, anxiety still loomed over us as we pondered about our own trip toward the camp of redemption, or regret, depending on the situation we would be in while being there.

Om Ok and I stayed in Phum Nimith for a couple more days waiting for a suitable opportunity to cross the border. While we were waiting, our guide suggested that I should disguise myself as a trader going to sell and buy goods from the other side of the border so that the rebel soldiers wouldn’t give me a hard time crossing their turf. (For those readers who might wonder why I needed to disguise myself as a trader, it stands to reason that the rebel soldiers usually stopped people who were going to the camp to escape from Cambodia, to extort money from them. As for traders/smugglers, they were charged only a nominal fee). So to minimize the chance of being held for extortion, I needed to buy some Cambodian goods to take along with me to sell to traders on the other side of the border. The problem was that I didn’t have any money to buy anything. While we were pondering about what to do, Om Ok suggested that I take his money and used it to buy Cambodian tobacco, a kind of strong, pungent smelling product used by many ordinary Cambodian smokers, especially among those who spent time in wooded areas, as the smoke from this smelly tobacco acted as repellent to mosquitoes and insects alike. Besides, the tobacco could probably be used to curry favor among the rebel soldiers, who might give us some difficulty while crossing their turf. It was a brilliant idea. So with Om Ok’s money, I went to buy a small sack of tobacco from a local merchant along with some other provisions a cross-border trader might need.

After I had got my merchandise and transformed myself into a cross-border smuggler, our guide told us that the time had arrived for our departure. Once again, just before sunset, we went to a meeting place where a dozen or so people, most of them smugglers, were gathering. There were also three armed soldiers who would act as our escorts. Upon seeing Om Ok, the only elder among us, one of the soldiers came over to talk to him. The soldier asked Om Ok where he was from, as it was obvious where he was going. Om Ok told him that he was from Kompong Cham province. In a rather excited voice, the soldier told Om Ok that he, too, was from Kompong Cham province. At that instance, the two of them found a kindred spirit with each other. The soldier assured Om Ok that he knew the safest jungle route to go to Nong Chan camp and that everyone shouldn’t worry too much about the trip. It was a rather bold declaration by the soldier, but whatever doubt I had, I had to keep quiet, for it was prudent to stick to the code of silence.

(To be continued)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

ចំណីខួរក្បាល (ប្រចាំសប្តាហ៍)

