Posts Tagged ‘preah vihear’

Association of Asian Studies

In faculty on March 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Well, here we are at the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference, in San Diego (famous residents include Buffy Summers, apparently), California.  In addition to the excellent looking panels and discussions this year, this is the last year I will serve as the Chair of the Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia Studies group (TLC).

Part of the TLC work is the annual invitation to a distinguished academic to speak to issues of broad significance to our members. This year, we have invited Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, former Rector of Thammasat University in Thailand, to speak (Dr. Kasetsiri’s personal web page, here). In line with our selected theme for the year – geographies of conflict (or to use a felicitous phrase from our sponsored panel which was unfortunately not accepted this year, “Cartographies of Violence.” Dr. Kasetsiri will be speaking tonight on the conflict over the Angkorian temple of Preah Vihear (Th: Phra Viharn), which has been an object of nationalist desire and mobilization by groups on both sides of the Cambodian-Thai border.

I’m also spending my first conference speaking to publishers, about my manuscript with the working title of “Deathpower in Cambodian Buddhism.” Everyone’s been quite nice,but for a junior scholar (yes, at nearly 40, with a Ph.D., a tenure-track job, and two children, I still consider myself a junior scholar) it’s damn-near heart-attack-inducing.  Luckily those new AED machines are all over the place. :)

This post marks my intention to return to blogging on a slow, but slightly more frequent pace. In future weeks, I should have a few short pieces including discussions about the ideas in my manuscript, my attendance and studies of Samdech Euv (King-Father) Norodom Sihanouk‘s cremation rituals, which I was fortunate to attend, thanks in large part to a generous travel and research grant from my home institution.

Sounding on Cambodia, April 11, 2011

In sounding on April 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I’ve started a new practice here on Imagining the Real World.  I’ve always used the “Sounding” tag to indicate a group of links to other internet-materials that are associated with each other by a particular subject matter: Cambodia, Buddhism, The Academy, Religious Studies, etc., etc.

However, starting today, I’m going to assign specific days of the week to specific topics.  While some will come and go for the current period, Mondays will be my chance to Sound Off on links related to Cambodian Topics, Wednesday will look at Buddhism, and Friday will look at Religious Studies.

So, what’s on tap for the first thusly-organized Sounding on Cambodia?: Khmer Martial Arts (Bradal Serey), Expats and Global Apartheid, the online publication of sections of the Astrological Yearbook for the Khmer New Year (comin’ up, comin’ up!), a new website on Khmer Manuscripts (huzzah!), Border conflict with Thailand, Draft Laws on NGOs and Unions, and the implosion of the Sam Rainsy Party.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia Sounding for August 16, 2010

In comment on August 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Some stories I’ve been following lately, or that just caught my eye:

Lower Mekong Archaeology Project (LoMAP) gets some more much-deserved attention from Bora Touch, whose original article, “The Mekong Delta Before Angkor: origins, landscapes and emergent complexity,” was retitled in their classically nationalistic style here. Very much worth a read.

The Mirror, a Cambodian Newspaper translation blog online, run by Norbert Klein, has been doing its important work more frequently, and with more precision, sometimes lining of a sort of “We Said/They Said” set of quotes to attempt to set stories straight, among other crucial issues.  Go check them out and subscribe to the feed. Some stories from the Mirror recently:

And just for fun, some local Christian group in California has received its 15 minutes of fame and made lots of self-aggrandizing comments about their work.  Check it out here, in “Christians Fight Evils For Kids In Cambodia.”  Since I just accidentally ran across some particularly awful manuals for missionization of Sino-Khmer in Cambodia, this struck me as just dumb and rude, but perhaps I’m over-reacting.

The Wet-Season Offensive at Preah Vihear?

In khmer on July 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I’ve written a fair bit on this blog about Preah Vihear, including perhaps especially this post here, which discusses a famous ritual performed at the site by Bun Rany Hun Sen, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen. That ritual, the Krong Pali ritual, immediately brought accusations in Thailand that the Khmer were (typically) practicing ‘black magic’ against the Thais.

The dry season is over, so it’s out of season for the current hubbub over the ownership of Preah Vihear; these have thus far largely corresponded to the traditional military dry season offensives, which is an interesting aspect of the mobilizations themselves.  The current kerfuffle, rather, is based on a different calendar altogether, the calendar of opportunism within Thailand.

AFP PhotoHaving routed the Red Shirts, and with the Thai government hunting them down in ways that smack of Thaksin’s extrajudicial killings during his notorious ‘war on drugs,’ the Yellow Shirts (PAD and allies within the military and government) having again taken up the popular irredentist banner of nationalism. They definitively lost the last round, and Preah Vihear temple was properly listed as a World Heritage Site, under Cambodian authority.  This round is really about the administration plan for Preah Vihear, which the PAD insist be delayed until all land disputes on the border are resolved. Which, of course, they will never let happen.  Should disputes appear resolved, they’ll just head to the border again and cause more violence with the relatively amicable Thai and Khmer on the border, as they did last time. Read the rest of this entry »

Sounding on Cambodia, March 19, 2010

In sounding on March 19, 2010 at 9:18 am

Funded by the US State Department and the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, Undercover UXO is designed to run on the “One Laptop Per Child XO laptop.” The game will provide a consequence-free learning environment that teaches kids how to identify UXOs and report them to inspectors.

