jeudi, novembre 09, 2006

The Cambodian Minority Of Cochinchina

News from Cambodia N° 0651-E


Khemara Jati
Montreal, Quebec
November 8th, 2006

By request of many of our readers, we reproduce below an excerpt of the Conference of Information, made by Louis Malleret, at Saigon, on December 17th, 1945, under the patronage of the Office of Cultural Affairs of the Federal Service of the Public Education, for the officers and the civil servants of the Indochina Expeditionary Force (French), reproduced entirely under the title « The Cambodian Minority of Cochinchina » in the « Bulletin of the Society of the Indo-China Studies », Tome XXI, 1st semester 1946, S.I.L.I ., Saigon on 1946.

In this conference, Malleret showed how the colonial power vietnamised Cochinchina by depriving Cambodians of knowledge of their mother tongue in order of defending itself against the administration which using only the French and Vietnamese languages.

It is not question for us to call our fellow countrymen to revenge against the colonial policy led by France for a century, but only to show how France proceeded to vietnamize Cochinchina. It belongs to us to learn how to guide our current struggles to cover and recover our national independence in our territorial and maritime integrity and also to our brothers of the Kampuchea Krom to protect her cultural identity.

Study the history to take revenge of the past or for a judgment, is the way of trying to flee the responsibilities on the future of the community. Study the history is potentially to enlighten our road to guide to the better future. On the other hand, it is curious to notice that our history is mainly written by foreigners. Why Cambodia does not have yet another serious committee for the research of the history ? Can these researches be effectively materialize if we do not settle beforehand certain questions on the “historic science” matter ? All the big historians of the world ask these questions. There is no single answer, but multiple answers which amount to this : there is no historic truth, but a way of threatening the past to prepare the future.

« Many persons and, it seems, even certain authors of manual workers make our work progressed in a strangely artless image. In the beginning, they would say gladly, are documents. The historian collects them, reads them, tries with some effort to weigh the authenticity and the truthfulness. After what, and after that only, he implements them. There is only a misfortune: no any historian, ever proceeded like that. Even when of adventure he imagines to make it.

« Because texts, or archaeological documents, was it seemingly the most clear and the most complaisant. But they speak only when we know how to question them. Before Butcher de Perthes, flints abounded, as nowadays, in the alluviums of the Somme. But the examiner missed its and there was no prehistory. Old medievalist, I admit to know hardly reading more attractive than a cartulary. It is because I know about what to ask her. A collection of Roman inscriptions, on the other hand, says to me little. I know so-so how to read them, not seeking them. In other words, any historic research supposes, from its first steps, that the inquiry already has a direction. In the beginning is the spirit. Never in a science, a passive observation gave nothing of fertile. To suppose, moreover, that it is possible. »[1]

An example: for a long time we see an apple falling, but it is necessary to wait for Newton (1642-1727), to set forth the law of the Gravitation.

Moreover in the common life, the activities of a person are always made in a more or less precise purpose. The historians also always write something in a more or less well determined purpose.

We reproduce again what wrote Marc Block: « In the beginning, they would say gladly, are documents. The historian collects them, reads them, tries hard to weigh the authenticity and the truthfulness. After what, and after what only, he implements them. There is only a misfortune: no any historian, ever proceeded like that. Even when of adventure he imagines to make it. »

So, want to write the history of Cambodia by taking into consideration only from documents already existing on our country is it a means to make our knowledge advancing on the past of our country? Marc Block asserts even: « no any historian, ever proceeded like that. »

We are not historians by profession, but we raise questions on the history of our neighbors and by extension on the history of the world on questions relating to our past, as for example the upheavals since the European arrived in our region. So, with our weak means we found elements of answers concerning the superiority of our neighbors since the beginning of the XVI th century. We diffused in our previous articles of texts concerning of the Portuguese contributions to Burma then to Ayuthia which was a commercial harbors accessible to the European boats of that time.

Before reproducing an excerpt of the Conference of Louis Malleret, we would like to mention that already a French, Pere Ponchaud, has already criticized this period of history.