ប្រទេសខ្មែរមិនជឿនលឿន ហេតុអ្វី ?
ទម្លាប់ដ៏អាក្រក់មួយរបស់អ្នកដឹកនាំផ្តាច់ការ គឺការធ្វើទុក្ខបុកម្នេញ
គំនិតរបស់ខ្លួន ។ ជាលទ្ធផល ការប្រើនយោបាយគៀបសង្កត់និង
បំបិទសិទ្ធិសេរីភាពរបស់ពលរដ្ឋ ក្នុងការទិតៀនឬក៏រិះគន់អ្នកដឹកនាំ
រដ្ឋដើម្បីកែតម្រូវកំហុសនានា គឺត្រូវបានផ្តល់មកវិញនូវការបាត់បង់
ធនធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណដ៏ច្រើនលើសលុប ។ មូលហេតុដែល
យើងហ៊ានអះអាងដូច្នេះ គឺផ្អែកលើកត្តាពីរយ៉ាង ៖ ទីមួយ អ្នក
ខុស មិនហ៊ានហាមាត់រិះគន់កែតម្រូវទេ ព្រោះមិនចង់ប្រឈមនឹង
ការធ្វើទុក្ខបុកម្នេញពីសំណាក់ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំ ។ ទីពីរ អ្នកដែលហ៊ាន
មានចរិតផ្តាច់ការ ភាគច្រើន ច្រើនតែត្រូវបានគេចាប់ដាក់គុក
ឬក៏និរទេសខ្លួន ។
នៅក្នុងប្រទេសជឿនលឿនមួយចំនួន ដូចជា សហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក
អាល្លឺម៉ង់ និង ហូឡង់ ជាដើម ។ល។ យើងសង្កេតឃើញថា
នយោបាយបើកទ្វារទទួលយកអ្នកប្រាជ្ញរបស់ប្រទេសដទៃ ដែល
ត្រូវបានគេធ្វើទុក្ខបុកម្នេញ គឺជាទំនៀមទម្លាប់មួយ ដែលកើតមាន
ជាច្រើនសតវត្សមកហើយ ។ ដោយឡែក នៅសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក គេ
មិនត្រឹមតែទទួលមនុស្សដែលមានទេពកោសល្យ​ប៉ុណ្ណោះទេ សូម្បី
តែមនុស្សសាមញ្ញ ក៏គេស្វាគមន៍ឲ្យចូលមករស់នៅនិងក្លាយទៅជា
ពលរដ្ឋរបស់គេផងដែរ ។
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
ខាងលើនេះជាផ្នែកមួយនៃកំណាព្យរបស់អ្នកស្រី អេម៉ា ឡាហ្សា
រុស  ដែលត្រូវបានគេយកមកចារនៅលើអាសនៈរបស់បដិមាករ
នារីសេរីភាព (Ms. Liberty) ស្ថិតនៅលើកោះ អេលីស ក្បែរទីក្រុង
ញូវយ៉ក ។ ខ្លឹមសារសង្ខេបនៃកំណាព្យនេះ គឺមានន័យថា "សហ
រដ្ឋអាមេរិក ស្ម័គ្រយកអាសាមនុស្សទាំងឡាយណាដែលស្រេក
ឃ្លានសេរីភាព" ។
ការប្រមូលផ្តុំមនុស្ស ដែលមានដើមកំណើតនិងកោសល្យចម្រុះ
ទៅដោយធនធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណ ដ៏ច្រើនលើសលុប ។ ជាការ
ពិតណាស់ សម្រាប់ការអភិវឌ្ឃន៍ប្រទេសនិមួយៗ គ្មានធនធានអ្វី
ប្រសើរជាងធនធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណនោះទេ ។ បើយើងប្រៀប
ធៀបធនធានធម្មជាតិដែលសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកមាន ទៅនិងប្រទេស
ដទៃ យើងឃើញថាសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកមិនសូវសម្បូរធនធានធម្មជាតិ
ទេ ។ ប៉ុន្តែ អ្វីដែលសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកសម្បូរនោះ គឺធនធានគំនិត
បញ្ញាញាណនេះឯង ។ ធនធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណ គឺជាកត្តាចម្បង
បំផុត ដែលជម្រុញឲ្យសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកក្លាយទៅជាប្រទេសមហា
អំណាចទាំងផ្នែកបច្ចេកវិជ្ជា និងទាំងផ្នែកសេដ្ឋកិច្ច ។
ការស្វែងរកនិងរក្សាទុកពលរដ្ឋដែលមានទេពកោលស្យ គឺជា
គត ចាំបាច់ត្រូវតែត្រិះរិះឲ្យបានល្អិតល្អន់ និងអនុវត្តជាបន្ទាន់ ប្រ
ដទៃ ។ នៅក្នុងរយៈពេលជាង៤០ ឆ្នាំ កន្លងមកនេះ មេដឹកនាំខ្មែរ
ហិនហោចអស់ទៅហើយ ។ នៅក្នុងសម័យពួកកុម្មុយនីស្តគ្រប់
គ្រងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ពួកមេដឹកនាំកម្លៅមួយចំនួន មិនត្រឹមតែ
ថាជាខ្មាំងប៉ុណ្ណោះទេ សូម្បីតែកូនសិស្ស និស្សិត និងប្រព័ន្ធអប់រំ
ក៏ពួកគេសម្លាប់និងបំផ្លិចបំផ្លាញចោល យ៉ាងចាស់ដៃផងដែរ ។
ធនធានគំនិតនិងបញ្ញាញាណ ដែលនៅសេសសល់ក្នុងស្រុកខ្មែរ
សព្វថ្ងៃ គឺវាតិចតួចស្តួចស្តើងពេកណាស់ ។ យើងមិនចាំបាច់ទៅ
ធ្វើជំរឿនឬក៏ស្រង់ស្ថិតិនៅក្នុងស្រុកខ្មែរ ដើម្បីស្វែងយល់ថាតើ
ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាមានធនធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណកំរិតណានោះទេ គ្រាន់តែមើលស្ថិតិសេដ្ឋកិច្ចនិងប្រៀបធៀបចំណាត់ថ្នាក់ប្រចាំឆ្នាំ
របស់ប្រទេសនិមួយៗ នៅក្នុងពិភពលោកទៅ ក៏អាចស្វែងយល់
បានដែរ ។ មូលហេតុដែលប្រទេសកម្ពុជា មានចំណាត់ថ្នាក់ទាប និងស្ថិតនៅក្នុងចំណោមប្រទេសដែលក្រីក្រជាងគេបំផុតនោះ គឺដោយសារតែខ្សត់ធន់ធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណនេះឯង ។
ដំណោះស្រាយចំពោះបញ្ហាខ្សត់ខ្សោយនេះ គឺគ្មានអ្វីពិបាកទេ ។
កត្តាចម្បង គឺមេដឹកនាំខ្មែរគ្រប់រូបត្រូវមានឆន្ទៈមោះមុតក្នុងការ
ស្វែងរកធនធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណ ។ មធ្យោបាយ គឺមានពីរយ៉ាង ។
ទីមួយ គេអាចសាងសង់ហេដ្ឋារចនាសម្ព័ន្ធ ឬក៏វិទ្យាស្ថានផ្សេងៗ
រួចហើយ អញ្ជើញឬក៏ជួលអ្នកឯកទេសមកពីគ្រប់មជ្ឈដ្ឋានមកធ្វើ
ការនៅក្នុងស្រុកគេ ដូចជាប្រទេស សិង្ហបូរី ដែលកំពុងតែអនុវត្ត
យ៉ាងសស្រាក់សស្រាំនាពេលបច្ចុប្បន្ន ។ រីឯមធ្យោបាយទីពីរ គឺ
យើងអាចយកអារ្យប្រទេសនានា ដូចជា សហរដ្ឋអាមេរិក ហូឡង់
និង អាល្លឺម៉ង់ជាដើម ។ល។ មកធ្វើជាគំរូ ដោយទទួលស្វាគមន៍
យកគំនិត និងផ្តល់សិទ្ធិសេរីភាពពេញលេញដល់ពលរដ្ឋគ្រប់ៗរូប
ក្នុងការនិយាយរិះគន់វែកញែកកំហុសរបស់ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំរដ្ឋាភិបាល ។
សម្រាប់ប្រទេសក្រីក្រដូចកម្ពុជា មានតែជម្រើសទីពីរនេះទេ ដែល
អាចស្តារបញ្ញាខ្វះខាតធនធានគំនិតបញ្ញាញាណនេះបាន ។ ព្រោះ
រស់និងធ្វើកិច្ទការនៅក្នុងសង្គមរបស់យើង ដោយមិនចាំបាច់
ចំណាយប្រាក់កាក់អ្វីឡើយ គឺផ្តល់ឲ្យពួកគេត្រឹមតែសេរីភាពតែ
ប៉ុណ្ណោះ ។ សេរីភាពគឺជាវត្ថុមួយ ដែលងាយស្រួលក្នុងការបរិចាក
ជាទីបំផុត ។ អ្នកដឹកនាំប្រភេទណាក៏អាចធ្វីបានដែរ ឲ្យតែមាន
ឆន្ទៈ ។ ប៉ុន្តែ បើមេដឹកនាំខ្មែរនៅតែបន្ត ប៉ះដៃយកដៃ ប៉ះជើងយក
ជើង ពលរដ្ឋណាដែលហ៊ាននិយាយរិះគន់លាតត្រដាងកំហុស
ជាប្រចាំនោះ ប្រទេសខ្មែរច្បាស់ជាគ្មានវាសនានឹងរកធនធាន
គំនិតបញ្ញាញាណមកបំពេញសេចក្តីត្រូវការរបស់ខ្លួនបានឡើយ ។
ហើយពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរគ្រប់រូប ប្រហែលជាបានឃើញភាពជឿនលឿន
របស់ប្រទេសខ្លួនត្រឹមតែនៅក្នុងការយល់សប្តិតែប៉ុណ្ណោះ ។ រីឯ
ធាតុពិតវិញ គឺយើងស្ថិតនៅក្នុងចំណោមប្រទេសក្រីក្របំផុតជា
ប្រចាំ ។ វាជារឿងមួយគួរឲ្យសង្វេកណាស់ ដែលប្រទេសខ្មែរមិន
ជឿនលឿន ដោយសារតែអ្នកដឹកនាំរដ្ឋខ្វះទស្សនវិស័យ ជាពិ
សេសគឺការឆ្កួតវង្វេងនឹងអំណាច និងលទ្ធិផ្តាច់ការ ដែលជាកត្តា
នាំទៅរកការបរាជ័យនៃភាពថ្កុំថ្កើង ៕

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Cambodian Royal Chronicle

1) The Basan-Chatomuk Period

50) King Ponhea Yat
(1421--1462, Capital: Angkor, Basan, & Chatomuk)
King Ponhea Yat was the son of King Sri Suryovong II. After expelling the Siamese from Angkor in 1421, he ascended the throne and stay at Angkor for about 5 years. He then realized that the Capital and his Palace were too close to the border of Siam. Therefore, he decided to move the Capital from Angkor to Basan in present-day Srey Santhor district, Kandal province. After one year, Basan was flooded. Thus, King Ponhea Yat once again moved his Capital from Basan to Chatomuk (Phnom Penh).
King Ponhea Yat informally ruled Cambodia for 12 years before he received formal coronation with a new name known as Preah Borumarajathiraja Reamia Thibadey. In order to ensure peace and stability in the kingdom, King Ponhea Yat sent an envoy with some tributes to China to establish relationship with the Chinese Emperor.

