Sunday, May 1, 2016

List of national public holidays of Cambodia in 2016

Day Date Holiday Comments
Friday January 01 Jan 1 International New Year Day Celebrates the beginning of the Gregorian New Year
Thursday January 07 Jan 7 Victory over Genocide Day Marks the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979
Monday February 22 Feb 22 Meak Bochea Day Date varies depending on the lunar cycle
Tuesday March 08 Mar 8 International Women's Day
Wednesday April 13 Apr 13 Khmer New Year Day First day of Cambodian New Year
Thursday April 14 Apr 14 Khmer New Year Holiday Second day of Cambodian New Year
Friday April 15 Apr 15 Khmer New Year Holiday Third day of Cambodian New Year
Saturday April 16 Apr 16 Khmer New Year Holiday Fourth day of Cambodian New Year
Sunday May 01 May 1 International Labour Day Established to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers
Friday May 13 May 13 King's Birthday HM King Norodom Sihamoni was born on May 14, 1953
Saturday May 14 May 14 King's Birthday Holiday
Sunday May 15 May 15 King's Birthday Holiday
Friday May 20 May 20 Visak Bochea Day Birth of Buddha
Tuesday May 24 May 24 Royal Plowing Ceremony Marks the start of the planting season.
Wednesday June 01 Jun 1 Children's Day International and Cambodian Children's Day
Saturday June 18 Jun 18 Kings Mother Birthday Queen Mother Norodom Monineath was born on June 18, 1936.
Saturday September 24 Sep 24 Constitutional Day Celebrates the signing of the constitution in 1993
Friday September 30 Sep 30 Ancestors Day A Buddhist holiday dedicated to honouring deceased relatives
Saturday October 01 Oct 1 Ancestors Day Holiday
Sunday October 02 Oct 2 Ancestors Day Holiday
Saturday October 15 Oct 15 Commemoration Day of King's Father HM Norodom Sihanouk died on 15 October 2012
Sunday October 23 Oct 23 Paris Peace Agreements Day Commemorates the Treaty of Paris on 23 October 1991
Saturday October 29 Oct 29 King's Coronation Day Norodom Sihamoni's coronation was on 29 October 2004
Wednesday November 09 Nov 9 Independence Day Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953.
Sunday November 13 Nov 13 Water Festival Ceremony Boat racing festival to mark the annual change in the Mekon and Tonie Sap rivers
Monday November 14 Nov 14 Water Festival Ceremony Holiday
Tuesday November 15 Nov 15 Water Festival Ceremony Holiday
Saturday December 10 Dec 10 International Human Rights Day Marks the UN's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Monday, March 28, 2016

US museum returns looted statue to Cambodia

Good. Now the Cambodian authorities can sell back to foreigners.

US museum returns looted statue to Cambodia

An American museum on Monday returned to Cambodia a 10th-century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu god Rama decades after it was looted from a jungle temple during the kingdom's civil war. The 62-inch-tall torso, which was stolen in the 1970s from the Koh Ker temple site near the famed Angkor Wat complex, was handed over by the Denver Art Museum at a ceremony in Phnom Penh.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Khmer locals refer to black foreigners as "chkae" (dogs)

I came across the article below from a black foreigner who complains about Khmer locals referring to black foreigners as chkae (dogs).

As a Khmer American I find his sweeping generalizations offensive and inflammatory, but I would not be surprised at all if they're true.

The self-hating Khmer people are especially racist toward black people because dark skin is not something that most Khmers associate with wealth and status.

If you look at the store shelves in Cambodia and throughout Asia for that matter, you'll find a lot of "whitening" personal products.

Couple this with the fact that many black foreigners in Cambodia really do stink, I don't find it surprising at all that many locals refer to Blacks as chkae (dogs).

This is unfortunate but it's just another ugly truth about the Khmer mentality.

