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Posts Tagged ‘usa’

Sounding Cambodia and Primitive Accumulation

In sounding on September 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

Sometimes a number of stories come out all at once, and reminds you that no matter the supposed ‘distance’ from my topic, economics are often central to individual and social practice. All of these stories came in one day, in the Phnom Penh Post.

One of the themes I’ve been concentrating on in my new research is primitive accumulation in Cambodia. Primitive Accumulation, as used by Marx, is the process by which relatively ‘free’ peasants, who lived socially off the land via the management and sharing of the commons, were transformed into waged laborers, or those seeking wage labor, the so-called working class.  All of this of course has a great deal of contemporary resonance in watching Cambodia (or any number of other places) today.  I’m hardly the only person to have noticed this. Anthropologist Iain Baird of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has been publishing on this topic.  I was fortunate enough to meet him in person last year, and he directed me to a number of his relevant articles, which I recommend.

Of course, in Cambodia, one of the great stories of primitive accumulation appear as land grabs.  Dey Krahom previously, and Boeung Kak now, become relatively famous because of their location in Phnom Penh, but land grabs have been a constant threat in more rural areas for quite a long time.  The Buddha sangha in Cambodia has been confronted with a scandal in the last few months, as activist monk Venerable Luon Savath has been progressively stripped of his ability to rely upon sangha requisites – especially shelter.  Banned from staying in capital temples previously, he has now been evicted from Watt Ounalom.  Some of his supporters – reportedly from Boeung Kak – helped him move his belongings.

More generally, Cambodia is waiting to hear the US government’s decision on import tariffs from Cambodia.  Cambodia’s export markets are not terribly diverse, and therefore highly dependent on state-to-state relations with its few customers.  The United States and the European Union occupy the biggest seats at the table.  As a result, decisions on tariffs in the US make enormous changes in Cambodia.  While the Cambodia garment industry has been adding jobs in the last quarter, the reduction or elimination of select tariffs would almost certainly result in the rapid addition of more jobs.  This is absolutely necessary if Cambodia is ever to experience significant secondary industrialization and the development of a more varied urban workforce.  Dependency on agricultural exports and garment work is a recipe for constant crisis.  But, challenges in the judicial sector (widespread perceptions of corruption, e.g.) and in retention of profits (expatriation of profits, e.g.) remain the largest challenge in this regard.

Finally, after a series of mass faintings at factories, in which employers and upstream brands have promised investigations, etc., the Arbitration Council has declared a strike over irregular pay and 8 other significant problems illegal, and ordered the workers back to their stations.  The union in question the Cambodian Coalition of Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) has accepted the decision, but this is significant in so far as it appears to be setting the stage for the new norm that the government and the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) are hoping becomes reality after the passage of the new Labor Law.

 

SOUNDING on Cambodia for August 31, 2010

In sounding on August 31, 2010 at 11:08 am

The US continues to expel long-term legal residents (from Cambodia, and elsewhere), for crimes that were misdemeanors when they were committed, but reclassified as felonies after the fact.  Even as felonies, these young men and the occasional woman have almost no memory or connection to contemporary Cambodia, and have an immensely difficult time reacclimating.  One of the great success stories has been Tiny Toones (warning: auto-start music soundtrack), but the deportations are inhumane, serve the US population not at all, and are a waste of time and money. From the Phnom Penh Post.

As always, Rice production (‘farming’), processing (‘milling’), marketing (‘selling’ and ‘buying’), and exports (‘leaving’) is an issue of continually underexamined importance outside of Cambodia. Here is the full text of PM Hun Sen’s recent address about a new policy document on Rice farming and leaving in Cambodia.  I link here to the “Hun Sen Blog,” without further comment.

And “Igor Prawn” of the SEA-focused blog “BANG!” has been writing a few short book reviews lately, which I appreciate in my quest for non-academic fare to consume about Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

A little bit of jailhouse humor

In comment on February 9, 2010 at 7:38 pm

from our dear friends across the pond, including the inimitable Stephen Fry

I very much want to say something funny right now, but something must be done!

It’s like slavery by the back door! Which, is also another video I own.

Still More on Haiti

In comment on January 15, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I’ve avoided mentioning Pat Robertson’s energetic kick to his own tonsils here, for the same reasons I avoided mentioning Brit Hume’s awesome attempt to evangelize Tiger Woods – it’s obvious, and the world doesn’t need more commentary on such obvious bone-headed racism and arrogance. Still, found this via anthropophagus, and thought it represented my own thoughts on the matter rather nicely, to wit:

The racism implicit in Robertson and those like him both secular and New Age is obvious. If a nation of black slaves threw off the shackles of imperialism and slavery, they did so only by a pact with the devil. They are a nation of cursed, wretched people who are worthy of only a sort of detached, preaching pity.

via The Haiti Disaster and Superstition – Anarkismo.