51) Prince Nearaya Reamia1 Thibadey
(1462--1467, Capital: Chatomuk)
Prince Nearaya Reamia Thibadey was the eldest son of King Ponhea Yat. He succeeded the throne in 1462. Prince Nearaya Reamia Thibadey reigned for only 5 years. He died in 1467 and left behind a son named Sri Suryotey.

52) Prince Sri Raja
(1467--1474, Capital: Amaraborey)
Prince Sri Raja was a younger brother of Prince Nearaya Reamia Thibadey. He succeeded the throne in 1467 when he was 19 years old. After succeeding the throne for one year, his nephew, the son of Prince Nearaya Reamia Thibadey named Sri Suryotey, challenged him for the throne. At the same time, the Siamese sent an army to invade the western provinces of Cambodia including Angkor. Facing with a dilemma of confronting enemies in two fronts, Prince Sri Raja appointed his younger brother, Prince Dhamaraja, to fight against his nephew’s forces while he was leading an army to repel the Siamese invasion in the western provinces.
After successfully pushed the Siamese army back into Siam, Prince Sri Raja return to his throne only to find out that his brother, Prince Dhamaraja, was unwilling to let him ascend the throne. Thus, Cambodia, at this point, was divided into three separate fiefdoms with the three princes as rulers. Prince Sri Raja stayed at Amaraborey; Prince Dhamaraja stayed at Chatomuk; and Prince Sri Suryotey stayed at Srey Santhor. However, this three-way arrangement lasted for only 3 years. Prince Dhamaraja asked Siam to help him consolidate his power by helping eliminate the two rival princes. The Siamese agreed and sent an army to help Prince Dhamaraja. After succeeding in capturing both Princes Sri Raja and Sri Suryotey, the Siamese took the two princes to Siam and left Prince Dhamaraja to rule Cambodia alone.
Prince Dhamaraja ascended to the Khmer throne in 1471 and became king until 1498. During this last part of his rule, King Dhamaraja built a monument at Mount Santuk in Kompong Thom province. He died in 1498.

53) Prince Sri Suryotey
(See Prince Sri Raja)

54) Prince Dhamaraja
(See Prince Sri Raja)

55) King Sri Sokunthbot
(1498--1505, Capital: Chatomuk & Basan)
King Sri Sokunthbot was the oldest son of King Dhamaraja. He succeeded the throne in 1498 following the death of his father. After the succession, King Sri Sokunthbot made Basan his Capital and left his brother named Ang Chan to stay at Chatomuk.
During his reign, a rebellion known as Neay Kon Rebellion took place. Neay Kon was a trusted adviser to King Sri Sokunthbot. He betrayed the King and persuaded the people to support his revolt against the king. Neay Kon succeeded in his revolt. After killing King Sri Sokunthbot, he proclaimed himself king and rule Cambodia for 10 years from 1505 to 1515 with the name Luong Preah Sdach Kon (His Majesty Lord Kon). In a sense, Luong Preah Sdach Kon was like the Cromwell king of England.

56) King Ang Chan I
(1515--1555, Capital: Chatomuk & Lovek)
King Ang Chan I was the son of King Dhamaraja and a younger brother of King Sri Sokunthbot. During the Neay Kon Rebellion, he (Ang Chan I) was staying in Siam. After learning of his brother’s death at the hand of Neay Kon, he returned to Cambodia and wage war against Luong Preah Sdach Kon. He defeated and killed Sdach Kon at the citadel of Srolob Pichey (present-day Thbong Khmom district, Kompong Cham province) and succeeded the throne in 1515.
During his reign, the Siamese invaded Cambodia twice: one in 1528 and the other in 1533. Both times, the Siamese were defeated and pushed back to their country. In 1528, after the first Siamese invasion, King Ang Chan I moved the Capital from Chatomuk to Lovek. King Ang Chan I practiced Buddhism and was very compassionate toward poor people. He built many temples and hospitals. He was also a very courageous and powerful leader. He reigned for 40 years. He died in 1555 and left behind good reputation.
(To be continued)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


The Quest for Redemption

After the Mekong River crested, it began to gradually recede from the overflowed banks. Thus, we once again started to grow new crops for the dry, summer season, which consisted mostly of vegetables such as cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and all kind of squashes. Besides growing vegetable crops, the summer season was also a time when the government came to request people to donate their labor to help combat the insurgencies. The campaign was in the form of clearing forests where insurgent activities were rampant. And the code name of it was Kor Bram or K-5 in English. In the summer of 1984, I had the misfortune of going on a K-5 campaign once for about a month clearing forests in the district of Dombe, which was located about 45 miles northeast of Phum Chi Ro. It was a relatively safe place because Dombe was not a strong safe haven for the insurgent groups. For those who were sent to the western region of the country along the Thai-Cambodian border, which was an active war zone, many people lost their lives to landmines and diseases.

By late summer of 1984, my brother, Hong, came to visit us for the first time. He brought us three sacks of milled rice, about 100 kilograms in all, and some fine clothes for me. He also brought me a small Panasonic cassette player, which was the first luxury item I had ever possessed in life. Hong spent about three weeks with us before returning home, as he had to go back to work at his government post in Kompong Thom province.

After almost six year of hard work rebuilding our lives, living conditions for us had improved markedly. However, the fear of being conscripted to join the Cambodian armed forces or going on a K-5 campaign along the Thai-Cambodian border remained a constant threat for me. As a young man who did not attend school, I would be first in line when the government came to look for new recruits. Hence, personal security and freedom for me remained uncertain throughout those six years of post liberation from the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.

The break from uncertainty and anxiety came one day in late 1984. A friend of mine named Vuthda, who was also remotely related to me through marriage on my father’s side (Vuthda’s mother, Om Kin, was the younger sister of a man named Ok, who married to my father’s older sister), invited me to attend a Buddhist ceremony at his home to commemorate the anniversary of his father’s death. At the ceremony, I met Vuthda’s older brother, Noeun, who was living in one of the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. Noeun told me that he had come to take his mother and Vuthda to the border camp, where they hoped to go on to reunite with two of their other siblings who resided in the United States. He also told me that Om Ok, a man to whom my father’s sister married, was going with him as well. Noeun asked me if I wanted to go with him as I, too, had a couple of brothers who lived in the United States. It was a rather complicated and nervous situation for me. So I told Noeun that I had to discuss the matter with my mother first and would let him know of my decision later.

