jeudi, novembre 15, 2007

Errors of Sihanouk (Part 5 of 6)

News From Cambodia N° 0711


Khemara Jati
Montréal, Québec
March 5th, 2007

(Continued from the previous part)

b/. Another factor of gathering lies in the national culture that the language is the main support.

Another factor of gathering the people resides in the national culture. A culture is durable only based on the paper (writing matter). Sihanouk did not understand it. He continues to use a foreign language in the administration and also in the education even in the secondary level. The best secondary school of time, the secondary school frequented by the children of the Cambodian high personalities, was the lycée Descartes. In this secondary school the Cambodian language was considered as foreign language! That’s the last straw!! Certain number of this lycée Descartes alumni now are in charge of important positions in the current regime. Are they conscious and aware of the importance of our national language? The solidity of any structure depends largely on the cement’s quality. Henceforth the best of all the cement of the people is her culture. Can a culture be evolved without the written language support? Does a written language disdained by intellectuals has a future ? Is a culture without future a good cement to unite our people ?

Our spoken and written language dated at least from the VIth century. It is then part of our ancestor’s legacy. It is a part of our history, our cultural patrimony and thus our cultural identity. The mother dialect contains an emotional and sentimental responsibility transmitted from father to son and from mother to daughter since the night of time. To underestimate our mother tongue is it not a way of underestimating the importance of our language as fundamental and inexorable factor of our national identity? On this fact, we go backward unprecedented, in a straight line, in the world of the mindless refusal of our national language by a very important part of our intellectual elite. Is it not this fact one amongst many other causes of our incapacity to unite together to fight against the foreign dominations until nowadays? In Kampuchea Krom, since the colonial time until our days, to remove the Cambodian identity of our brothers, the objective of the Frenchmen pursuing now by the Vietnamese is not to remove our language, first the written one, which is the prelude of our spoken language disappearance ? Is not it the same objective using by the current regime installed in Phnom Penh by Hanoi since January 7th, 1979, until our days, in the general indifference, to remove of their Cambodian identity, as Cham ?

Malleret loves Cambodians. He discovered the port of Founan Oc Eo dated the IIth century after J.C. thanks to the Cambodian geographic names in Kampuchea Krom. This fact explains that he is anxious to keep Cambodian geographic names in Kampuchea Krom. Also that the Cambodian of Kampuchea Krom keep her cultural identity then her language of which it is the only support.

Does not the foreign languages which is using as main languages in our universities until our days is the continuation of the same objectives as during the colonial period, in the general indifference ?

So one of the fundamental errors of Sihanouk resides in the fact that he did not understand the importance of our national language as fundamental and indestructible link between Cambodians, between the generations, between Cambodians of cities and Cambodians in the villages, between Cambodian intellectuals and the people in general. Because without using of our language in universities, how can Cambodian people acquire the knowledge spread by the peoples of other developed countries? How can our language express all the nuances of thoughts and knowledge spread out over the world? It is the fact that every major power thinks only of spreading their language. The cultural variety is meant only for the languages and the cultures of major powers. The disappearance of our written language is the prelude forwarding our spoken language's disappearance, then the disappearance of our national culture, then the disappearance of the base of our national unity and finally forwarding the disappearance of our nation.

The mother tongue is by definition all the verbal signals connecting the child to his inner circles and the community in which his contacts with the outside world. It is the language of his parents, the first persons who elevate him. It is in this mother tongue that the child listens to the first songs, these lullaby singing by his mother to put him sleep. It is in the same language that he listens to the first histories. He will express himself in the first time in this language. He will communicate with the other children of his acquaintance circles and with the other grown-ups in this language.

The mother tongue allows the child to feel good at home, with his and with other persons surrounding him. He finds oneself thanks to these social marks governing the community. Other cultural aspects come along the mother tongue as food, clothes, and certain customs.

It is in that way the child builds his cultural identity.

Later, the child will learn to read. If books are written in the language of his parents and relatives, the child will read and will understand them easily and will assimilate them without problem. Later on he will learn the world more easily by using his mother tongue. Once well rooted in the skin, he can learn at the same time another language as second language.

Then the selection can be made on a very wide base. A pyramid having a wide base will rise higher than a pyramid having a less wide base.

Cambodia is confronted with a world competition, in particular a mortal competition with our neighbors. Vietnam forms a year more than 30 000 high-level engineers in vietnamese language. Let us well remind this.

c/. The communications inside our country.

