Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ten other must-reads on cambodia

Ten other must-reads on cambodia

A history of Phnom Penh by Milton Osborne
A history of Phnom Penh by Milton Osborne. Eli Meixler

Ten other must-reads on cambodia

Haing Ngor
Haing Ngor. AFP

1. Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing S Ngor
$18.50 (paperback)
Following his portrayal of Dith Pran in The Killing Fields, Khmer Rouge survivor Haing S Ngor proved himself to be a successful actor, winning an Oscar in 1985. Sadly, tragedy defined his legacy after he was gunned down and killed in an apparent gangland shooting in Los Angeles. His story, evocatively told with the help of Roger Warner, is nothing short of extraordinary.

2. Master of Confessions by Thierry Cruvellier
$25.00 (hardback)
Thierry Cruviellier is the only journalist to witness all the Khmer Rouge war crimes trials of the past 15 years, and it shows. His record of the first trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – he sat through every minute of the eight month proceedings – makes for a gripping read. He is an astute observer of character and his portraits of the lawyers are almost as fascinating as his take on the notorious “master of confessions” on trial, S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Duch”.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

3. The Elimination by Rithy Panh
$20.50 (paperback)
The finest Cambodian director of his generation, Rithy Panh, in this lyrical autobiography – composed of interspersed scenes of his adolescence under the Khmer Rouge and later confrontation with Duch – proves himself a fine writer, too. Naturally for a filmmaker, his use of imagery is strong and the reader takes away a haunting sense of irremediable loss.

4. The Gate by Francois Bizot
$17.50 (paperback)
Taken prisoner by the Khmer Rouge after he settled in Cambodia to study Buddhism, young French anthropologist Bizot found himself at the mercy of the cadre who would become the notorious chief of S-21, Duch. The development of Bizot’s peculiar bond with Duch and his role as a go-between for regime forces and foreigners holed up in the French embassy during the fall of Phnom Penh make for a rare and intense narrative. The story will be released as a feature film, directed by Indochine mastermind Regine Wargnier, later this year.

Milton Osborne
Milton Osborne. Photo Supplied

5. Phnom Penh: A Cultural and Literary History by Milton Osborne
$24.00 (paperback)
An authoritative and affectionate historical and literary account of Phnom Penh’s rise, from its humble beginnings as a Mekong port town to its present-day status as an “ambiguous town in an ambiguous country”. Colourful details about historical characters – both foreign and local – abound in Osborne’s depiction of Phnom Penh. For a practical guide to the history of different areas of the city, see Strolling Around Phnom Penh by Jean Michel-Philippi.

7. Brother Enemy: The War After the War by Nayan Chanda
No longer in print in UK or USA –only available second hand
Originally published in 1986, Nayan Chanda’s Brother Enemy is still an authoritative text on the geopolitical history of Indochina after the regional communist takeover in 1975. With access to most of the main players, including interviews with King Norodom Sihanouk in exile in North Korea, Chanda reconstructs the delicate balances of power in the region that pitted a Soviet-backed Vietnam against a Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge.

Elizabeth Becker’s classic Khmer Rouge history
Elizabeth Becker’s classic Khmer Rouge history. Eli Meixler

8. When the War Was Over by Elizabeth Becker
$27.50 (paperback)
Journalist Elizabeth Becker was one of only two Western journalists to visit Cambodia and interview Pol Pot while the Khmer Rouge was in power. Her book, When the War Was Over, weaves together first-hand reporting using interviews with the major players and ordinary people to provide one of the most comprehensive, authoritative and compelling accounts of how and why the regime came to power and the devastating consequences it had for the country and its people.

9. Crossing Three Wildernesses by U Sam Oeur
$19.50 (paperback)
Less well-known than other authors on this list, poet U Sam Oeur spent his childhood tending rice fields before flying to the US to take part in a prestigious writing program in the United States. After returning to Phnom Penh, he elected to stay there as the Khmer Rouge closed in on the capital. His autobiography, both a story of his own survival and an insight into his country’s myths and traditions, is as memorable for its rich, poetic prose as the crisp human images it captures.

Elizabeth Becker
Elizabeth Becker. Photo Supplied

10. A History of Cambodia by David Chandler
$24.00 (paperback)
A comprehensive, clear and honest attempt to illuminate an often difficult subject, David Chandler is open about the challenges inherent in covering eras from which scant documentary evidence remains. Nonetheless, he manages to bring together multiple sources to provide a compact, yet detailed, overview of Cambodia’s past, from pre-Angkorian civilisation up to the modern age.

11. Colonial Cambodia’s Bad Frenchmen by Gregor Muller
$54.95 (not in stock, only avaliable to order)
Besides having one of the best titles of any non-fiction book ever, Colonial Cambodia’s Bad Frenchmen is the true tale of one Thomas Caraman, who lived, as author Gregor Muller writes, as an “adventurer and carpetbagger at the fringes of the colonial project”.

Hot off the press: newly released in September and October
· The Art of Public Sleeping by James Hunt. $18.50

· Cambodia – A Journey Through the Land of the Khmer with photos by Kraig Lieb and text by Tom Vater. $35.50

· In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot by Gail Gutradt. $23.50

· The Khmer Lands of Vietnam: Environment, Cosmology and Sovereignty by Philip Taylor. $32.50

· John Thomson: The Early Years - In Search of the Orient by Joel Montague & Jim Mizerski. Copies will be delivered to Monument next week.

· Britain and Sihanouk’s Cambodia by Nicholas Tarling. $39.50

· Leap & Hop Cambodia (A Travel Guide for Children) written by Isabelle Demenge with illustrations by Emilie Sarnel. $26.50


  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa