There are yet more details on the recent deaths and imprisonment of Buddhist monks from Kampuchea Krom/Southern Vietnam. While Khmer in the United States are protesting in Washington D.C. against the forcible defrocking and imprisonment of Khmer monks in Vietnam, Khmer monks in Cambodia are being prevented from performing a funerary ritual for a dead Khmer Krom monk who died in confusing circumstances…in Cambodia.
This is all certain to prop up the constant discussion of the relationships between Vietnam and Cambodia’s ruling parties, in which the usual innuendo is that Vietnam continues to dominate Cambodia even inside its own sovereign borders.
What makes this so strange is that the ritual that is being denied to the dead monk (who either committed suicide or was murdered) is the Pansukul – a ritual I have studied at length, which forms the centerpiece of a chapter of my forthcoming dissertation, and which has been the subject of full-length monographs by none other than the esteemed Khmer Buddhist-studies scholar François Bizot. This is not a politically sensitive ritual, nor even a ‘negotiable’ one. If funerary rites of any esteem at all are held – that is to say, if the body is ritualized at any level more than simply throwing it in a burning fire or hole without ceremony – the Pansukul is chanted at multiple points. The fact that this ritual is reportedly being denied to a monk from Kampuchea Krom who died in mysterious circumstances is difficult to interpret as anything more than a very obvious slap in the face, and perhaps a public warning to Khmer Krom in Cambodia to stop their political actions.
It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on from here in Minnesota, but I’ve got to say, this all seems very, very strange.
UPDATE: and then I wake up this morning to these three articles, full of pictures of monks confronting and being confronted by riot police, and at least one monk bleeding from his head from “unclear sources” that seem likely to be the fists of another and opposed Buddhist monk.   
UPDATE: There’s a video of the fistfight between monks and some interviews during the parade posted to YouTube. Worth checking out.