20 May – Day of Hate – A Note On Titles

Today is Mphei Ousophea, May 20th. During the eighties, it was more commonly called tngai chong komhoeng, the Day to [remain] Tied in Anger. I’d like to translate it as “The Day to Stay Angry,” or “Grudge Day.” The problem with the first is its colloquialism, and the problem with the latter is the potential confusion with kum, the Khmer word for grudge, which does not appear in the name of the day.

Really, the main problem with either is the dominance of Western literary tropes laid over Cambodia – as if there weren’t already too many palimpsests of history laid over the land. So we call it the Day of Hate, referring quite obviously to Orwell’s fantastic novel 1984. There are similarities, but the differences tend to be erased in this appropriation.

Regardless, because of the ECCC tribunal, the increased attention has led to a return of people calling this day “The Day of Hate.”

It was the Day of Hate that first focused my early interest in Cambodian funerary rituals, but what struck many of my advisors at the time was that it seemed to be barely hanging on. And they were right. It was a purely political ritual, attended almost exclusively by party members and villagers from party villages.

If we are to judge by the increase of media attention, the ritual has begun to transform into a more popular ritual, though it sounds very much the same to me.