About the importance of our national language, Pere François Ponchaud, in his " Report of Mission in Cambodia, from 16 till 27 September 1990 », wrote in the conclusion, at page 9:

« It is advisable to the Church (Catholic) to show itself watchful (alert) not to repeat certain errors of the past, while at the end of the XIX th and the beginning of the XX th century, and in another context, the Church, being inspired by colonial plans, favored the vietnamese settling in Cambodia. It was worth to her of being considered by Cambodians as doubling foreigner, and by her previous history and by her communities. The Khmer evangelization was therefore, compromised during almost century.

« While the Church of Cambodia is reborn of its hardship, with the fragility which we know, while it has the opportunity and the will to appear in the service of the Khmer people of Cambodia, an inconvenient and one-sided pastoral action with the immigrants whose presence is negatively seen by the public opinion, risk to burden heavily the chances of the Cambodian's evangelization. The pastoral action in Cambodia requires a caution and calls a coordination »

About the vietnamization of Cambodia, read also « The Vietnamese Community in Cambodia at the Time of the French Protectorate (1863 - 1953) », thesis of Khy Phanra, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III, on 1974, and « Cambodia and the French Colonization » by Alain Forest, Editon Harmattan, Paris 1980.

So the most important is not to take revenge to anyone, but to learn from the past in order to build properly the future of our nation. It is normal that Father Ponchaud does not forget, for him, the importance of the French language. It belongs to us to become aware of this fact.

We questioned catholic Cambodians. They say that at least with Pere Ponchaud their children can educate themselves in good conditions. Is it not a normal reaction ? Then when the university education will be in Cambodian language ?

We would like to mention that the Pere Ponchaud’s enterprise is made in the context where the Church in Cambodia recovers from Vatican. The vietnamese Church nowadays depends on Hanoi. That is why Hanoi is obliged to send priests of Saigon to make the mass at the vietnamese Catholics in Cambodia.

Excerpt of the Conference of L. Malleret on
In Bulletin de la Société des Etudes Indochinoises, tome XXI 1st semestre 1946, pages 12, 13, 14 :

« That some time, it happened to me, going through the provinces of Cochinchina by walk, on horseback, in cart or it sampan to accept the frank hospitality of the Cambodian pagodas. One hurried to bring me some coconuts to quench my thirst, whereas I offered in return sticks of incense or a tea bag. In the rest home of the hosts, one widened a mat and, when the air is pure and light, I do not feel more serene than that to lay down on the sieves of bamboo of these houses on pilotis, whereas the bigwigs in saffron dress pass silently in the walkyard and whereas a roguish wind murmurs, in the high bundles of coconut palms.

« But often, I arrived at one o'clock when the school of the pagoda noised of the young children rustle and it leads me quite naturally, to evoke here, the education problem settling under a grave aspect, for the Cambodian minority of Cochinchina. This one forms a homogeneous group, by her language, her religion, her customs, her traditions. Attached to protect her manners, she feels reluctant to send her children to the French-annamite schools because of French-Khmer schools has only very rarely.

« We tried up to here, to resolve the difficulty by favoring the development of the traditional education, in the pagoda schools. These are three types. Some are independent and, therefore, escape completely of our control. We counted 95 in 1944, grouping 1 038 pupils. Others are subsidized. There were 20, at the beginning of 1945, with 571 pupils. Finally, for fifteen years, we attempted to multiply the number of the pagoda schools said “renewed”, where the education is given by bigwigs, who followed a perfection training, in Phnom Penh, Tra-vinh or Soc-Trang and that one try hard to advise, as much as it allows, the right of glance that one can usurp, on establishments of almost exclusively religious character. The number of the schools of this type increased from 37, in 1930, to 90 in 1936, and to 209 in 1944, among which we counted 1093 girls, up to here traditionally pushed aside from profiting of the instruction. In the same time, the number of the French-Khmer official schools did not exceed the number of 19, with only 30 teachers.

« There is there a problem which hold attention. Whatever is the attention brought to the training of the bigwigs-schoolteachers, the creation of the pagoda schools, even were “renewed”, is only a means, which would not know how to replace a normal type of two cycle education. The one elementary, where the vehicle of the education which can remain in Cambodian, the other one additional with initiation into French. But we collide with the difficult question of recruiting the schoolteachers. For the school penetration, in the Cambodian countries, all the begun efforts are paralyzed by this numeric and qualitative shortage of the staff. I shall still move thus here, a wish in favor of the Cambodians in Cochinchina. It is because the number of the elementary and complementary French-Khmer schools is quickly increased, so as to form Cambodians with qualify certificate from school, capable, some to become auxiliary schoolteachers, the others to supply a first contingent of pupils-teachers, in teachers' pedagogic training, to whom it will be necessary to return, if we intend to break certainly with the policy of primary education in discount, which was happened in Indochina, since the economic crisis of 1929-1933.

