WANT to know who was the Secretary of State of the Ministry of National Education
in December 1955? You need to find the number of seats won by the Democrat party
in the September 1946 elections? Or maybe check Pen Sovann's date of birth.
Les clés du Cambodge will give you the answers to all those questions, and
Jennar's new book is a goldmine of information, a database anyone interested in Cambodia
should have in their library.
It begins with a detailed national chronology beginning 1835 and ending 1994. This
includes significant political events, the birth of new laws and newspapers, social
and religious occasions, and the birthdates of virtually all the important personalities.
Then Jennar takes us on a tour of all the election results and the make-up of various
governments since 1946; and a list of all members of the National Assembly since
What makes this book so precious are the summaries Jennar has managed to assemble
of so many contemporary people who figure highly among Cambodian politics, military,
religion, art - in all areas of life.
There are 450 people listed in this biographical section. If you think you know everything
there is to know about Cambodia's personalities, be prepared to be humbled. There
are veins of rich information as the reader tracks the allegiances of leaders and
soldiers as the years - and the ruling regimes - tick by down the page.
Some of these people are not generally so well known, but most of them play or have
played key roles in the story of Cambodia.
Jennar's book will allow Cambodiaphiles to throw away three of four inferior publications
that might now being clogging up their shelves. None other than this one is needed.
Jennar has gathered all this information during 18 trips to Cambodia, more still
to the US, and throughout years of study.
In the first part of the book, Jennar gives some geographical facts and in a few
pages appraises the issues that have made today's Cambodia: the Constitution, UNTAC,
the Royal Household, the Khmer Rouge, the international community. Nothing is black
and white; Jennar is an expert in the richness of local and foreign subtleties, intrigue
Jennar is not tender with the United Nations. He draws a dramatic and critical assessment
on the results of UNTAC. UNTAC's eight point mandate was a failure, he says. He underlines
that despite the almost 90 per cent voter turnout, no homogeneous political majority
could be found because of proportional representation.
He says that the ceasefire was broken less than three months after the signature
of the Paris Agreements and that demilitarization was never reached.
He also stresses the pernicious effects of the UNTAC presence. "During 18 months,
Cambodians had become marginalized in their own country," underlining that the
huge rate of inflation was caused by the gap between the UN day rates of pay ($80-$150
a day) and the Cambodian incomes (maybe $200 a year).
Jennar analyzes the story of Cambodian communism, saying that there has always been
a division within the movement: the one which gave priority to a nationalistic viewpoint;
and another more in favor of social transformation. The relationship with Vietnam
is exactly the point where we see the difference between the two factions - one ready
to work with Vietnam toward socialism; the other nationalistic one looking to "purify
the Khmer race". The split between the two became much more obvious following
the 1973 Paris agreement that signaled the end of the Vietnam/US war.
He is severe on the West for isolating Cambodia throughout the Vietnamese occupation.
"On behalf of the rule of the International law that [the West] forgot in some
other parts of the world," the West "punished Cambodia for being liberated
by Vietnam, and all that [Vietnam] represented, especially for the United States
of America, of one of the most barbaric regimes of this century. During ten years,
the richest countries in the world extended, with a special zeal, the suffering of
the poorest people."
He stresses that without a solution and an end to the Khmer Rouge neither stability
nor peace will come to Cambodia.
He says that the goal of Pol Pot and his troops is to regain power.
The answers to the questions at the beginning are: Huot Sambath; 50; April 1936.