  • A lay nun burned herself inside the confines of Watt Ounalom in Phnom Penh.  If you click through, beware that the photo is pretty horrific. The reasons for this tragic action remain unclear, though there is a lot of speculation; the woman, whose current status has not been reported to my knowledge, was taken to Calmette Hospital.
  • Anne Elizabeth Moore has another excellent article on Cambodian Garment Workers. Moore has a relatively privileged perspective here, having lived as a dorm supervisor for a few months in Cambodia for the Harpswell Foundation.  The article, a followup to the last one written by Moore at Truthout, focuses on the Messenger Band, a band composed of current and former garment workers.  There’s audio on the site as well – go check it out! I cried at my computer when I read this part:

Members of the Messenger Band

Members of the Messenger Band

As garment factories close, more and more women enter the sex industry by working at the karaoke bars. You have a song about this.

Vun Em: When the factories close down, some girls will go to become entertainment workers, and HIV will spread out around. But why don’t [the NGOs] care about their living life? Why they don’t care about their family? Why they don’t care about the security of those people? Why they care only about HIV? [She starts to cry.] I don’t know, I don’t understand.

We also care about HIV, but you have to think about the lives of the people, not only HIV. If the people don’t have enough food to eat, if they don’t have enough education, if they don’t have good health, how can they prevent themselves from the HIV? They don’t have time to think about HIV, they only have time to think, I need food, I need food. All the time.

SOUNDING on Southeast Asia, 4 February 2010

In sounding on February 4, 2010 at 10:57 am

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is about to make his first trip to ព្រះ​វិហារ (Preah Vihear) temple in the midst of the run-up to the dry-season offensive (military potential, but it’s going to be loud, at minimum), has also been preaching parables to people in his client-base.  This parable is all about a good Buddhist elder and a bad Buddhist elder, and how at some point, the good guy eventually gets tired of being good to the bad guy and the bad guy stops getting what he asks for, gets leprosy, and dies.  Just sayin’!

Meanwhile, just across the Thai border, the cold-hearted bastards at Reuters who analyze trends for investors have started warning about a possible coup.

Economic indicators in Cambodia: a brand-new, purportedly high-quality modern Rice Mill has opened in Battambang Province.  The president has a Khmer name; is the company owned by a Cambodian and do profits stay in country? Meanwhile, pawn shops are becoming legal.  That’ll help. Cause god knows, there aren’t enough opportunities to buy second-hand, stolen commodity goods in Cambodia right now.

Human Rights Watch has released a 93 page report which is very hard to read.  It details the horrendous abuse taking place in Cambodia’s Drug “Rehab” centers, largely of young children from the streets.  Beatings are not the worst of it.  HRW recommends that the centers be monitored by the UN. I think they should be destroyed and ripped down to the foundations.

Oh, and that cool image from the MMAP folks of what appears to be a burial urn?  It was.  And that’s the second one evah.  Awesomes.

SOUNDING on Cambodia: Hun Sen and Preah Vihear

In sounding on January 26, 2010 at 10:04 am

shot caller

Paul Vrieze publishes a review of Hun Sen‘s 25 years in power. Hun Sen’s greatest asset has far too often been seen by his critics as a weakness: he was on many different and conflicting sides in the conflicts of the 70s and 80s – just like the majority of Cambodians. Unlike most Cambodians, in addition to having had a kaleidoscopic history of shifting political loyalties, he has only every really been on one side: his own. [link, via]

Despite his political skills, Hun Sen did not shy away from using violence against political opposition. In 1997, he took over thegovernment by force and the ensuing fighting killed about 100 people, mostly from the rival Funcinpec Party, according to a 2008 US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, which referred to the takeover as an “unlawful seizure of power”.

Before the military takeover, a grenade attack hit a peaceful opposition rally in Phnom Penh, which killed 16 children, men and women and wounded more than 100 others. Recent disclosures of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) probe into the attack, which was conducted because an American citizen was injured in the blast, were made under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Cambodia Daily, a local English-language newspaper.

The investigation, which was cut short due to intensifying threats to the FBI agent, found evidence that directly implicated Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit and the CPP, while highly placed witnesses declined to cooperate with the FBI, according to the records disclosed to the newspaper. The US government reacted to the violent events of 1997 by banning direct aid to Cambodia for a decade. As the US Congressional Research Service noted, “The autocratic tendencies of Prime Minister Hun Sen have discouraged foreign investment and strained US-Cambodian relations.”

And oh yes, the Dry Season is here – so it’s about time for violent misunderstandings at the Cambodian-Thai border, over the Khmer temple of ប្រសាទ​ព្រះ​វិហារ Prasat Preah Vihear (Thai: Phra Viharn). [link, link]

Ta Moan Thom (and Touch) – Which Side of the Border?