This problem affects not only the primary academic standard to which it is entitled, in the obligation to grant to the Cambodian child of Cochinchina. It contains also the grave question of an elite recruitment. In the Khmer minority of the lower-Mekong, as well as in the whole of Cambodia, fact shown to the observer, is that this society is deprived totally of the ruling class except the clergy. In the old Khmer Kingdom, it is often Annamites who provide the civil servants contingent of the administration
[2]. The vietnamese also occupy the liberal occupations, and this situation, the Cambodians who are the first ones to be alarmed, but without serious reaction, seems to be in the same situation since previous history. It is remarkable, indeed, that the decline of this country coincided with the time when occurred in India, during the Moslem invasions. From the moment when Cambodia was deprived of the rule and framework brought by brahmanes, it seems that the situation began to decline[3]. There are some reasons for thinking that the principal reasons causing to stop an elite recruitment, produced the same effects, in the former Fou-Nan, and one saw the Siameses opposing more recently, in the recovery of the Cambodian nation, by massacring ruling classes during their raids, or by taking them in captivity.

« What so ever it happens, the urgent work, the necessary work, is to grant to the Cambodian minority of Cochinchina, the means to protect her personality, while creating for her, schools, and especially by breaking with the custom of the adequate portion, consisting to pay Cambodian municipal schoolteachers, derisory salaries, as it was the case in Cochinchina, in 1943, when the teachers recruited with great difficulty, received for the price of their professional activity, including charges and reparations, twenty one piastre a month

« The problem of the school penetration, in this minority, is not the only one which deserves to require our willingness. But it is of a major importance, because all the others derive from ignorance where the Khmer farmer is on his rights. Very attached to her land, without army to defend her patrimony, and often becomes the victim of incredible despoliations. Her bigwigs who are her natural guardians and who maintained them in the way of a magnificent moral elevation, remain strictly attached to the tradition and without lights on the obligations and the rigours of the modern existence. The "achars", respected old men whom one consult in difficult occasions, them either, are a very nice people attached to the speaking custom, and divested of resources, in front of the merciless necessities of a social organization, where the good faith of the weak is exposed to the hard assaults.

« The contact of two populations, the one active and enterprising, the other apathetic person and the traditionalist, brings daily abuses, which our country would not know how to cover with its indifference, and seems rising, primarily, of the mission of federal arbitrage which is devolved to her in Indochina. I know a conglomeration of Long-xuyen province, where the fusion of the Cambodian village with an annamite village, measures decided without precaution by the authority, had for result to dispossess completely, the first one (Cambodian village) of its municipal lands, for the benefit of the second (annamite village) which was poor, in such a way that the school of this one (village annamite) became prosperous, whereas the school of that one (Cambodian village) vegetates henceforth, for lack of resources
[5]. I shall also quote, a Cambodian hamlet of the province of Rach-gia, settled far away from roads and canals, where the inhabitants knew one day, by me, with bewilderment, that they were not any more owners of their lands of house, these having been incorporated into the Public domain, because having no regular title or not having been informed about the meaning of the demarcation operations, they had not appeared in front of the cadastral committees[6].

« Is it necessary to wonder if, in front of what they consider as arbitrary measures, the Cambodians abandon, sometimes en masse, certain villages, to flee the injustice and the despoliation. The annamite Creditors or Chinese make sign by illiterate Khmer farmers, leonine acts which succeed, in brief term, in the total dispossession of the debtor. The evil had become so obvious, and the wear and tear so usual of similar expropriations, that the French administration had to become alarmed of it. In 1937, the visa of the recording was declared compulsory for the notes of debts, with joint signature of the debtor and the creditor. In Tra-vinh, it seemed even necessary, to require their presence, during the registration of the mortgages on land registers.

