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17 février 2010 3 17 /02 /février /2010 05:58

Khmer nationalism 

I began this essay by asking me questions : What are our thoughts on nationalism khmer ?

Let me first of nationalism. According to Ernest Gellner, professor of social anthropology at Cambridge University this defines nationalism : " Nationalism is primarily a political principle, which asserts that political unity and national unity must be congruent. It is against this principle that nationalism as a feeling or movement can be better defined. Nationalist sentiment is the feeling of anger aroused by the violation of this principle or the feeling of satisfaction that comes its realization. A nationalist movement is a movement led by such a feeling".

In the minds of many of the Khmer, the glory of the Angkor period, gives us every right to think that our country remains a great country. Let us remember that this nation was built in a long process of evolution and complex, as Ernest Renan said that a nation is built by both the living and the dead. The Khmer Nation, in fact, since Fou-nan to Chen-la and Chen-La to Norkor Thom and Norkor Thom to Kampuchea yesterday and today had evolved, it is still evolving today and tomorrow will continue to evolve on the basis of progress and improvement, that is to say about the mix between old and new.  After twenty-one century of evolutions, we make a bitter report : We are not anymore a big country, despite the existence of the temple of Angkor. But it is curious to know what remains of Khmer nationalism after centuries of decadence.

Speak of nationalism, it is imperative to know beforehand what is a Nation? " We would have probably as much definitions, each regime and political power have its own definition. And to avoid returning to the retailer without end, we give here the definition that has an universal common value.

Ernest Renan writes : " A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, actually, are but one, constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One is in the past, the other in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories, the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, will continue to claim the legacy that has received undivided. Man, gentlemen, not improvised. The nation, as individuals, is the culmination of a long past of endeavors, sacrifice and devotion. Ancestor worship is all the more legitimate the ancestors have made us what we are. A heroic past, great men, glory (I mean the real), is the social capital upon which one bases a national idea. "Better is the nation where the men spend their life in common and where the laws remain untouched. But what is the end of the nation ? The preservation and prosperity of its members. And what is the surest sign that it is preserved and prosper ? There is peace in social progress. 

Khmer nationalism justified by glory and pain :

The Khmer Nation is an old nation. It has its history in which there was the glory and suffering of common people. The temple of Angkor and the others are national pride. The joy of watching the Khmer temples wherever they are, is a reality, an eternal truth in the heart of Cambodia. When it comes to emotion, we can not betray the nature of man. But in the history of the Khmer, there was also at pains to tel l: The civil war, foreign aggression, decadence, etc.

The joy and the pain strengthen ties between the Cambodians. They are born khmer nationalism. Renan also said : "Having suffered together, yes, suffering in common unites more than joy. With national memories are concerned, mourning are better than triumphs because they impose duties, they order the common effort. " 

Khmer nationalism justified by the cultural value :

This topic is dear to the late Professor Keng Vannsak, sociologist and linguist khmer. His thesis was in contrast with that of French scholars. S. Levi, French scholar, writes :

"India gives its fables to his neighbors who will teach the world. Mother of faith and philosophy, it provides three quarters of Asia a god, a religion, a doctrine, an art. It is his sacred language, its literature, its institutions in the East Indies to the limits of the known world and then bounces back to Madagascar, perhaps the coast of Africa where this influx of immigrants Hindus seems to follow the footsteps clouded past.

The points of discord Keng Vannsak with French scientists are not on the word "influence", that is to say, the influence of Indian culture with that of the Khmer, but rather on the word "no", c that is to say the absence of the culture of Khmer origin. When a nation has its own strong culture of origin, it can not be influenced by another culture on its own, but rather a deliberate choice on his part for its innovative culture.  For him, the examples don’t miss to demonstrate that this renovation is real, it known as the "nationalization".

Keng Vannask adds : "This is not a mistake for the very great civilizations, however, that borrow themes common to other civilizations. The literatures of peoples reflect and facilitate the interference between the currents of civilization. But that is precisely not those loans which, to be understood and accepted by all people, should be foremost, assimilated and refashioned by a "nationalization "long, deep and constantly renewed.

Thus the Ramayana India turned into Reamker khmer. And if the book title, characters and places of action still remain vaguely Indian names, content on the other hand, differs completely from the work of Valmiki.

Opposite the Buddhist literature, the transformation is not as radical. Nevertheless, some Jatakas are accepted and retained because they received a form and substance consistent with the Aesthetics and Ideology Khmer.

Such remodeling is a form of Khmérisation in art as in language, this khmérisation done by two main trends of the Khmer civilization namely: Realism and Rationalism. It is precisely these two trends have proceeded to the humanization of God Rama and given a systematic form of "argument" in Reamker.

But the Khmer Realism is not merely to bring the divine to the human, the sublime to the ordinary, wonderful reality. There is also a means of action. Efficiency is not a function of metaphysics, but the pragmatic one based on "accurate knowledge and prudent and be" useful. "

From 1970, this debate had flourished because Professor Keng Vannsak no longer the political barrier to increasing the sound of his voice to criticize the foreign scientists of all sizes, of course in the field of Khmer culture. But his only fault is that he never published articles on this subject, I said post, because it is highly likely he has written much. The publication with parsimony of his work makes defect to his supporters, because every time they faced on this issue with their opponents, it is difficult for them to make reference to specific ideas of their Guru. In any case, M. Keng Vannsak was a great patriot and nationalist conviction. Despite its flaws like any human being, it represents the youth of my generation, a symbol of "protest the dictates of power all its forms." In the minds of many, he is the scientist of the Khmer. During his lifetime, Radio Free Asia (RFA) was able to save many hours of conversation with him. The thesis Keng Vannsak is a form of 'Nationalism khmer "in the field of Culture.

Let's talk a little about our cultural nationalism. Yvonne Bonger wrote in his book (the Cambodian monarchy) said :

"Cambodia Angkor, as it is known to us by epigraphy appears as a deeply Indianized, at least at the level of the ruling classes." 

My view : We know that the penetration (in the middle of the fourth) of the major Indian religions in Cambodia, with two Hindu deities "antagonistic" and especially Vishnu ç iva and Mahayana Buddhism (Great Vehicle) with Bodhisattvas (candidate for the dignity Buddha), model and intercessors, undoubtedly a strong influence in the Khmer thought. This importance does not destroy the backbone of the Khmer society but rather complement the missing parts, which are: the science of government and philosophical thought which are two important elements for the progress of a nation. The coupling of two systems of society is born without any doubt the embryo of the Khmer civilization. Being in a stage of realization, our culture easily absorbs the Indian thought, which is expansive period of development. This combination creates a successful trust and mutual interests between the government and indigenous Brahmins with merchants coming to profess Hindu statecraft to Khmer monarchs. To be on good term with the local authority which is already in power, the Brahmins are forced to bend to their caste system, to recognize a certain value of Aboriginal culture and to ignore the practices of kings Angkor. So they are implementing the policy of assimilation of their belief in the commercial culture of the country. This policy has more appeal to Khmer kings and their courts because they do not see Hinduism as a direct threat to their temporal power, but rather to help the Monarchs become eternal. They readily accept, in effect, to convert to the religion of converts and later transformed into a doctrine of governmental their imperial kingdom.

Apart from the remains of temples prestigious parent Kampuchea today, we see no trace of caste Hinduism in Khmer society. At first seen and known of Khmer history, we are grateful that our kings of Angkor were right to remove a decent social boundaries between the Khmer to make our society more humane at the time of transplantation of Hinduism in our faith .

The law of Hinduism is absent in the daily life of Khmer, because it governs by laws rather than Khmer. Here's a sample: The "Words of the Wise" :

"- Rich, help the poor, as they help such pieces of cloth around a naked body.

"- Scientists, protect the ignorant, as they protect you like sampans to help a big wreck.

"- Powerful, also want on the weak,

"- Well fed, feed the hungry,

"- Blessed, think about the poor, such as anchors, sails and ropes to help the big ships that you are not to sink to the bottom of the ocean of life constantly agitated by storms ....

