“I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbour—such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children perhaps—what can more the heart of man desire?”
— Tolstoy, “Family Happiness,” chapter 5
This evening I was teaching a bunch of kids the past perfect verb tense when one stood up and went to look out the window. There was a protest going on further up the road - I knew already because I had spent part of my lunch break there - and it was becoming quite loud. I went to have a look, and a few students asked what was going on.
I looked (past simple) at the student who had stood up (past perfect), but he didn’t seem to know what it was. I said “kar taw vaa”. They laughed as they do whenever I say anything in Khmer, and then got back to work. I asked them in English why they didn’t care about it, and then also in Khmer when they didn’t understand me. But then I didn’t understand their responses in Khmer. I either get English or VERY difficult Khmer.
Finally one student remembered some of her English vocabulary and offered that she didn’t care because because “it’s useless”. I risked a political opinion (I wrote my thesis on the topic after all!) and said “but their homes were stolen from them!” I got a bunch of blank stares, and eventually some pronunciation advice for “Boeung Kak”.
When I got back to the staff room, I told the only other foreign teacher there who ever reads the newspaper what the student had said, and he said “that pretty much sums it up”. I laughed and said “pretty much”, even though I don’t agree.
I wish I understood my students’ responses in Khmer, though. It’s very frustrating to be surrounded by information about your main interest but not be able to take it in.
By Kuch Naren and Ben Woods, Cambodia Daily, Tuesday, December 18, 2012, p. 18:
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday used a visit to Koh Kong province’s Mondol Seima district to reiterate his firm opposition to a massive titanium mine once planned for the area, and proposed that he might protect the area if he is reborn as a forestry activist in a future life cycle. “Just leave it [the titanium] underneath [in the ground]. It will not be too late to extract it in the next 200 years when we are reborn, [but] at that time, I might become an anti-mining activist. I will be an environmental activist to fight against titanium extractions,” Mr. Hun Sen said during a ceremony to inaugurate a Japanese auto-parts factory inside the Koh Kong Special Economic Zone. […]
“[W]hen Thoreau was released from jail [having not paid tax given the U.S-Mexican War], he did not file a grievance. He immediately went on a berry hunt with a swarm of young boys. No bitterness. No brooding. No lingering resentment. Without missing a beat, Thoreau simply returned to living deeply. This post-jail quest for berries occasioned my favorite line from all of Thoreau’s writings. As he tramped the trails in search of juicy treasure, Thoreau found himself standing on a high point in a field. He gazed about at the continuous, sprawling beauty that surrounded him and observed “the State was nowhere to be seen.”
Panda Bear - Slow Motion
The sum total of my worldly possessions, 09/11/12.
The sum total of my worldly possessions, 10/11/12
Alan Watts — Power, Control, Desire
I doubt this article is on the Cambodia Daily website, as it’s only a ‘National Brief’ which they tuck in the back of the paper. I’m about to throw away a bunch of old Cambodia Dailies, though, and I want to put this online for posterity. It’s one of my favourite news articles from the Daily. For some added context, it was published one month prior to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s five-hour speech in the National Assembly on Cambodian-Vietnamese border demarcation and land rights.
By Phorn Bopha, Thursday, July 5, 2012. National Briefs, p. 22:
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lashed out at TV stations for using irrelevant images to accompany their news broadcasts, especially during his speeches. He singled out state broadcaster TVK for criticism, accusing the station of filming video footage of bored-looking audience members prior to his speeches, then broadcasting the footage during funny parts of the speech. “Sometimes they [shoot footage of the audience] in the morning before I arrive. When they broadcast the sound of people hysterically laughing, it shows people looking sleepy. It’s so unprofessional… It doesn’t match,” he said during a speech at Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh. “Samdech Chea Sim and Samdech Heng Samrin have the same problem when they are giving speeches, but it happens to me more than any other,” he added. “The people laugh [and] they show people sleepy, so TV stations, if you cannot do it right, just show my image instead,” he said. Mr. Hun Sen threatened to fire the director-general of TVK if the mismatch of images and sounds occurred one more time. TVK director-general Kem Gunawadh said he had not heard Mr. Hun Sen’s warning and declined to comment. “I have to finish listening [to the speech] first,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday that he would invite opposition leader Sam Rainsy to join a coalition government if the CPP wins the 2008 election, and vowed to reduce the bloated ranks of government advisers.
Speaking at a meeting with donors to launch a new World Bank poverty assessment, Hun Sen said that while the concept of Western democracy requires an opposition, Khmer culture requires useful officials from all quarters to be incorporated into the government.
“I think in the next mandate I will collect more political parties…those who have the ability, I will accept their help,” he said.
“If Sam Rainsy wants to join, I welcome him to work.”
He added that the word “opposition” should no longer be used to describe the Sam Rainsy Party.
“We should not use the word ‘opposition’ to describe them,” he said. “We should use polite words, like out-of-government party and in-government parties…. This is Khmer culture: we need cooperation that will not leave anyone outside the circle who can work for the country.”
“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do”
— Samuel Huntington, ‘The Clash of Civilizations’, 1996, p. 51. Via helvetii.
Thousands of monks join in chanting to mourn King Father Norodom Sihanouk
“There’s something chilling about the government citing these as “steps forward”, but that’s the logic of deterrence. It means we have to take the misery that produces asylum seekers, then raise it. And since we can’t simply inflict direct violence on detainees, we have to do it in more subtle ways, namely by destroying their sense of hope. That’s why people are attempting suicide so quickly, because we’re telling them they are going to Nauru to languish, not to be processed.”
“When I read this and similar articles by the Western press (the ones in the States, in particular), what comes into my mind is that they are as partially blind and blinded as many Cambodian press - though of different sorts. Of course, Sihanouk was never a perfect king. Yet many of his moves should have been put into the context of international realpolitik and which the States and other big powers helped shape. The rise of the Khmer Rouge, for example, should be linked to the heavy bombardment of the Cambodian eastern border with hundreds of tons of bombs by the Nixon administration (driving more people into the marquis and into the cities) and its reduction of support to the Lon Nol regime…. The two main international architects of Cambodian destruction - Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger - should indeed be tried in the Hague….”
One of my friends on Facebook commenting on this NY Times blog post.
I’m not sure I entirely agree. I think the standard account of 1960s and 1970s Cambodian politics does appropriately put Sihanouk’s actions “into the context of international realpolitik.” And I think that standard account is in fact correct: Kissinger should be tried for war crimes in Cambodia, and the KR would likely have never come to power if not for U.S foreign policy in Indochina.
It’s just that the standard account buys too much into the ‘golden era’ view of Sihanouk, and reduces him down to some kind of bit player with no agency. He wasn’t - he was far from an ideal governor of the country, and he made some egregious mistakes between 1970 and the late 1980s.
He was still far too friendly with his former cabinet minister Khieu Samphan after Samphan took over from Pol Pot as the effective leader of the KR resistance after their overthrow in 1979. At times it clearly went beyond the arguably defensible ‘marriage of convenience’ arrangement they had under the exiled Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea on the Thai border.
And the question of Sihanouk’s legacy is important. A few observers note that Prime Minister Hun Sen — now the second longest serving leader of Modern Cambodia — has tried incredibly hard to model himself on Sihanouk. If you read Elizabeth Becker’s “When the War Was Over”, which covers Sihanouk’s rise to power and reign, you definitely get that idea. It lends a great deal to the idea of history being a process of repetition.
Indeed, watching the celebration of Sihanouk’s life over the past few days, Hun Sen might feel he has little to worry about in terms of his own legacy.