After returning from the Buddhist ceremony at Vuthda’s home, I told my mother about his family’s plan to take flight for the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border and an offer his brother, Noeun, extended to me. We spent the entire evening discussing the costs and benefits, and all the possible dangers that I could face as a lone young man in the border camps where lawlessness was prevalent. We also brought Grandma Seung into the discussion to seek her advice. After mulling over the dangers of my being recruited to join the Cambodian armed forces or K-5 workforces and sent to the frontlines at the Thai-Cambodian border areas, we all came to the conclusion that I should go there and cross to the other side on my own terms, and let fate determine my life from that point on.

The next day, I went to see Vuthda and his brother, Noeun, again to tell them of my decision. Upon learning that I was going with him, Vuthda was rather happy and breathed a sigh of relief, for he had a minor problem which needed my help. It turned out that Vuthda’s wife, the only child of a humbly wealthy family, was unwilling to leave her parents behind and refused to go to the border camp with him. Therefore, I must add an extra name to my travel pass when I went to obtain one from my village’s chief as Vuthda’s wife had already requested his village’s chief not to issue travel pass for him. (In those days, we needed a travel pass to go from one place to another within Cambodia).

After obtaining the necessary travel document from Phum Chi Ro to Phnom Penh, our first stop, I told Vuthda that we were ready. He, in turn, told me to be ready at around four a.m., and listen for a horse-drawn carriage in which he would be traveling. As soon as I heard a horse-drawn carriage stopping in front of my house, I said farewell to my mother and brother, and quietly slipped away from Phum Chi Ro. The date of that fateful moment was December 27, 1984.

Vuthda and I crossed the Mekong River at Tonle Bet in a small boat which ferried us across towards Kompong Cham City. The carriage’s driver returned to Phum Chi Ro at that point. This was the second time I crossed the Mekong River in an anxious situation, as I recalled my earlier flight to get away from the Khmer Rouge’s persecution in 1970.

We arrived at the bus station in Kompong Cham City around five o’clock in the morning. After getting our bus fares and boarding one of them, we departed for Phnom Penh at about six o’clock. During our travel episode from Phum Chi Ro to Kompong Cham bus station, Vuthda was on the lookout all the time because he was worried that his wife would send someone or come to look for him when she realized that he had deserted her. He was only able to relax once the bus started moving toward Phnom Penh.

After several hours of bus ride, we reached Phnom Penh around 10:30 a.m., and went to stay at a safe house, which belonged to Noeun’s friend, near the Old Market (Psar Chass). We stayed in Phnom Penh for a few days to wait for travel documents so that we could continue our journey to Battambang province where we would find a way to cross into a border camp. During our stay in Phnom Penh, Noeun introduced me to another friend of his named Odom who was from Battambang province. Odom was a Meh Khchol, literally means Head Wind, or, to be unambiguously precise, a human trafficker. As a naïve young man who had only a fourth grade education, I had not the vaguest idea what human trafficking was. I only understood the concept after completing college in the U.S. and started reading news about human trafficking that I realized that I had been, in different shapes or forms, a cargo of human traffickers.

Odom had an uncle who was one of the most powerful men in Battambang province. Hence, he could vouch for anyone who needed to travel across Battambang by just invoking the name of his uncle. After a brief conversation with Odom, Noeun asked me if I had any gold with me that could be used to bribe officials in Phnom Penh to obtain travel passes for us to go to Battambang. Before I left Phum Chi Ro, my mother had given me some broken pieces of gold chain weighing about three-quarters of an ounce. I gave them all to Odom to use for bribery. After Odom left, Noeun told me that, in normal circumstances, Odom charged about two ounces of gold per person to bring his human cargo to the border camps. In our case, he was doing it for free because he wanted to do his friend, Noeun, a favor. My meager pieces of gold were only used to reduce the burden for him to obtain travel passes.

Just before I left for Battambang province, I went to visit my sister-in-law, Heang’s wife, Chanthy, and my niece, Chanthear, who lived about half a mile from where I stayed. I made a quick detour into the Old Market and bought a two piece coordinated sport suit for Chanthear. As I walked toward my sister-in-law’s house, I was thinking of telling her about her husband’s whereabouts and that I would arrange to have her and Chanthear go to the border camp as well, so that she and her daughter might be able to reunite with her husband. However, after I arrived at her home, I learned that my sister-in-law had already remarried. So I abandoned my thought and only told her that I was going to the border camps to look for my brothers. After spending a few hours talking with my sister-in-law and niece, I bade goodbye to them and returned to the safe house.

(To be continued)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

ចំណីខួរក្បាល (ប្រចាំសប្តាហ៍)