We know that cultural change is often a very painful experience, and also because of competing cultures were in conflict to capture souls, just as there were centers of political power that vied to bribe men and seize their territory during the transition period should be subjected to violence and conflict. However one notes that there were not violences, nor conflict in the conjunction between the culture of Khmer origin and that of India. The actual historical facts confirmed.

This is to show us that the Khmer Nation had not been afraid in the past to have contact with a civilization of Hinduism, one of the powers in the world. This insurance gives rise instead khmer nationalism. 

Khmer nationalism justified by fear :

Two famous political memoirs, "the Khmer mentality" Bun Chan Mol and "march west" Noun Kheun us today. The first, written in 1970, calls on his countrymen to abandon the practice evil Khmer selfishness. The second, written in 1971, shows that there is a danger to our country from neighboring countries, Thailand and Vietnam, while Cambodia was not able to achieve a liberal democracy in our system of government. These two calls are pathetic I think a maxim Khmer, in which our ancestors had wanted to remember the "evil khmer, whose goal is not to humiliate the Khmer people, but to give him the opportunity to draw lessons, to reform, improve and avoid, to the country tomorrow that disillusioned. This maxim is this :

  • Thais never give up the method,
  • Vietnamese never abandon hypocrisy
  • Khmer miserable never abandon defamation.

When the country is in trouble, M. Douc Rasy, an intellectual khmer writes: "It remains so to say that patriotism and a sense of belonging to the same community. It is both little and much the same time provided we know the highlight. If a widespread feeling, we can make a reason to live, then we will mobilize all forces available to us in his service. The reason will realize the hope of the future. "

The reason, in a weak position, should not be based on fear of others, but rather on self-confidence.

Since I have the age of reason, I always heard and I hear that Vietnam and Thailand have stolen and yet steal Khmer lands. I therefore ask what have we done so we can fly like that ? One tells me that the reasons are multiple :  civil wars, the failure of leaders, the absolute monarchy, the French colonization, Buddhism, etc. I ask myself another question: Does the Vietnam and Thailand, they had no such problems ? This question is taboo seen the concept of Khmer nationalism based on fear of others, but paradoxically whenever we had problems between us, we did not hesitate to ask others for help. In this confused state of mind that Kampuchea has also lost its empire.

He must know that the decline of the Khmer nation since the thirteenth century was not only military was that of the spirit of nationalist ideology and finally that of any economic organization, culture and politics. This decline is so profound to this day still causes and consequences are rarely fully analyzed, reduced to facts cited above. How this decline is she thinking ?

Now with the unification of the three Ky (Tonkin, Annam and Cochin China) and the emergence of industrial society in Thailand were the consequence of allowing both countries to dominate economically Kampuchea and sometimes their populations of having the feeling of being superior to the Khmer population.

Given this reality, fear of Vietnamese and Thai become our obsession of all time. Our debate revolve around this topic. It becomes a major issue for intellectuals Khmer. When one raises the question : What to do ? The answer is so simple to understand: Request assistance to the UN and the powerful countries, etc. But where are the Khmer in these debates ? They could not do anything. But are the voters ? They gave their votes to the CPP (2 / 3 of seats in the National Assembly) to govern Kampuchea freely. No, no, it was cheating. The CPP has bought the voices and threatened retaliation. But we hesitate not to validate in a timely manner, the results of elections for seats in the National Assembly. They also told me, it takes time to teach Khmer to know their rights and duties as citizens. We always forget that the Khmer today know better than anyone else's rights, because each time there is a dispossession of their lands and other violations nature of human rights, I note that they know will fight for their rights. Of course, they did not win because the gain, because their means used are illusory compared to the power of administrative and economic power. But that is another matter. I think that we ought to have any doubt about the ability of the Khmer understand the functioning of public liberty, whose rights and duties of citizens are principles. When the CPP won the elections, should not always believe that he cheated, he was also the Democrats Khmers ask themselves why they have accepted this situation. When we yield to the fundamental principles of democracy such as elections, should not be surprising that there is any slippage in the current regime to the political hegemony. That is the rub, the Democrats can criticize the ruling party all they want but when it comes from "Basic", they turn their backs to avoid seeing it. In this case, how can they be credible vis-à-vis the voters ? This acceptance is it not also a proof of lack of comfortable support of the populace so that they can vigorously defend democracy .

