I would not presume to comment on the substance of the latest communiqué
from the Politburo of the esteemed (or inestimable) CPP. The form ["Past, present
and future: the CPP view", PP Post, Nov 7-20] however does invite some comments.
The erratic grammar, often leading to near-incomprehensibility, is strangely coupled
with the absence of spelling errors (except for the intriguing "Khmer Rogue")
and with a fair sprinkling of rather recherché words and turns of phrase.
This suggests that someone has a computer with a spelling-checking programme - perhaps
they could provide a copy of this programme to some English-speaking(?) journalists,
though that would not allow them to decide between homonyms, those horrible "principle"
and "principal", "capital" and "capitol" and the like.
It further suggests that English in Cambodia is still to some extent the pidgin it
was in the good old days of "London" (or was its "Oxford"?) Street,
when as Ieng Sary remarks elsewhere in the paper, there were fewer cars and other
signs of ill-acquired wealth. It is far easier to pick up the odd piece of officialese
flotsam, or other semi-posh or buzz words, than to be able to construct even a relatively
The rhetoric of the early past of the text is also hauntingly familiar: it is the
kind of bombast (part traditional, part modern "langue de bois") which
makes it difficult, even for someone like myself who is more familiar with Latin
than with (recent) Anglo-Saxon rhetorical habits, to take what follows at all seriously.
That is why a text, to be understood and accepted by nonspecialists, in a very different
language, not only needs to be properly translated, but also to be so to speak "transrhetorised",
"transcultured". In 1989 I was asked by a prominent Cambodian official
to give a ministry document (in French) an aroma of butter, instead of the unmistakeable
odour of prahok it had. Certainly the text you are printing lacks the necessary perfume
of lard (or the lack of perfume of canola oil).
One last point: a to me novel use of the much overworked word 'genocidal'. Why indeed
wouldn't an alliance with the part of what used to be very officially called the
"Pol Pot-Ieng Sary genocidal clique" be a "genocidal alliance".
The alliance with a "neutral party", or a "Buddhist" one would
presumably lead to a "neutral alliance", a "Buddhist alliance",
etc. An alliance with a "democratic" (though hardly a 'Democrat') party
would be highly desirable, as it would be ipso facto a democratic alliance! Or is
it being suggested that Ranariddh was planning (if that verb can be coupled with
that name) a new genocide? Of course, if I was ethnically Vietnamese, I would hardly
welcome any victory, electoral or otherwise, of those, or any of the numerous other
rabid racists who grace the Cambodian political scene.
- Philippe Hunt, Brussels. [The Post shares responsibility for the uniqueness
of the published version of the CPP communiqué: we did put a spell-check through
the text, removing (most) errors, but - loath to lose the flavor of the document
- we made only minimal corrections to the grammar. "Khmer Rogue" was, alas,
our mistake - Ed.]