នៅក្នុងរឿង កាលនោះបដិវត្តន៍មួយ ដែលលោក ប៉ាន់ សុធី បាន
បកប្រែចេញពីរឿង អេនីម៉ល ហ្វាម របស់លោក ចច អ័រវ៉ែល
(Animal Farm By George Orwell) គេសង្កេតឃើញថា បន្ទាប់ពីការ
ធ្វើពលិកម្មតស៊ូដ៏លំបាកលំបិនមួយ ពួកសត្វដែលរស់នៅក្រោម
ការជិះជាន់សង្កត់សង្កិន​ និងអំណាចផ្តាច់ការរបស់មនុស្ស ដែល
ជាម្ចាស់ដ៏ឃោរឃៅនោះ នៅទីបំផុត បានទទួលជោគជ័យក្នុង
ការរំដោះខ្លួនឲ្យរួចផុតអំពីអ្វីដែលក្រុមសត្វទាំងអស់យល់ថា ជា
អំពើអយុត្តិធម៌រវាងទំនាក់ទំនងសត្វនិងមនុស្សនៅក្នុងសង្គម ។
គួរកត់សម្គាល់ដែរថា នៅពេលដែលពពួកសត្វតិរិច្ឆានទាំងនោះ
សម្រេចចិត្តធ្វើបដិវត្ត ដើម្បីរំដោះខ្លួនចេញពីការជិះជាន់សង្កត់
សង្កិនរបស់មនុស្ស សត្វទាំងអស់បានព្រមព្រៀងគ្នាទុកជាមុន
ថា នឹងលុបបំបាត់ចោលឲ្យអស់ រាល់ទង្វើទាំងឡាយណាដែល
នាំមកនូវអំពើអយុត្តិធម៌ក្នុងសង្គម ។ និយាយឲ្យចំ គឺការពារសិទ្ធិ
សេរីភាពសត្វគ្រប់ៗរូប មិនឲ្យនរណាយាយី ឬរំលោភបំពាន
តទៅទៀតឡើយ ។
មនុស្សបានហើយ  គេសង្កេតឃើញថា ពពួកសត្វដែលត្រូវបាន
គេជ្រើសរើសឲ្យធ្វើជាមេដឹកនាំក្នុងការធ្វើបដិវត្តនោះ ជាពិសេស
សត្វសេះឈ្មោះ អាសំឡី បានបង្ហាញ និងប្រព្រឹត្តអ្វីៗគ្រប់យ៉ាង
បដិវត្តន៍ និងពលិកម្មគ្រប់បែបយ៉ាងដើម្បីលុប់បំបាត់ចោល ។
ការលាតត្រដាង នៅក្នុងសាច់រឿង កាលនោះបដិវត្តន៍មួយ នេះ
បច្ចុប្បន្ននេះឡើយ ។ ពពួកសត្វតិរិច្ឆាន គឺមិនខុសអ្វីទៅនឹងប្រជា
រាស្ត្រទន់ខ្សោយដែលខ្វះខាតទាំងទ្រព្យសម្បត្តិ បុណ្យស័ក្តិ និង
អំណាចនោះទេ ។ រីឯមនុស្សគឺជាពួកអ្នកមានអំណាចដែល
ប្រព្រឹត្តិអំពើអយុត្តិធម៌ និងដើររុកគួនគេឯង ដើម្បីស្វែងរកផល
ប្រយោជន៍ផ្ទាល់ខ្លួន ។
អ្នកដែលធ្លាប់បានសិក្សាប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រខ្មែរ ឬក៏ជនជាតិខ្មែរ ដែល
ធំដឹងក្តីនៅក្នុងទសវត្សឆ្នាំ ១៩៦០ និង ១៩៧០ សុទ្ធតែបានដឹង
ថាកាលពីទសវត្សឆ្នាំ ១៩៦០មេដឹកនាំខ្មែរបច្ចុប្បន្ន គឺ សម្តេច
ហុន សែន សម្តេច ជា ស៊ីម និង សម្តេច ហេង សំរិន សុទ្ធសឹង
តែជាមនុស្សក្រខ្សត់ ទាំងទ្រព្យសម្បត្តិ ទាំងបុណ្យស័ក្តិ និង
អំណាច ។ ដោយឈឺចាប់និងចង់បំបាត់នូវអំពើអយុត្តិធម៌នៅ
ក្នុងសង្គមនាសម័យនោះ សម្តេចទាំងបី បាននាំគ្នាចូលធ្វើបដិវត្ត
ជាមួយនឹងក្រុមខ្មែរកុម្មុយនីស្តមួយក្រុមដែលមានឈ្មោះថា ខ្មែរ
ក្រហម ដើម្បីវាយផ្តួលរំលំរដ្ឋអំណាចរបស់ពួក សក្តិភូមិ ចក្រព័ទ្ធ
និយម និង នាយទុនប្រត្តិកិរិយា រហូតដល់ទីបំផុត ពួកគេក៏បាន
ទទួលជ័យជម្នះដ៏ថ្លៃថ្លាមួយនៅឆ្នាំ ១៩៧៥ ។ បើគិតចាប់ពីពេល
នោះមកដល់បច្ចុប្បន្ននេះ យើងសង្កេតឃើញថា ជ័យជម្នះនៃ
ក្រីក្រខ្សត់អំណាចនៅក្នុងសង្គមខ្មែរ គឺមានថេរវេលាជិត ៤០ ឆ្នាំ
ហើយ ។ ប៉ុន្តែ អំពើអយុត្តិធម៌និងការជិះជាន់សង្កត់សង្កិនមក
លើពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរដែលខ្សត់អំណាច គឺនៅតែបន្តហាក់ដូចជាគ្មាន
អ្វីផ្លាស់ប្តូរទាល់តែសោះ ។ អ្វីដែលគួរឲ្យសង្វេកនិងឈឺចាប់ជា
ទីបំផុតនោះ គឺថា អ្នកដែលអនុញ្ញាតិ ឬក៏បណ្តោយឲ្យអំពើ
កើតមានឥតឈប់ឈរ គឺគ្មាននរណាក្រៅពីក្រុមអ្នកធ្វើបដិវត្ត
ដើម្បីបំបាត់អំពើអយិត្តិធម៌នៅក្នុងសង្គមខ្មែរឡើយ ។ កាលខ្លួន
ត្រូវបានគេជិះជាន់សង្កត់សង្កិន ពួកគេឈឺចាប់ណាស់ ហើយ
បានធ្វើពលិកម្មសព្វបែបយ៉ាង ដើម្បីស្វែងរកយុត្តិធម៌ជូនសង្គម
និងពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរ ។ ប៉ុន្តែនៅពេលដែលខ្លួនបានខ្លាយជាអ្នកដឹកនាំ
ទុក្ខវេទនាផ្សេងៗ ពួកគេបែរជាព្រងើយកន្តើយ ឬធ្វើមិនដឹងមិន
ឮទៅវិញ ។ តើវិចារណញាណនិងការឈឺចាប់ ដែលធ្លាប់តែដក់
ជាប់នៅក្នុងបេះដូងនៃសម្តេចទាំងបី ដែលធ្លាប់បានធ្វើបដិវត្ត
យ៉ាងស្វិតស្វាញ ដើម្បីបុពិ្វហេតុយុត្តិធម៌នៅក្នុងសង្កមខ្មែរនោះ
បាត់បង់ទៅណាអស់ហើយ ? ឬមួយក៏អំណាច បុណ្យស័ក្តិ និង
ទ្រព្យសម្បត្តិ បានធ្វើឲ្យស្មារតីតស៊ូស្វែងរកយុត្តិធម៌និង
សុភមង្គលជូនពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរក្រីក្រ រលាយខ្សុលអស់ទៅហើយ ?
តើអ្នកធ្វើបដិវត្តទាំងអស់ សុទ្ធតែមានចរិតផ្លាស់ប្តូរដូចជា
អាសំឡី ដែលជាសត្វតិរិច្ឆាននៅក្នុងរឿង កាលនោះបដិវត្តន៍មួយ
នោះឬ ? បើសិនជាយ៉ាងដូច្នេះគ្រប់តែករណីនោះ តើពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរ
ដែលខ្សត់អំណាចអាចមានសង្ឃឹម ឬក៏មធ្យោបាយអ្វីមួយមក
ស្រោចស្រង់ស្ថានភាពជីវិតរបស់ខ្លួនដែរទេ ?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Cambodian Royal Chronicle

43) Preah Chao Ba Art [The Siamese Ruler]

(1356-1359, Capital Angkor)
After the death of Preah Chao Basat, the Siamese authority appointed Preah Chao Ba Art who was, at that time, 62 years old to continue its administration over Cambodia. In 1359, Preah Chao Ba Art died of old age, and his brother named Kombang Pisey was, in turn, appointed to administer Cambodia.