Democrats raise fears of others to justify their nationalism. But what are their "universal joint" ? M. Dy Kareth, an intellectual khmer known, has done well to raise issues of unity of thought Democrats Khmer as a subject of debate. We can not, in fact, to identify, with the exception of a few bases known: fear of others, anger against the ruling party, the feeling of satisfaction about the adverse powerful countries in the address the current khmer royal government, etc. These bases are known they "social capital" on which sits a common idea? Of course not, because these bases there are simply common denominators that serve only to carry out all actions occasional whose interests are congruent.But the lack of unity of thought on the country's history, a heroic past of great men, glory, a common will to continue to claim the legacy that has received undivided, etc. not allow the Khmer Democrats to work together on a future project. Do not forget that the Cambodians knew the word "Khmer Democrats" since 1947 and we are now in 2009, more than six decades, the Democrats continue Khmer always begging their identity. Currently both sides of the parliamentary opposition, claiming the title of Democrat, will find it difficult to agree their common policy. The ISP, with over a million votes and PDH, with 400,000 votes, in the last elections, everyone was still hoping to win solo for the next competition. It seems to me their willingness to work together would create more fear, coercion, duress, the interest that the formation of a new force to develop democracy in Cambodia. The other fear is it a factor of disunity? This is an important issue that deserves to be discussed.

M. Noun Kheun writes : "Nationalism is not only a sense of patriotism, it is also a movement to upgrade the national ideology and any other value that supports the achievement of the development of national strength in the political and economic. In this, our first duty is to strengthen our nationalism, which constitute the solid foundation of our nation. This foundation will be able to transform in efficient national ideology. In other words, for the word "nationalism" is in its true sense, we need all the elements listed above are met. In addition, the development of nationalism depends on that of democracy which allows people to participate in state affairs. This will enhance social justice. If there was no "duty", he never nationalism. In this condition, the sound of the word "patriotism" is more like the sound coming from a hidden drum, which nobody attaches any importance. "

Cambodia was a great nation. Today in size and number of its population, it becomes a small country compared to Vietnam and Thailand. We know that much of its territories were annexed by the two countries and a large number of Khmers living in these territories have become irredentist nationalists to defend their culture, but they do not claim autonomy Land their ancestors. This proves that the integration of "external Khmer territory in the political society of Vietnam and Thailand is well done. In addition, the amputation of Khmer territory during the period of French protectorate has also been recognized by the Cambodian government and international law. Today, tThe lot of Khmers who still might question the policy of expansionism Vietnam and Thailand : What it was yesterday, what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. Because he believed that both countries would not be afraid to usurp their rights on Khmer territory, they had the opportunity to do so. For this reason, the Khmer Nation has more need than ever to bring about "khmer nationalism" based on force and the national ideology. Both are the foundation of the Khmer nation.

Should be aware that nationalism is not an ideological invention to serve a political doctrine based on the rule of the nation and racism as the case of National Socialism of Adolf Hitler. "

What is the national force Khmer ? The national strength is not a force or aggressive neighbors, or a force of oppression of the population, it would be a force for social cohesion and of national unity.

What is the national ideology Khmer ? Khmer ideology based on the principle of « Realism » : The peace, national independence, territorial integrity, liberal democracy and Buddhism.

Finally, the strength and the national ideology seeking to give people a sense a unity and a landmark. The being of people founded the Nation. I am conscious in writing this essay that the problem of nation, nationalism put itself and put himself again to Cambodia. When Cambodia opened, when a new type of globalization, organization of the region of Southeast Asia, the world therefore, starts up, it is important to understand how it thinks the nation, it presents the report to the nationalism which is now suspected of being based on fear of others.
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Khmer leaders need to learn to stop the infighting and unite to build a better nation for the people. Leaders put their own personal interests ahead of the people when they do not make an effort to compromise for the sake of the nation. This is all too typical of the Cambodian politics and history.
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