« It would be desirable, in another respect, that those were widened or strengthened, certain measures taken on the eve of the war, by the French authority notably who prescribed that, in the mixed villages, the Khmer element is represented by a number of notables, proportional in her importance, or still, the one who established an auxiliary officer of family-status, in the villages with the great majority Cambodian. But these measures could become completely effective, that only if the then notables appointed took part, under certain conditions and according to the numeric importance of the minority, among the most considerable of the municipal council members.

« It is also important, that the Cambodian element has the place which returns to her in the body of the elected members, whatever level they are established. One had proposed, about twenty years back, that the autonomous cantons, recovering directly from the superior authority, were organized, where the minority appear in trainings enough compact (in number) to justify this measure. But one can also conceive that the name of Khmer canton leaders is obliged to declare, in the regions where the ethnic group is dominating, with the canton vice-leaders, where it does not detain the majority. Anyway, it is necessary that the Cambodians recover from civil servants or from councilors speaking their language. And that, in the administrative competitions, certain places is reserved for the candidates for the public services, with temporarily title, the special conditions. It seems indispensable that the Cambodian language is officially admitted, in the staff writing of the requests or the administrative correspondence. Finally, one can only wish the development of the office of the Cambodian cases, which had been created on the eve of the war, with the cabinet of the Governor.

« Cambodians are called to take a certain numeric importance in Cochinchina. Far from being in recession, their number increases in every census. In 1888, they were 150 000 on 1 600 000 inhabitants. In 1925, they had become 300 000. On the eve of the war, we counted approximately 350 000, on a global population of less than 5 million inhabitants. Their relations with the Chinese are excellent, and we count numerous Sino-Cambodian half-bloods who, remarkable fact, adopt gladly the customs of the mother, what is rarely the case of the half-bloods sino-annamites. The Khmers of Cochinchina maintain generally with Annamites the divested of sympathy relations. These call them with condescension, “Tho”, that is the “men of the land”, but Cambodians make contempt for contempt, by treating the others of “Yuon”, as the sanskrit “Yuvana”, that is of “Barbarian of the North”
[7]. It is certain that these hostilities, based on incompatibilities of customs, language, religion and also, on all the bitterness of former dispossessions, have the effect of provoking a kind of latent friction, harmful to the social peace, and which demands the control of an arbitrator.

« In this regard, Cochinchina appears par excellence, as a federal territory, where pathetic France for weak and generous to loyal subjects, has to prevail solutions of justice and to restore the balance tending to destroy in the world, coarse selection of the strongest. It is up to her to attribute to the Cambodian minority of the lower-Mekong, a political status which was never clearly defined to protect her rights by administrative measures, to maintain her cultural originality, to protect especially her real-estate fortune, patrimony which diminishes gradually every day, by the effect of incredible abuses. I add that our country would not know how to lose interest either, of the moral condition of these populations. The Cambodian minority of Cochinchina traditionally leaned on the Buddhism of the South, whereas Annam adopted the Buddhism of the North. It belongs to France, old Christian and liberal nation, become by Africa, Moslem metropolis, to become for the Southeast Asia, a Buddhist metropolis. It is not any more the secret, that Japan had tried to organize the sects of the Buddhism in Indochina in its profit, and that Siam pursued the same purposes for a long time in Cambodia, for territorial expansion reasons. The Cambodian bigwigs of Cochinchina are placed in the brilliance of the Buddhist Institute of Phnom Penh. Also having ties in Laos, the institute of federal character, the development of which is desirable and the importance would not be underestimated. »


Nowadays in Cambodia Vietnam is not vietnamising Cambodia by making everything to hinder the Cambodian language development by all means and supporting by major powers interests ? China thinks only of developing the education in Chinese language, the United States and the others think only of developing the education in English language, France thinks only of developing the education in French language, Japan thinks only of developing the education in Japanese language.

Now Cambodia needs to form as fast as possible thousands, even dozens thousand high-level engineers, dozens thousands, even hundreds of thousand technicians well formed by any level. It is thus necessary to be able to select them most widely possible. It is thus necessary to take a particular care in the education in national language of primary classes up to the high-level universities while favoring the learning of a foreign language as the second language. It is what takes place in all the developed countries of the world and also at our eastern and western neighbors as well.