44) Preah Chao Kombang Pisey [The Siamese Ruler]
(1359, Capital Angkor)
Preah Chao Kombang Pisey took over the administration of Cambodia in 1359, following the death of his brother, Preah Chao Ba Art. One month into his rule, a Cambodian Prince named Sri Suryovong, who had fled to the neighboring kingdom of Laos during the Siamese occupation of Angkor, had returned to Cambodia and began to raise an army to mount a revolt against the Siamese occupation.
After gathering enough strength, the Cambodian liberators marched on Angkor. With the aids of other Cambodians who worked within the Siamese occupying administrators, the Cambodian liberators and the patriots were able to obliterate the Siamese forces and, eventually, killed Preah Chao Kombang Pisey in battle. The Siamese occupying forces suffered tremendous casualties. Only about 10% were able to retreat to Thailand. The rest were either killed, or captured in battles. After the victory, Prince Sri Suryovong was crowned king in Cambodia.

45) King Sri Suryovong [I]
(1359--1366, Capital: Angkor)
King Sri Suryovong I was the nephew of both King Sri Lumpongraja and Prince Sri Suryotey. While both of his uncles were fighting the Siamese invaders at Angkor, he went to mobilize an army in Laos. In 1359, he successfully led his army to liberate Angkor from the Siamese and ascended the throne that same year.
During his reign, King Sri Suryovong I managed to get back some territories lost during the war and the occupation of Cambodia by the Siamese.

46) King Borumraja
(1366--1373, Capital: Angkor)
King Borumaraja was the son of King Sri Lumpongraja. He was crowned King in 1366 by members of the royal family and court council. There was not much historical record mentioning about his reign and accomplishment. However, there were some evidences indicating that he had established relationship with the Ming Dynasty of China. King Borumaraja reigned for 7 years. He died in 1373.

47) King Dhamasauk
(1373--1394, Capital: Angkor)
King Dhamasauk was also the son of King Sri Lumpongraja. He succeeded the throne in 1373. Toward the end of his reign, the Siamese once again waged war with Cambodia. The war was at a stalemate for 7 months and both sides suffered tremendous casualties.
Realizing that they could not overrun Angkor by direct fighting, the Siamese then sent 4 military officials into Angkor as spies. The 4 spies pretended to surrender themselves and pledge allegiance to the Khmer King. Once they were in, the 4 spies recruited 2 Khmer army officers and together they passed secret information about the Khmer defenses to the Siamese armies.
Because of these spies, the Siamese armies were able to break the Khmer defense through the West gate of Angkor and ferocious fighting spread into the center of the city. King Dhamasauk died in the fighting in 1394. And the Siamese once again occupied Cambodia. However, the occupation did not last, for there was turmoil in Siam and the Siamese armies had to return to their country.
According to another source, King Dhamasauk died in 1380. At that point, the Siamese sent another ruler named Prince Indraraja (a.k.a. Ponhea Prek) to govern Cambodia. Soon after, around 1382, a 12-men team of Cambodian suicidal commandos in disguise successfully penetrated Prince Indraraja’s court and assassinated him.

48) King Sri Suryovong II
(1401--1417, Capital: Angkor)
King Sri Suryovong II was the son of Prince Sri Suryotey. His reign was coincided with the turmoil in Siam (Thailand). The Siamese armies were occupying Cambodia at the time but had to abandon the Khmer kingdom in order to return to restore order and stability in their country.
Seeing the opportunity, the Khmers ascended King Sri Suryovong II to the throne in 1401. King Sri Suryovong II reigned for 16 years. He died in 1417 and left behind a 17-year old son named Ponhea Yat.

49) King Borumsokha
(1417--1420, Capital: Angkor)
King Borumsokha was the nephew of King Sri Suryovong II. He succeeded the throne in 1417 following the death of his uncle. In 1420, the Siamese sent an army to invade Angkor again. A ferocious war between the Siamese and Khmers ensued. King Borumsokha bravely fought the Siamese to his death. And the Siamese finally captured Angkor. One year later in 1421, a Khmer royal prince named Ponhea Yat successfully expelled the Siamese from Angkor and was crowned king afterward.
(To be continued)

Monday, April 8, 2013


The Hardship (Cont.)
I arrived in Kompong Thom in late 1982. Hong and his wife, Narath, along with their two little children, ages one and two years old, lived in a small house next to his mother-in-law in Prek Sbov village. Unbeknownst to me, their houses were located just a stone’s throw away from the birthplace home of the notorious Khmer Rouge’s leader, Pol Pot. I spent several months living in Kompong Thom province doing nothing, except for looking after my brother’s two little children, a boy named Monry and a girl named Pom. To cope with boredom, I asked my brother to find me old textbooks to read so that I could teach myself some knowledge. Hong brought me a bundle of textbooks, as well as some novels that were life savers for me during those do nothing times.

In about March 1983, I had a horrible toothache. The pain was so unbearable that I cried like a little child. Narath’s siblings who were working at Kompong Thom’s provincial hospital gave me some medicines to soothe the pain, but they had no effect at all. Seeing that nothing could help me cope with the excruciating pain, Hong’s mother-in-law, Yeay Ra, decided to seek advice from a traditional healer who lived nearby. After she went into a trance, the healer spoke of my father’s anger toward me for leaving my mother to work on the farm alone. My excruciating toothache was his punishment upon me. Upon learning of my father’s anger, my brother, his wife and mother-in-law, pleaded with my father’s spirit through the healer that they would ensure that I return to live with my mother. After the spirit was satisfied, the traditional healer recovered from her trance. Amazingly, my toothache had also disappeared. Though I had my doubts about the whole thing, I was nevertheless happy with the disappearance of my toothache. Whatever the power that cured it, I didn’t care. What I cared most was that I was free from pain, and that I would return to live with my mother within the next few days.

I returned to Phum Chi Ro in late March just in time to prepare farmlands for growing corn. With a pair of oxen, I toiled the lands one hectare at a time and managed to get about three hectares of corn-growing lands prepared. As soon as the raining season arrived, which began in late April, my mother and I started planting corn seeds immediately. It usually took a couple of months for corn to grow and bear crops.

Our corn crops gave us high yields that year. Besides selling some of them fresh on the market in Kompong Cham City, we left the remaining ears to ripe in the fields and harvest their kernels to be sold to the state. We managed to harvest our corn crops just before the Mekong River flooded the fields. After keeping some for our consumption, we had a surplus of about one ton of corn kernels left. Thus, at the crest of the Mekong River’s flooding, I loaded all our surplus corn crops onto a boat and took them to be sold at the state warehouse which was located in the town of Tonle Bet. I received a substantial sum of money for that one ton of corn. My hands were shaking as I received cash payment for the corn crops, which I had spent almost five months growing and harvesting. It was, if we converted the Cambodian currency during that time to the U.S. dollar, about $60.