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2008 at 2:37 pm

That’s not a serious question – they are both clearly on the Cambodian side of the border. But it is a question you can expect from the immensely silly Nation newspaper in Thailand, and other crazy nationalist folks. (See here for a nicely-worded rebuttal to a Nation editorial from Ambassador to Cambodia Julio Jeldres.)

In spite of news reports that all military personnel on both sides had withdrawn from the devastated Ta Moan Thom temple….”they’re ba-ack!” Thai troops have re-entered the temple compound, constructed gates, are refusing to allow entry to Cambodian troops, and are reportedly constructing new border markers which move the border onto the Cambodian side of the temple.

Cambodia, of course, rejects the Thai claims to ownership, but aren’t (probably can’t) propose anything more forceful.

At this point, it is very clear that neither side has a plan. They are making it up as they go along, wriggling for a slightly better position, like 14-year-old boys clinched in a sublimated homoerotic wrestling contest in the school’s playyard.

The difference is that these guys have guns. (Actually, if you live in the US as I do, that is very likely not a difference).

Ta Moan Thom, Touch, and of course, Preah Vihear – 8.8.08

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Sheesh. The back and forth reporting makes me wish I could parachute in (like most but not all western journos do with Cambodia) and see what was actually happening, maybe talk to a few people.

We hear that troops have been withdrawn from Prasat Ta Moan Thom, that they haven’t, they they are taking turns, and that nothing has changed.

What is really happening?

Meanwhile, the Cambodian military has started digging trenches near the Preah Vihear site, a sign that they are planning on settling in for a longer stretch than anyone really wants.

Also? This photo rocks. [Ganked from the PPP site]

The Latest on Preah Vihear and Prasat Ta Moan Thom 1.2

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm

The border conflict over the Preah Vihear temple has started to spread, like a cancer that is metastasizing. New nodes pop up, and those who wish to see the whole thing just go away are likely to be disappointed. Instead, border conflicts – the raison d’être and proof of the nation – state’s value in an era when domestic prosperity is declining or nowhere to be found – are likely to merely continue. Can I make a rash prediction? The cancer will go into remission sometime in the next 6 weeks, but will re-emerge within 3 years.

As I mentioned the other day, Cambodia has accused the Thai military of invading more Cambodian territory, this time at Prasat Ta Moan Thom, the name of which translates to The Larger Temple of Grandfather Chicken. (Plea for help – I am assuming that Ta Moan is a neak ta, but I’m not familiar with him – anyone want to enlighten us?) Vittorio Roveda’s astonishingly wonderful book on Angkorean temples, Images of the Gods, has this to say about the temple, but no explanation of the name:

Ta Muen Thom [Thai transliteration]
11th Century

The temple…was built along the ancient road passing through the Dangrek Range to unite Angkor with Phimai. It is some 35km south of Prakhorn Chai and a few metres from the present-day Thai-Cambodian border. The Khmer Rouge during the 1980s and heavy pillaging since have contributed to its almost total destruction. The main tower… was erected on a sandstone outcrop whose form was suggestive of a linga…. Little remains of the decorative elements. The best patterns at the base of the north side of the central sanctuary were probably carved during the second half of the 12th century, along with dvarapalas and devatas…. On one lintel, the figure sits on a kala with his hands in the yogasana position, perhaps a protective deity, although looking like a Buddha.

A number of sculptural elements, particularly lintels, have been moved to museums for safety and restoration. (p. 466)

It remains unclear to me exactly what is going on here. The temple is very clearly inside of Cambodian territory (check out an image from google maps here); I’m not confused about that. What I am confused about is which side is stirring the turd here, as my great aunt might have said. The Cambodian government claims that the Thai military has just now invaded the temple, while the Thai side claims that it has had military stationed there for many years. Either way, asking them to leave seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag has made what also seems to be a reasonable proposal – allow the military to negotiate withdrawal from the Preah Vihear temple. Why is this reasonable? Because the military is not the main provocateur here – the PAD is. The soldiers are getting along pretty well, considering that their jobs are to intimidate the hell out of each other until things get hot enough that they have to start shooting.

Meanwhile, AlisoninCambodia has posted a picture of the outside of the Thai Embassy in Cambodia, in which the sidewalk is covered with police and fire trucks. If the 2003 riots against Thai business interests were effected with the connivance of the government, that doesn’t appear to be in the cards this time.

Mongkol has posted about the cyber-nationalists whose conversations are, for the most part, either tedious or hilarious, depending on how altered you are when you read them. He gets quoted in the Phnom Penh Post (which has just gone daily. But no rss feed yet, which means I won’t follow it as closely as I’d like – get on that, folks!).

update: moments after posting this, word came across the wires (I suppose that should be intertubes) that Thai troops and Cambodian troops have all returned to their original positions, withdrawing from their near-engagement at the Larger and Smaller Grandfather Chicken temples (Prasat Ta Moan Thom and Prasat Ta Moan Touch). [AFP, via DAS]


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