Sounding Cambodia for June 6 2011

The end of the semester got away from me folks, which means that today’s Sounding Cambodia will consist of a lot of links, videos, and topics, with minimal commentary. Lots of important stuff in there, though.  Go read!

  • Sand mountains during Khmer New Year (Video)
  • Cash pledges from politicians – exactly what is going on?
  • Violence against Cambodian Labor by the government
  • Interviews with Rich Garella of Who Killed Chea Vichea?
  • Nuon Chea and Cases 002 and 003 in the Extraordinary Chambers/Khmer Rouge Tribunal
  • Would you like some Borax with your Cambodian food?  Formalin? You’re welcome.
  • Tiny Toones NGO – “Hey Babe” video.
  • Cambodian Rice Exports to the Philippines
  • Judy Ledgerwood’s awesome Summer ethnography school in Cambodia
  • Damned Dams and their impacts on damned-near everything; an article in Critical Asian Studies by Ian Baird
  • Book Review of Constance Wilson’s edited volume on the Middle Mekong River Basin
  • Thai Politics – an election primer from Duncan McCargo
Click through to see the actual content

Khmer New Year’s (mid-April) always has the building of Sand Mountains, which confuses a lot of folks.  These sand mountains make considerable amounts of merit and have enormous moral purifying potential.  Here’s a nice little RFA video about it. (in Khmer, but you non-Khmer speakers can enjoy the pretty images).

Norbert Klein, one of Khmer media’s closest public watchers, has an excellent post on the recent pledges of large amounts of cash from the Council of Ministers in response to the fire which destroyed Kratie Market.  As usual, one wishes that Norbert would write more clearly, but a certain amount of indirection is a hazard of discussing politics in Cambodia. Best quote:

It is at least surprising that the members of the Council of Ministers, who are not known to receive extraordinarily high salaries, can make such investment pledges on the spot. It is no surprise, that such pledges also raise the question, where such monies can come from.

Labor unrest continues, and I think it will only rise from this point forward.  Garment workers rallied for conditions, wages, and the government forcefully attacked.  This marks a (slight) intensification of government repression on labor, measured here in terms of rapidity of the deployment of violence.  In other words, this is worse, because the thugs beat people up faster.

Statements from ADHOC, CLEC, and LICADHO condemning police violence against workers posted at KI-Media.

Speaking of violence against organized labor, here’s a link to a three-part interview on Voice of America with the producer of Who Killed Chea Vichea?.  Available in both Khmer and English.

Back in 2005, I managed to interview Brother Number Two, Nuon Chea at his rural home in Pailin, literally a jump across the river border into Thailand.  This was about a year and a half before he was arrested, in order to bring him to trial in front of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. We talked mostly about Folktales and Buddhism (I wasn’t interested in asking questions about the regime of Democratic Kampuchea, really – it’s not as if I’m expert in the period myself, or as if he would have been honest with me). I should get around to writing that up and publishing that somewhere. Nuon Chea is part of Case 002, which is currently thought to be the last case with which the courts will go forward.  Cases 003 and later are largely being blocked by factional interests at high levels in government.  KI Media has published the Closing Order of Case 002 here. Long-running Cambodia blogger Andy Brouwer has a great post about Case 003 which is notable for the uncharacteristic level of anger apparent in his short post (Andy’s a pretty calm presence on the Cambo-webs).

Phnomenon, Cambodia’s first food blog, is back (at least briefly!) with a link to the scary story that emerged last year about the unacceptable levels of Borax and Formalin in most Cambodian food.

Need some better news?  The radical folks over at Tiny Toones (some of my students won an award to go work over there for a Summer last year!) continue to make international press with their project of helping street kids learn skills, literacy, and sex ed, all in a setting that draws them – learning how to Breakdance. They could use your help.  Check ’em out. And seriously – check out ‘Hey Babe’ below.

Cambodia’s agricultural sector continues to hemorrhage value to neighboring countries Thailand and Vietnam as a result of poor domestic milling capacity, and storage capacity.  The government of Cambodia has offered a very very low export price, in exchange for Philippine investment in storage facilities in Cambodia, as well as direct flights from Cambodia to Manila.  What do you think? Is this a good thing for the farmers?

The Mandala, the newsletter of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University, has a cover story about Professor Judy Ledgerwood’s regular Summer Field School in Cambodia, which focuses on ethnographic interviewing, and on the subject of Buddhist revival.  This school is positively inspirational.  Go – read!

A distressing article in Critical Asian Studies by Ian Baird, whom I was pleased to meet this April at the University of Wisconsin.  The article is “The Don Sahong Dam: Potential Impacts on Regional Fish Migrations, Livelihoods, and Human Health.”  The news isn’t going to suddenly get better, folks; we need to find a way to move dam issues forward in the public agenda.  More bad news to come in the near future.

Regional stuff.  A review of the Middle Mekong River Basin: Studies in Tai History and Culture is here at New Mandala!  The book is a collection of Constance Wilson’s works, and the review written by Richard O’Connor; them’s some heavy hitters, folks!  This year’s TLC panel focused on Constance Wilson’s work.

Those watching Cambodia must know a lot about Thai and Vietnamese politics, if they wish to understand the pressures under which Cambodian politicians and citizens alike labor.  Duncan McCargo is a clear explainer of Thai politics, and one of the most influential contemporary political watchers of Thailand.  The Asia Society has a video of him offering a “Thai Election Primer.


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