Sihanouk did not realize the importance of the good ground communications inside our country. Recently in Europe Hungary and Rumania have just integrated to the European Union. The first credits assigned by Brussels are intended to improve their road and railway communications interior of these two countries. During colonial period the French colonial thinks only of Vietnam and more particularly of the Vietnamese of Cochin-china. To reach our provinces of the Northeast, it is necessary to pass through Vietnam. During Sihanouk era, no any new road was built in the only exception of the road RN4 Phnom Penh - Kompong Som offered by the United States of America. Our cities and villages bordering of our neighbors remain always difficult to access from Phnom Penh. In these conditions how to develop the symbiosis between Cambodians of cities and Cambodians of villages? How to diffuse the acquired knowledge from cities toward villages ? In these conditions how to collect and to harmonize the relations between cities and villages ?

There are however positive facts: The creation of Kompong Som port, in 1969, whith his name. It is the first true port opened on the sea of our history, for our foreign trade. It is the first time that Cambodian people meet with the sea, even very late compare to our neighbours. From the beginning of the XVIth century the Portuguese was already in connection with Ayuthia, Vietnam, China and Japan. This because Cambodia had no any port accessible to the European boats. During colonial era, the Cambodia foreign trade had made only by Saigon. Ang Duong dealed the foreign trade of Cambodia by Kampot. The colonial power obliged to lock this commercial way. On the other hand to develop Saigon, the colonial power obliged Cambodia to become the back country of Saigon. Because Cochin-china had very few foodstuffs to be exported.

The road RN 4 Phnom Penh - Kompong Som was offered by the United States. Now this road needs to be widened and to transform into real highway with at least two lines on each side. On the contrary, the current regime punishes the users of this road RN 4 by tolls. It is one more handicap for our foreign trade compared with Saigon. Since 1991, Japan builds highways only to favor Saigon for our foreign trade, as during colonial period.

Nowadays the roads inside Cambodia are in general useless especially during the rainy season. The road around Tonlé Sap is unusable between Battambang and Siemreap. Why? How to defend our borders if the roads heading to our border villages are not really practical or non-existent ? While it is totally opposite at our neighbors?

The unity between cities and villages is feasible only by the facilities of road communications, is not it ?

About the railway road, during Sihanouk era, of course there is a construction of the railway between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, by way of Kampot, implementing the train already existed between Phnom Penh and Battambang. Now these railroads need to be redone. Who is going to do it ? The powers that will help us, will use how many Cambodian companies, Cambodian engineers and technicians? There is however certain: the coolies will be Cambodians or more exactly Cambodian women, because it is cheaper.

Now cities are fast developed. Who thinks of sewers and drains ? In Phnom Penh, the sewerage system dated since the protectorate. Nowadays there are opened sewers exhaling stench (stinking smells) of the whole capital. The poor Cambodians have no choice but are obliged to live that near. Who cares about it? At Siem Reap city, soon Stung Siem Reap itself will also become an opened sky sewer. Who thinks of the future of our country?

Another realization of Sihanouk asset is the construction of an oil refinery at Sihanoukville, now totally destroyed. When will it be replaced? When will Cambodia be independent in the energy field ? Is not the energy independence, in particular the independence in electrical energy and in oil productions, essential for the independence of a nation? Why does the energy, in Cambodia, cost 50 % more expensive than at our neighbors ?

Finally, in the tribute of Sihanouk era there is a construction of the hydroelectric dam of Kirirom.

In summary the only durable inheritance of period Sihanouk is the port built at Kompong Som baptised in his name and Preah Vihear confirmed by the International tribunal that it belongs to Cambodia.

d/. The problem of the army.

Sihanouk did not take into account of the colonial power behavior who works in favor of Vietnam at the cost of Cambodia. Does he ignore it? After the Independence, he continues to rely to France in everything even to build his army. He recognizes partially in his self-criticism. « In brief, a soul is missing in this army »[1]

An army which ignores the military traditions bequeathed by our ancestors, can she have a soul? His officers were trained by foreigners without reference to our history. Are they faithful to our nation? Besides, these officers who swear allegiance to the King and not to Nation, are they capable of sacrificing to defending the Nation? If one really think that this army refers to defend the Nation, then would it be necessary to define that what is the Cambodian nation? For these officers and also for the King? Then the French officers who frame this army, would it be capable of giving a coherent and acceptable of Cambodia Nation definition ? Finally the experience does show that this army is neither faithful to Sihanouk nor capable of defending Cambodia. Nor even to fight bravely. Read: « Cambodia, the Revolution of the Forest », by François Debré, Edition Flammarion, Paris 1976 and « Impasse et Rouge» by Will Be, Edition Albin Michel, Paris 2003.