The Mekong River’s flooding in 1983 appeared to be one of the greatest floods in its history. The road in front of our house was about one meter under water. There was water everywhere. Everything was submerged including some houses which were built on lower ground. We had to build platforms as shelters for our farm animals. The water lingered for about one month, before it finally receded.

During the Mekong’s flood of 1983, I received a letter from my brother, Heang, who had, by now, arrived in the state of Minnesota, U.S.A. We were so excited to hear that he was safe and sound in the U.S.A. On top of that, we learned that Sokha, my other brother, had recently been admitted to come to the United States, too. The news brought tears of joy to our eyes. But, at the same time, we were also concerned about our lives as the government under which we lived was not on good terms with the U.S.A. Because of its authoritarian control, the Cambodian Ministry of Post and Telecommunication had opened Heang’s letter to see its content. Hence, if there was anything deemed politically incorrect, we could be in trouble. But Heang was smart enough not to write anything besides telling us where he was and how he was doing.

(To be continued)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Cambodian Royal Chronicle

30) King Jayavarman VIII

(1243-1295, Capital: Angkor)
By 1243, King Jayavarman VIII ascended to the Cambodian throne. Upon taking charge of the Cambodian court, King Jayavarman VIII reestablished and reverted to the practice of Hinduism, which had been sidelined by King Jayavarman VII who was worshiping Buddhism. During his reign, the Mongol ruler of China, Kublai Khan, had sent an envoy to demand that the Cambodian court should pay homage to China. However, King Jayavarman VIII not only refused to pay homage to China, he even imprisoned the two emissaries who were sent to Cambodia by Kublai Khan.

31) King Indravarman III
(1295-1308, Capital: Angkor)
King Jayavarman VIII’s reign came to an abrupt end when his son-in-law, Indravarman III overthrew him in a coup. One year after he ascended to the Khmer throne, the Mongol ruler in China named Timur Khan, Kublai Khan’s grandson and successor, sent another envoy to Cambodia. The envoy was accompanied by a Chinese rapporteur named Chou Ta-Kuan. From Chou Ta-Kuan’s reports, though flawed with prejudices, we learned that King Indravarman III had welcomed the Mongol envoys and allowed them to stay in Cambodia for about one year. However, we did not know whether the Khmer king had ever paid homage to China. It was through Chou Ta-Kuan’s reports that we had a glimpse of what life during Angkorian Era, at least at the somber end of it, was like. (For detail of Chou Ta-Kuan’s reports, please see appendix).

Notice: Due to conflicting dates, the reigning period of the following kings from King Ang Jaya to King Suryopor will be omitted.

32) King Ang Jaya [I] [a.k.a. Trosak Ph’aem]
(------------, Capital: Angkor)
King Ang Jaya was the first non-varman’s ruler in Cambodia. According to Cambodian legend, before he became king, he was just an ordinary farmer. One day, King Ang Jaya-to-be heard that the King had come to visit his village. Thus, he picked some sweet melons from his farm to offer to the King. The King liked his sweet melons so much that he (King) nicknamed him Trosak Ph’aem (Sweet Melon) and gave him a spear to protect his melon farm.
One night, the King wanted to find out whether Trosak Ph’aem had seriously guarded his sweet melon farm. He secretly went into the farm. Trosak Ph’aem did not know that the King had come to spy on him. So, he mistook the King as an intruder and threw the spear at him. It hit the King and he was killed instantly.
After the King’s death, Trosak Ph’aem became king and took the name Ang Jaya. Hence, King Ang Jaya’s descendants began to rule Cambodia from this point onward.

33) King Ponhea Sous
(……….., Capital Angkor)
After the death of King Ang Jaya, his brother, Ponhea Sous, succeeded him. King Ponhea Sous was a devout Buddhist. Throughout his reign, he devoted himself to building the foundation and endowment of Buddhism in Cambodia. In the middle of his reign, a hermit named Chey declared himself a devaraja, which caused a stir in the kingdom. King Ponhea Sous sent two of his military commanders named Ponhea Chakra and Krolahaum to arrest the hermit for causing the confusion in the kingdom. The hermit was later executed.
King Ponhea Sous had no children. So after his death, his nephew named Serey Vichet succeeded him.

34) King Serey Vichet
(…………, Capital Angkor)
King Serey Vichet was the son of King Ang Jaya. After the death of his uncle, King Ponhea Sous, he ascended the throne at the age of 67 years old. Like his uncle, King Serey Vichet, too, was a devout Buddhist who continued to endorse and endow Buddhism as the state religion. As a result, Hinduism, which was so prevalent during the reigns of previous kings 1000 years earlier, began to lose its influence over the Cambodian population.
King Serey Vichet and his wife, Queen Kuntheak Botum, had a son named Prince Lumpong who would succeed the throne after his father’s death.

35) King Lumpong
(…………, Capital Angkor)
The succession from King Serey Vichet to King Lumpong went smoothly without any intrigue or complication. King Lumpong and his wife, Queen Pheakatey, had a son named Prince Aungkar. King Lumpong died of a natural cause at the age of 75 years old.

36) King Aungkaraja
(……….., Capital Angkor)
After the death of his father, Prince Aungkar ascended the throne and took the crown name, Aungkaraja. Like his predecessors, King Aungkaraja was also a devout Buddhist. During his reign, he built a number of pagodas in the kingdom. Among these pagodas were the two temples in the complex of Wat Nokor Bachey near the city of Kompong Cham.
King Aungkaraja died at the age of 78 years old. His son, Prince Suryopor, ascended the throne after his death.

37) King Suryopor
(…………., Capital Angkor)
After the death of his father, King Aungkaraja, Prince Suryopor was crowned King at the age of 23 years old. After his coronation, King Suryopor married his step sister, Princess Muntea Pisey. They had two sons named Nirvanabat and Sotheanaraja.
King Suryopor died of natural cause. He was survived by two sons, Princes Nirvanabat and Sotheanaraja, and three grandsons, Princes Sri Sokunchakra, Sri Lumpongraja, and Sri Suryotey.

38) King Nirvanabat
(1340--1346, Capital: Angkor)
King Nirvanabat was the oldest son of King Suryopor. He succeeded the throne in 1340. During his reign, Cambodia was at peace with its neighbors due in part to the mutual relationship he had established with the kingdoms of Laos, Siam, Tonkin, and Champa. King Nirvanabat ruled Cambodia for only 5 years. He died in 1346.

39) King Sotheanaraja
(1346, Capital: Angkor)
After the death of King Nirvanabat, his younger brother named Sotheanaraja succeeded the throne in 1346. King Sotheanaraja’s succession to the throne came at the expense of his nephew--the son of King Nirvanabat, Prince Sri Sokunchakra, who was supposed to be the heir to the throne. King Sotheanaraja’s reign lasted for only one year. He died in the same year of his ascendancy to the throne.