And, if that weren’t enough, go read Tenured Radical‘s response to the way this is being covered in the MSM:

Why do even good news reports allow US government officials talk unchallenged about the grossly underdeveloped economy in Haiti, which amplifies disasters like the recent earthquake because of substandard housing and thin state resources that snap when taxed, as if it has nothing to do with centuries of European and American colonialism? In this story Timothy Carney, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti from 1998-1999, speaks of the Duvalier regimes as emblematic of Haitian governments who “bled their people dry.” Well yes, but weren’t the Duvaliers and others virtually in the formal employ of Cold War-era United States foreign aid programs while they did that? And didn’t the United States think that an oligarchical regime that kept its people brutally policed was a good defense against Communism? And didn’t the the United States keep Haiti in its thrall by foisting a crushing load of international debt on the country that was banked by its rulers in Geneva as the country’s infrastructure collapsed?

OMG: Ambrose Bierce Quote on The Daily Show?

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2008 at 8:09 pm

The guest on last night’s The Daily Show (no link needed, I suppose) quoted Ambrose Bierce! And it was one of his best quotes ever!:

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

Yes, indeedly-do. Though I also enjoy:

Religion: A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Bierce disappeared in 1913 after going to Mexico to cover, and then to join, Pancho Villa’s revolutionary Mexican army. While some suppose he returned privately to commit suicide near the Grand Canyon, I prefer to imagine him as a revolutionary martyr, as he himself seems to have done in a pre-mortem letter to his niece:

“Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!” [via]

Bad timing in the resumption of military aid from the USA to Cambodia

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Am I missing something? The logic of this donation – in which 31 used GMC cargo trucks will be given to the Cambodian military – escapes me.

The United States has not given direct military aid to any Cambodian armed force since the 1997 coup de force that installed Hun Sen as the sole political leader in the country. Why resume now, when the U.S. military is facing unbelievable costs and strain as it pursues its war in Ira*? Why resume aid to a regime which has shown no determination to reduce the illegal logging and landgrabs which are destroying the natural base (and thus, the economic base for upwards of eighty percent of the population) of the country?

Taken from Avon Hill Company

These trucks are more likely to be used to transport illegally cut and traded wood than for border security.

MAY DAY!

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2008 at 3:05 pm

My May Day celebratory post apparently never made it up to the blog. So here it is, half a month late.

The best day of the entire year. From Peter Linebaugh’s famous article on May Day, “The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day,”:

Nationally, May First 1886 was important because a couple of years earlier the Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, “RESOLVED… that eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor, from and after May 1, 1886.

On 4 May 1886 several thousand people gathered near Haymarket Square to hear what August Spies, a newspaperman, had to say about the shootings at the McCormick works. Albert Parsons, a typographer and labor leader spoke net. Later, at his trial, he said, “What is Socialism or Anarchism? Briefly stated it is the right of the toilers to the free and equal use of the tools of production and the right of the producers to their product.” He was followed by “Good-Natured Sam” Fielden who as a child had worked in the textile factories of Lancashire, England. He was a Methodist preacher and labor organizer. He got done speaking at 10:30 PM. At that time 176 policemen charged the crowd that had dwindled to about 200. An unknown hand threw a stick of dynamite, the first time that Alfred Nobel’s invention was used in class battle.

Execution of Haymarket Martyrs All hell broke lose, many were killed, and the rest is history.

“Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards,” was the Sheriff’s dictum. It was followed religiously across the country. Newspaper screamed for blood, homes were ransacked, and suspects were subjected to the “third degree.” Eight men were railroaded in Chicago at a farcical trial. Four men hanged on “Black Friday,” 11 November 1887.

“There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today,” said Spies before he choked.

INDEED.

Wat Munisotaram

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2007 at 1:19 pm

I’m getting very excited about the Inauguration Ceremony of the newly-completed Vihear (shrine building) at Wat Munisotaram in Hampton, Minnesota. Ven. Tep Vong is expected to show up, and the temple is absolutely beautiful. The ceremonies start on June 5, ending on the 7th. Here’s an article about it from the local paper, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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Wat Munisota

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2007 at 4:22 pm

We finally made a trip to Wat Munisotaram in Hampton, Minnesota. I’ve been back in the US for far too long to have not made this trip – it’s only 45 minutes from the Twin Cities – but can truly and honestly excuse myself on the basis of schedule.

At any rate, it’s an exciting place – with the near-completion of the new and traditionally-style Vihear at the top of the hill, it will be one of the most ‘Cambodian’-appearing of the Cambodian Buddhist Temples in America, and must stand as a particular point of pride for the Khmer community in the area.

I have no idea how they managed to raise the money for this – there’s a pretty small local population – but it cost a pretty penny. It’s gorgeous though, and the group I went with had a good experience and learned a lot.

Some quick shots:

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