The Special Economic Zones (SEZ) has been raised. It is curious to notice that this SEZ is granted to private or foreign companies. On the other hand why some of these SEZ are curiously on our borders? This SEZ will need a big number of high-level engineers, high-level administrators, technicians of all levels. Are not the responsibles for these SEZ to take excuse of Cambodian lack of qualified personnel then recruiting of the Vietnamese staff in the East and the Thai staff on the West? Already Cambodians in the East learn the vietnamese and the thai on the West? Is not Cambodia becoming another Cochinchina? Vietnam is using the same strategy as France of colonial epoch for vietnamising Cochinchina ?

Are not the leaders of major powers big commercial travellers to sell products of their country ? Do not major powers dedicate enormous sums to develop the research and the high-technology industries ? The politic does not consist in making only politic. The perpetuity and the perennity of a nation resides in the development of her written culture enriched constantly by exchanging it with the other cultures and also by the development of her economy which is managed only by her own citizens. In brief, educated people are the base of the perpetuity of a nation. Educate People means when 10 % of the population are of university level and 50 % of the adult population buy at least one book a year. When will be the case of Cambodia?

Struggling politically against the vietnamese domination in Cambodia is very good. But is it enough ? Is not Hanoi vietnamizing Cambodia by slowing down the using of our language in the higher level education and forming only in driblets the engineers (25 a year) and the technicians in all branches and at all levels? And also by preventing the development of the Cambodian commercial and industrial companies and by not engaging first and foremost the Cambodian engineers and the technicians?

The Cambodian struggles to build middle class more and more numerous against the obstacles imposed by the current regime does not constitute also an important contribution for our national independence?

November 8th, 2006

Notes : Cet article est aussi disponible en français sur demande.
The notes from (1) to (7) are of Khemara Jati.
[1] « Apology for the History - Apologie pour l’Histoire » by Marc Bloch, (1886 shot by the Germans in 1944), Ed. Armand Colin, Paris 1974 pages 62–63.
[2] It is about the colonial administration in Cambodia.
[3] Unfortunaltely Malleret, referes to the Coedes thesis, the thesis refuted by B.-P. Groslier.
[4] We would have wished that Malleret also gives us the salary of the annamite teachers.
[5] It is necessary to underline that the French administration of Cochinchina was in the hands of Annamites. The decision of fusion of both villages was thus intended to end in the result noticed by Malleret. The text of Malleret is of 1946. How many such decisions were they taken since the beginning of the colonization ? Since 1860 ? There is still no investigation to know if Cambodians were minority in Cochinchina at the time when the Frenchmen arrived. Can we totally rely on the censuses made by the colonial authorities totally in the Annamite's hands ? On the other hand, since the 1860s, why the borders of Cochinchina moved inexorably westward to the detriment of Cambodia? We have testimonies saying that there was few Annamites in Saigon (“Saramani” by Roland Meyer, Edition Imprimerie Nouvelle Albert Portail, Saigon on 1919, page 39) and no single Annamite on the Koh Tral island at the beginning of the XXth century (“Komlah” by Roland Mayer, Edition Pierre Roger, Paris, Paris 1930, page 167). And also in: Mak Phœun in his article “The border between Cambodia and Vietnam of the XVIIth century the institution of the French protectorate, presented through the Khmer Royal Columns”, in “The Borders of Vietnam”, supervised by P.B. Lafont, Ed. Harmattan, Paris 1989, pages 136-155.
[6] The not French agents of the operations of demarcation, cadastral committees of the services of geography and the other technical services, were 100 % annamites, in Cochinchina and in Cambodia as well.
[7] Unfortunately, Malleret does not provide the reference of his assertion. Up to this day, there is no serious historic research on the previous history regarding the words Youn and Cochinchina for example. Nevertheless Youn comes from Yué or Viet. Vietnam = Yué of the South (nan = the South in Chinese). The Chinese always name their neighbour of the South: Youan-nan. The term “Cochinchina” appeared the first time on the map of the Indo-Chinese peninsula drawn up by the anonymous Portuguese by 1580; so on the map of “Eastern India” according to the Mercator map (1613), these two maps are in “Indochina” in 2 volumes of Georges Maspéro, Ed. G. Van Oest, in 1929; so in the China map, in the Atlas of Mercator published by Jocondus Hondius, Amsterdam, on 1606, The Stapleton Collection. On these three maps Cochinchina is in China of the South, in the North of Champa and Camboia.