40) King Sri Lumpongraja
(1347--1353, Capital: Angkor)
King Sri Lumpongraja was the son of King Sotheanaraja. He succeeded the throne in 1347. Near the end of his reign, the Siamese king named Ramathibodi had waged war against Cambodia with a plan to capture Angkor. The war dragged on for years. In 1353, King Sri Lumpongraja was ill and subsequently died. His younger brother, Prince Sri Suryotey, took charge of the war against the Siamese invaders. But his effort was futile. The Siamese had successfully broken through the Khmer’s defense line, and they eventually killed Prince Sri Suryotey.
After capturing Angkor, the Siamese ransacked the city and took 10,000 Khmers as prisoners to Krung Tep (Bangkok). The Siamese occupied Angkor for about 6 years and appointed Siamese officials to govern some of the Khmer provinces from 1353-1359.

41) Prince Sri Suryotey
(See King Sri Lumpongraja)

42) Preah Chao Basat [The Siamese Ruler]
(1353-1355, Capital Angkor)
After capturing Angkor, King Ramathibodi appointed Preah Chao Basat to rule over the kingdom of Cambodia. However, despite his efforts, Preah Chao Basat failed to extend his administration beyond the Angkor’s region. To the east, north, and south, the administration fell under the hands of local Cambodian warlords.
After ruling the Khmer kingdom for two years, Preah Chao Basat fell ill and eventually died.
(To be continued)

Thursday, April 4, 2013


The Hardship

After both of my older brothers, Heang and Sokha, had gone to the other side of the Cambodian political spectrum, our hope of seeing one another again was grim. First of all we didn’t even know for sure if they were still alive, for lives in those border camps were indeed “nasty, brutish, and short,” according to the rumors we heard from people who had gone to visit those camps. But, for us, life must go on no matter what happened to those family members whom we couldn’t see.

By late 1981, the government seemed to ease up a little bit as far as the informal market and economy was concerned. Taking advantage of the lax rule, many farmers in Phum Chi Ro, started to quietly add more farmlands to their holdings by clearing the wild bamboo forests behind the village. With the help of Om Ly’s husband, Om Seng, I was able to clear about two hectares of farmlands to add to our possession. Because I grew up in the city and had only been exposed to farming during the Khmer Rouge’s rule, I had little knowledge of vegetable farming. Hence, I had to spend some time learning from other villagers how to grow different vegetables within a certain timeframe of the season. Fortunately, vegetable farming wasn’t rocket science. With some guidance from Om Seng, I was able to make most farm implements I needed and get along with farming just fine. With the additional farmlands, my mother and I were able to get enough food to sustain our subsistent lives. However, despite having enough food to keep ourselves out of the jaws of starvation, I still missed one thing in life so badly. That was education. I had longed to go back to school since the day I was liberated from the tyrannical rule of the Khmer Rouge. But poverty and lack of schools had kept me away from education ever since we arrived in Phum Chi Ro.

Following the Khmer Rouge’s destruction of the Cambodian education system, the new government had re-established educational infrastructure immediately after it chased the Khmer Rouge away. But the efforts did not reach rural areas. Phum Chi Ro was only able to re-establish schools to teach village children in 1980. And classes were only up to the third grade. Anyone who needed to attend classes beyond the third grade had to go to either Kompong Cham City or Thbong Khmum District’s headquarters, which were located miles away. I had already completed the fourth grade when the Khmer Rouge took over and eliminated my education opportunity. Hence, if I wished to return to continue my education, I had to go to live in either Kompong Cham City or Thbong Khmum and left my mother to work on the farm alone. Our lives had already been a struggle at that point. Therefore, the choice was painfully clear for me that education was not as important as our livelihood. However, despite our dilemma, we were able to send Buntha, my little brother, to school.

Eking out a living as a vegetable farmer under a communist regime was tough. Though our lives were not as miserable as they were under the Khmer Rouge, our existence was not that much better. Year after year, our main concern was to gather foodstuffs to sustain our lives until the next growing season arrived. To make ends meet during those early years of our arrival in Phum Chi Ro, my mother made a dumpling dessert called Num Banh Cha Nirk to barter among the villagers for rice. (In those early days, the government had not printed money yet).

Num Banh Cha Nirk required glutinous rice production. However, because Cambodian people didn’t eat glutinous rice as their main diet, that kind of rice was hard to find during those early years following the Khmer Rouge’s collapse. To supplement the shortages of that special rice needed to make her dessert delicacy, my mother used corn kernels as substitute. I remember helping her mill those corn kernels and grind them into starchy powder, which she would then mix it with powder of glutinous rice. The final product tasted just fine. No one could tell whether those dumpling desserts were made from corn or glutinous rice powder.

Living under the occupation of foreign military forces was not and had never been peaceful. Our overlords, the Vietnamese soldiers, were anything but liberators. First they were very disciplined and friendly with us. They would keep to themselves and never touch anything that belonged to the villagers. They didn’t even take vegetables that we offered them. However, after a few years of living near us, they began to misbehave. Because of lack of food supplies, the Vietnamese soldiers began to invade our vegetable farms and appropriate anything they needed. With the AK-47 rifles strapped on their back, the Vietnamese soldiers conducted their vegetable robbery in broad day light. Many of us, farmers, whose farms had been intruded by the Vietnamese soldiers, reported our grievances to the village chief and those who were in charge of dealing with the marauding soldiers. But it was to no avail. Thus, we were left to dealing with the situation ourselves. In desperation, some farmers went to confront the Vietnamese soldiers who came to steal their vegetable produce themselves. One such farmer was my mother. One day, I saw her shoo away a Vietnamese soldier who was picking tomatoes on our farm. It was an extraordinary scene; a lone woman using only her finger to demand that a soldier with an AK-47 rifle on his back get off her property. With my heart pounding, I looked on from a few hundred yards away as the Vietnamese soldier walked away from our vegetable garden to seek loot somewhere else.

As though the Vietnamese overlord was not enough, our misery in life was compounded by yet another civil war. The liberation movements, along with the remnant of Khmer Rouge’s forces, had been conducting guerrilla warfare along the western border regions of Cambodia. Hence, to cope with the conflict, the government began to recruit young men to join its fledgling armed forces to help fight the rebel guerrillas alongside the Vietnamese troops. At 18, I was old enough for the government to conscript me into the armed forces. In an attempt to spare me from being forced to join the armed forces, my mother decided to send me to live with my older brother, Hong, in Kompong Thom province for the time being. Hong worked as a clerk for Kompong Thom’s city hall. Thus, using his status as a government worker, he was able to provide some sort of safe haven for me.

(To be continued)