I read with great interest and surprise your letter to the editor entitled "Maybe
Kouprey can Fly" (PPPost, May 19, 2006). I especially found this paragraph disturbing:
"This episode has at least dispelled my naïve conviction that if Cambodians
knew what their own records said about the two events constantly held up as evidence
of a historical tradition of Vietnamese aggression prior to the 20th century, perhaps
they would rethink their hatred of Vietnamese living in Cambodia and be less inclined
to turn a blind eye when Vietnamese fishing villages are massacred; that perhaps
they would be less suspicious of the motives of the Vietnamese government when treaties
between the two countries are signed, and see such events as two countries moving
forward into a shared future of goodwill and cooperation; that perhaps those who
feel alienated from Cambodia after many years of living elsewhere will stop perpetuating
this hatred in a frantic attempt to have an impact upon Cambodian politics, however
What she wrote in her letter to the editor entitled "Maybe Kouprey Can Fly"
is really nothing new. The Cambodian-Vietnamese relations have been well researched
and well published. In this context, in a book entitled Les Frontieres du Vietnam
by Pierre Philippe Lafont, presents a comprehensive look at the various aspects of
the border issues of Vietnam with her neighbors. The contributors to this book include
Cambodian, Cham, French, and Vietnamese authors, namely ; Mak Phoeun, Po Dharama,
Pierre Lucien Lamant, and Nugyen The Anh. So, her contribution does not amount to
very much as far as new information is concerned. Worse still is Jacobsen's unfair
and unsupported by historical documents accusation that Cambodians' hatred and unreasonable
suspicion against the Vietnamese are unfounded and irrational.
Finally, I would like to remind Dr Jacobsen that there are numerous well written
historical documents about Vietnam's grand design to conquer its weaker neighbors
like Champa and Cambodia. It is well known under the Vietnamese name "Nam Tien"
or "Southward movement" which is nothing more or less than Vietnam's grand
design to subjugate Cambodia, after it had totally obliterated Champa in the 17th
century. Perhaps the following excerpt from a book entitled A History of Cambodia,
written by a well-known historian in Cambodian affairs, David Chandler, would
give Jacobsen a little different perspective than hers on Vietnam's contempt and
condescending behavior toward the Cambodian people:
"Ironically, Vietnamese policies toward Cambodia in the 1830s foreshadowed the
French mission civilisatrice ("civilizing mission") that was, during the
colonial era, to weaken and dismantle so many Vietnamese in to Truong Minh Giang,
the emperor outlined his policy:
'The barbarians [in Cambodia] have become my children now, and you should help them,
and teach them our customs.... I have heard, for example, that the land is plentiful
and fertile, and that there are plenty of oxen [for plowing] ... but the people have
no knowledge of [advanced] agriculture, using picks and hoes, rather than oxen. They
grow enough rice for two meals a day, but they don't store any surplus. Daily necessities
like cloth, silk, ducks and pork are very expensive.... Now all these shortcomings
stem from the laziness of the Cambodians ... and my instructions to you are these:
teach them to use oxen, teach them to grow more rice, teach them to raise mulberry
trees, pigs and ducks.... As for language, they should be taught to speak Vietnamese.
[Our habits of] dress and table manners must also be followed. If there is any out-dated
or barbarous custom that can be simplified, or repressed, then do so.'"
I agree with Dr Jacobsen that some overemotional Cambodians have unfortunately used
epithets against the Vietnamese, more as a result of an uncontrollable and inexcusable
rage resulting from their frustration of being powerless to defend against Vietnam's
well designed policy and strategy to subjugate Cambodia under "Nam Tien."
Cambodians should learn to contain their rage and to behave as the real victims as
they really are and not as victimizers.
Naranhkiri Tith, PhD - Washington, DC