Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ponchaud's history

Francois Ponchaud (photo: Dana Langlois)
One of the most respected experts on Cambodian history and culture, Francois Ponchaud, the author of Cambodia Year Zero, will begin a series of lectures and discussions, in English, on the History of Cambodia tonight at the Catholic Social Communications Center on Street 242 in Phnom Penh at 6.30pm. Tonight's lecture will focus on Cambodia's earliest origins up to the French protectorate of 1953. There will be another five lectures on different historic periods over the next two months, and they are open to everyone. The dates are; 5, 20 & 28 May, and 3 & 9 June. Ponchaud has lived in Cambodia for more years than he cares to remember and having retired from his responsibilities within the Catholic Church, will return to live in France after this cycle of conferences. Sounds like it could be well worth popping along to any one of these lectures, especially as Ponchaud is credited with exposing the truth about the Khmer Rouge in his 1977 book, when many in the West refused to believe such fanciful stories.
Postscript: Francois Ponchaud gave his lecture about the origins of Cambodian history up til the time of the French protectorate in English, which is definitely not his favoured language. However, he soldiered on, taking excerpts from his own book he's written on the country's history. The audience was a small one, but the advertising of these events was pretty low-key and last-minute, so I expect the future sessions to be well attended. I will definitely try to get along to at least a couple more, especially his lecture on the Khmer Rouge period, on Thursday 28 May. Ponchaud just happened to be one of the foreigners cooped up in the French Embassy when the KR rolled into Phnom Penh in 1975 and two years later released his relevatory book.

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