Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Noticed anything about Cambodia in the news lately?

Probably not. There isn't much going on that makes the big papers or TV channels. If you have heard something, it probably involved the long delayed Khmer Rouge Trial, which politicians and lawyers insist will happen soon, before the last few members of the KR die of old age.

The Khmer Rouge is still blamed for most of Cambodia's problems. This is understandable - it's hard to imagine a regime more inhuman in ideology and brutal in its methods. But Pol Pot and his clique are hardly the only ones who have terrorized Cambodia in modern history. The sad and uncomfortable truth is that violence on the part of foreign countries created the inhuman conditions that culminated in the horrific phenomenon of the Khmer Rouge.

Ever hear the Khmer Rouge National Anthem? Probably not. It doesn't get played much anymore. Here is a selection:

"The bright red blood was spilled over the towns
And over the plain of Kampuchea, our motherland,

The blood of our good workers and farmers and of
Our revolutionary combatants, both men and women."

It gets even bloodier in the next verse. Clearly, the ultra-nationalist Khmer Rouge didn't fall from the sunny blue sky. They rose from blood.

Blood spilled by Chinese assault rifles. Blood spilled by Vietnamese fighter pilots. Blood spilled by land mines made in Hungary, Thailand and the former U.S.S.R. Blood spilled by machetes. Blood spilled by ton after ton after ton of American bombs.

Violence created fear created inhumanity created the horrible suffering and stinking poverty that Cambodian's are only just now beginning to overcome.

I came across two quotes today (thanks Laura!)

"The challenge of the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves (the West) we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era-- force, preemptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the 19th century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law, but when we're operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle.
...The opportunities, perhaps even the need for colonization, is as great as it ever was in the 19th century. What is needed then is a new kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan values."

-Robert Cooper, foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair, 2002.

"Run faster"
- inscribed on NATO bombs, Serbia 1999

To readers who found me through the write-up in the excellent Kyoto Journal advertising Sleepingthemountains as an intentionally apolitical blog - apologies. Cambodia has changed my mind.

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Blogger STAG said...

I can't tell you how much I enjoy your writing! The story of cowering in a tent with crabs that sound like people sneaking up on you is priceless.
All human interaction is about politics. There are no "good guys", really. The latest news here in Canada is that thousands of first nations people are not getting as much as they expected in compensation for being taken from their shacks and being sent to live in "residential schools". Seems the lawyer is demanding (get this) 49 million dollars for his work in getting the settlement, and the government is aghast!
So you see, you can't get rid of politics, no matter where you go, or how well off (or how badly off) you might be.
I shall continue to check in from time to time, though of course, it is often a few months between visits.

10:08 AM  

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