Sounding on Cambodia for April 28, 2011

Well, between my visit to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, campus, the screening of Who Killed Chea Vichea? on my campus, and the end of the semester looming, my attempt at disciplined, scheduled, blogging, has already collapsed. Instead of getting upset about that, I’ll just return to the attempt soon. In the meantime, there are big stories in Cambodia that need to be addressed.

  • Dry-Season Warfare at the Cambodian-Thai Border
  • Lao appears to begin construction of potential “Mekong Killer” dam
  • Hun Sen Denies Lung Cancer Rumors
  • “Who Killed Chea Vichea?” screens at Macalester College
  • ‘Bamboo Hypothesis’ gets a bit more complicated
Dry-Season Warfare at the Cambodian-Thai Border
Tragically, Thailand and Cambodia are fighting again. The fights are over border areas, and especially border areas surrounding Angkorean-era temples.  As before, people are losing lives. As before, since this particular area border Surin province in Thailand, most of the civilians and bystanders on both sides are ethnic Khmer, and as before, the conflict is being driven by political conflicts and dramas internal to Thailand.  The endgame for the border conflict, increasingly, depends directly on the resolution of internal Thai political stalemates.  If that resolution requires a small-scale war with Cambodia, it is increasingly apparent that members of the Thai military command structure are willing to go that route.  Meanwhile, Thailand is still being criticized for using internationally-banned cluster bomb munitions.
Xayaburi Dam in Laos; Has Construction Already Begun?
There remain skeptics of the notion that these huge dams are going to seriously damage the Mekong watershed and environment, but they are radically decreasing in number and volume. Dr. Milton Osborne, great historian of Cambodia and the Mekong, gave the Thailand/Laos/Cambodia Studies Group lecture at the Association of Asian Studies conference this last month in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the topic of the Mekong, and the predominant takeaway message was grim.
The proposed Xayaburi Dam [Time Mag] in Laos is controversial in the context of increased fears of downstream effects in the region, and people are worried that construction has already begun. If so, there’s a lot of inertia and commitment to this project that should concern bioregional, political, environmental, and agricultural activists.
Hun Sen denies lung cancer rumors
Last week, I mentioned the rumors published by KI-Media that Hun Sen had been diagnosed with cancer. This seems like a case of “of course it’s not true, but let’s make him deny it!” strategy by the opposition, but the man does smoke like a chimney.  He denies it, at any rate. When Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban mentioned the rumor, Hun Sen responded angrily, mentioning that Suthep is likely to die long before Hun Sen himself.
Who Killed Chea Vichea? screens at Macalester College
I was pleased that the event we organized here at Macalester College, to screen the excellent documentary “Who Killed Chea Vichea?” [event page, website, trailer1, trailer2], brought out a healthy crowd, who enjoyed a free, high-quality projection (not from DVD!) of the film. There was a substantial showing from the local Cambodian-American community, which was particularly gratifying to me.  Filmmaker Rich Garella did a bang-up job with the question and answer session afterward.
Bamboo hypothesis gets more complicated
The ‘Bamboo hypothesis,’ simply stated, argues that human tool-making and culture existed longer than the current archaeological record demonstrates, because some, many, or all of the tools they used in places like Southeast Asia, would have been made from bamboo (bamboo remains a widespread tool producing product), and therefore leave few traces.  New work appears to complicate the thesis: Sure, you can make great tools out of bamboo, but not all of the ones you need.  Specifically, you can’t skin mammals with a bamboo knife. Key excerpt:
“The ‘bamboo hypothesis’ has been around for quite awhile, but was always represented simply, as if all bamboo species, and bamboo tool-making were equal,” says Eren, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “Our research does not debunk the idea that prehistoric people could have made and used bamboo implements, but instead suggests that upon arriving in East and Southeast Asia they probably did not suddenly start churning out all of their tools on bamboo raw materials either.”

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