Roughly Sihanouk always grants confidence in France, even in 1987, during the first meeting with Hun Sen, during his return to Cambodia in November 1991, even maybe nowadays? In his books, Sihanouk has never brought up even a slightest criticism to foreigners. On the contrary there are only eulogies. On the other hand, he did not even grant the slightest respect to Cambodians, even his close co-workers. What become these foreigners whom he grants esteem so much ? Do they come to help him ?

e/. In the economic point of view.

Sihanouk did never think of aiding villages to get modernized. He was happy in distributing two meters of fabrics or other foodstuffs to some farmers. That is what it is doing the current regime set up by Hanoi since January 7th, 1979 and largely supported so far by all the major powers. In city, an industrial bourgeoisie begins shyly to clock with some Cambodian intellectuals, without the slightest help of the State.

Put oneself in the service of the people is to lead with the policy of directing every Cambodian to gain honestly and comfortably his life. To give alms is to allow the one who receives it to live, at best, for some days. But to acquire a good profession, is to be able to live suitably of the whole life.

A true law on the private property of the land with a good service of the Cadastre (Land registry) and then the geography was missing. Until our days, a good cadastral service remains to organize. The current power takes this opportunity to expropriate the farmers wherever they want. Until our days, still there is no appropriate Cambodia map with all the names of villages and cities as well as of the existing roads with our terrestrial and maritime borders where we claim. No any Cambodian organization abroad undertakes to replace these gaps of the Cambodian administration since the colonial period. Why?

Our children at school, at the secondary and at the university, still ignore the history and the geography of Cambodia and those of the world. How many Cambodians know that the earth is round ? And the earth turns around the sun ? Are there of scientific popularization books ?

There is also little of encouragement for the craft's development. There is certainly a craft of silver and bronze items. But how about the construction, then the electric installations? What about the manufacture of commonness objects as the shoes, the clothes? How many Cambodians Sihanouk has used in the construction of his numerous villas ? Everything was imported : furniture, even marble floor were imported from Italy by plane. No any door was sculptured by our artisans. There is no creation of school to form these artisans so far. Nowadays most of our artisans are self-taught. Because it is a question of live and death for them.

We leave aside other domains such as the health, the medicine, the legal problems, the laboratory research, etc.


Sihanouk has the merit to recognize a part of his errors. The regime is now totally in the hands of the power set up by Hanoi since 1979. It is imperative and urgent, for us Cambodians, to learn from the past to unite our forces in order to unify our multiform and convergent struggles to release our dear motherland and our people of the vietnamese domination. Because to continue to accuse, swamp and lay blame on the past is sterile and does not advance us of a single millimeter towards the liberation and the freedom.

« We often confuse the historic direction with the cult of the tradition or the taste of the past. Really, for the individual as for the communities, the future is the first category. The old man who does not have anymore than souvenirs is also foreign to the history as the child absorbed in a present without memory. To know oneself as to know the collective evolution, the decisive act is the one who transcends the reality, who produces in what is not any more a sort of reality by giving a continuation and a goal. » [2]

The is no historic truth. The past is always recomposed by the present, by those who have the power to impose on the others. That is why, it is known that always the alive one, means the winners (conquerors) who write the history. It is necessary to note, for example, that most part of the geographic names in the world are imposed by the Westerners.

The multiple experiences in the world, as well as the bitter experiences undergone by Cambodians over several centuries and more particularly since the colonial period, show that our safety lives, is essentially resided in our capacities to learn from the past, in Cambodia as well as in the world. Have we already forgotten Sirik Matak's letter to the ambassador of the United States while he was leaving hastily Phnom Penh? Have we already forgotten the Khmer Rouge leaders totally abandonated by China ?

We quote a recent example. India gives full support to Aung San Sou Kyi to stand up against the Burmese government. Recently, the important deposits of gas is discovered in Burma. China is building a pipeline forwarding directly this Burmese gas to China. India is obliged to come and reconciled with the Burmese government and negotiate to purchase of this gas to feed Indian factories.

So trusting in the only promises and guarantees, even written matter, by major powers and especially by our neighbors, is it not a way of entrusting our fate to the sky? Have we already forgotten guarantees given by the vietnamese communists and China concerning our borders? The presence of Sihanouk, the only one chief of state in the Ho Chi Minh's burial, what is it paid in return?

(To be followed) …

Note : Cet article est aussi disponible en cambodgien et en français sur demande.
[1] « L’Armée au Cambodge et dans les pays en voie de développement du Sud-Est Asiatique » by Maurice Laurent, Edition Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 1968, page 94.
[2] Raymond Aron, in « Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire. Essai sur les limites de l’objectivité historique », thesis written on March 26,1938 and published by Editions Gallimard Paris 1938, re-published in 1986, page 432.