Friday, March 6, 2009

Raised eyebrows

I was a mite surprised to hear of the commemorative monument unveiled in Kien Svay district yesterday in remembrance of the KPNLF fighters who died between 1979 and 1991. It flies in the face of the current CPP leadership and their close allegiance to Vietnam, hence my raised eyebrows. Thank goodness they didn't put it next to the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument! The KPNLF (The Khmer National Liberation Front) were dedicated to ousting the Vietnamese forces who took control of Cambodia after they expelled the Khmer Rouge in early 1979, as well as the People's Republic of Kampuchea government - who later became the CPP - that they installed. In forming a coalition with the royalist FUNCINPEC and the Khmer Rouge forces that were pushed to the Thai-Cambodian border area in 1979, the KPNLF kept alive a guerrilla war on and around the border areas that carried on through the 1980s and garnered support from Western countries like USA, Britain and others, including China, primarily because of their opposition to Vietnam. The aim of the KPNLF was to see a democratic Cambodia, though as their rather strange bed fellows in the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea they chose the Khmer Rouge, perhaps the least democratic group of murderers on the planet at that time, and the royalists led by the former king, Sihanouk. The KPNLF founder was a former prime minister, Son Sann (pictured, TIME Inc), who was held in high esteem as a statesman, vehemently anti-Vietnamese and who, alongwith Sihanouk, were the acceptable face of the coalition, so much so that they were allowed to hold the Cambodian seat at the United Nations. Much of the guerrilla war in the 1980s was fought from the border camps, with the KPNLF's largest source of supporters being in camp Site 2 which they controlled. The newly-unveiled monument holds the inscriptions of the names of KPNLF resistance fighters who died between 1979 and 1991. Next time I'm out that way, I'll pay a visit.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless them! What took them so long to finally establish a monument to commemorative the resistant fighters of that time? Anyway, glad to see they are finally come to grip with unity.

March 7, 2009 at 3:12 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Yes i think its wise that a country should honour those that died, but the KPNLF was just one faction in the war and were vehemently opposed to the Vietnamese and the Khmers (now the CPP) they put into the new govt in the 80s, hence my raised eyebrows.
There were also Funcinpec deaths, government troop deaths, even Khmer Rouge fighters died (lets not forget they were all Khmers), not to mention thousands upon thousands of civilians.

A combined memorial to all the Khmer people who died during the civil war and Pol Pot time would be a better idea (together with a museum of history of that time, something which DC-Cam are working towards I believe) than individual commemorative monuments.
Think Khmers, think Cambodia as a whole, think reconciliation, lets stop thinking so narrowly between KPNLF, FUNCINPEC, PRK and so on, its devisive and not healthy any more.
No one should ever forget those that died and why they died, it is right that they should be commemorated, but harbouring the many divisions of yesteryear will not move everyone forward, they will remain stuck in the past and weighed down by the injustice of it all. That is not healthy for anyone. Of course, its easy for me to sit here and say all this - I wasn't on any side during the conflict and didn't suffer horribly as they did. But I want to see a united Cambodia going forwards, to make the country a better place, even if its only a dream.

March 7, 2009 at 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, I agree with your comment above. Even to this day, many Khmer- excuse my brutal honesty- see themselves as one group or another. I don't mean to judge but say it like it is. They are so narrow in their own heads to realize the bigger picture. I don't mean to sound sadistic but the older generation who have lived through the Khmer Rouge era and the following carry with them this mentality of "us vs them" It's up to younger generation like me 23 years old and so on to not see each other as the "other."

That goes for Khmer in Cambodia and Khmer overseas.

March 7, 2009 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Anon,
Cambodia needs the youth like yourself to take the country forwards, and to learn from the mistakes of the past. No-one should ever forget what happened but that was then, this is now and if the country stays divided it won't move forwards. Unfortunately, today's Cambodia reeks of short-termism and self-grandisement and the youth need to learn from that too, and work against it. I wish you and your peers much success but there's a lot of hard work in front of you to turn it around.

March 7, 2009 at 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Pineapple said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog, and am jealous of your experiences actually living in Cambodia. Is there much recognition of the many people who were killed by the PRK's attempt to consolidate power, with the K-5 Plan?

March 10, 2009 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Dear Pineapple,
well I was jealous of people living in Cambodia so that was a motivating factor for me to come & live here.
There is hardly any recognition of the people who died during the '80s while participating in the K5 plan, it's almost a forgotten era of Cambodia as the country was still largely ignored by the West, so what went on, went on behind closed doors (or doors that the West weren't interested in opening as they chose to support the coalition forces on the Thai border). There are one or two books that cover that period and the K5 Plan but its not something that ever seems to get brought up. I believe a lot of Chinese people were targeted to take part in the Plan (the laying of perhaps the largest landmine belt in history) as a buffer between Cambodia and their enemies on the Thai border. I have read of the numbers involved and the alleged casualties though as I said, its not something that gets any recognition in my view.

March 10, 2009 at 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Dilen said...

Dear Andy,
I agree with everything you said in this intellectual blog. Cambodia will need a break space before it can move forward, but during this break space, i hope something will come up in their brain; to think wiser, to plan better, and move better. I am now 30 years old and I think I clearly remember what happened during the State of Cambodia (SOC), the later-on an official name after PRK. I didn't have enough food; my mom and grand parent cooked rice mixed with corn for several months as the family lacked food. Every times my mom open the pot's cover, I cried as there was little rice mixed with corns. Well, we were pretty lucky to have at least rice-corn soup to supplement our diet beside wild potatoes which sometimes was poison. Others who were on duty widely known as K5 plan had no or if any, little to eat. Sorry for being out of the topic, but anyway, this period was not much different from Khmer Rough, beside the fact that we lived on our own with share of our crop produced with others. it is well know for a khmer say that says: farming to sell crop to the state. It was not the sale but in fact every khmer must pay a tax-like amount of rice to the state while in KR regime, all was taken. Still people died of malaria, starvation, landmines, diarrhea, and others like in the KR regime.

In the history of man, Cambodia has exercised its ways of educating its own citizens completely different from the rest of the world. The country fallen in the hand of slaughterers has ultimately been salvaged by the UN backed election in 1993, but country didn't really teach people what really happened in the past. How can you heal your wound or cure disease when you don't the cause? how can you think of right path for future when past is not told? German people were taught about Nazi after the war, well not only German but also the rest of EU were taught about the war. by contrast, Cambodia take it for granted and it is easy that the history will repeat itself in the future. Only that break space is well spent ( to think better, plan better and move better ) the wheel of the Khmer civilization will move on the right track.


November 26, 2009 at 2:37 PM  

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