When it comes the racial hierarchy, the Khmer people consider whites the superior race. Next come the Thais (even though Thais are actually ethnically very similar to Khmers), followed by the east Asians like the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese, then the Indians, Pakistanis, and other brown people. Next come the Khmers themselves. Occupying lowest rungs of the ladder are the Vietnamese and the black sub-Saharan Africans, respectively.

So, to the Khmer mind, the order of racial superiority goes something like this:

White Westerners > Light Skinned Arabs > Japanese > Koreans > Thais > Indians > Chinese > Khmers > Vietnamese > Blacks

If the Khmer people do not even like themselves, you can be sure as hell as they're not too fond of Blacks.

Sorry if my observations offend anyone, but the truth is the truth.

Cambodia Kingdom of Racists : Travelfish Cambodia travel forum

I was in [url= Cambodia travel forum

Saturday, February 27, 2016

How the GOP can defeat Donald Trump

I see that Marco Rubio is trying in desperation to out-Trump Donald Trump by stooping to name-calling and personal insults in a last-ditched effort to save his candidacy.

It's too little too late. Rubio's new strategy only reinforces people's perception of him as an ambitious, calculating establishment politician who adopted the new strategy simply because he is running out of time.

I don't know why the pundits are declaring Rubio the winner of the last GOP debate.  I suppose it's for the same reason they've been wrong all along. I certainly didn't see it that way.  When Trump attacks his rivals personally, he's a natural. It helps that he's a real life jerk.  When Rubio or Jeb Bush do it, they're like fishes out of the water.  It doesn't work. Besides, Rubio is brown, not orange.

What the GOP nomination has been about is the rejection of the political establishment.  People are sick of working 40-50 hours a weeks and yet still struggling to pay the bills and afford decent healthcare.  They're sick of the gobbledygook that they hear from their elected leaders and the liberal mainstream media.

The Trump movement is this sort of depraved, anti-establishment, anti-political correctness, anti-antibullying (not a typo) reaction to the status quo. Trump chose the right time to exploit people's anger and frustration. And thanks to social media and the reality TV culture that we live in, the old rules no longer apply.

He chose the Republican Party to hijack because he understood that he would be able to tap into the anger of a base of largely working and middle-class whites who are unhappy with the influx of non-white immigrants and who are not too fond of gays, Muslims, and other minorities.  Disproportionately uneducated, a third of Mr. Trump’s backers in South Carolina support barring gays and lesbians from entering the country. In a victory speech following his Nevada win, Trump proudly declared, "I love the poorly educated".

Of course, I doubt he would be able to achieve the same level of success had he chosen the Democratic Party to crash.  Firstly, democrats tend to be more sophisticated and tolerant people.  While Trump's populist approach might appeal to some Democrats, he'd likely end up no more than a fringe candidate.

So how does the GOP stop Donald Trump?

The GOP needs to understand that a Trump presidency will destroy their big-money political machinery.  Trump doesn't stand for conservative principles. He doesn't embody family values (far from it!). He won't pander to lobbyists. He can't be recruited into the Washington establishment or controlled by the party elite.  The establishment has nothing to gain by appeasing or embracing him.

The only way for the GOP to stop Donald Trump is to return the favor by sabotaging his general election chances by putting out an establishment candidate to split the Republican vote.  The candidate would run as an independent with the ultimate goal of wresting the presidency away from Trump.

The establishment candidate can't be just anyone.  He or she (more likely a he, since we're talking about the GOP) should be one who can capture at least 20% of the popular vote in the general election.  Either Marco Rubio or Mitt Romney would fit the bill in that respect.

Of course, Hillary Clinton would win the election.  I've promised a viable strategy for the GOP to defeat Donald Trump; I didn't say anything about capturing the White House.

This is the path the GOP should follow if it hopes to remain relevant in future elections.  If they hold to the view that Trump is malleable and somehow can be swayed to sub-serve GOP interests, they're mistaken-- in the same way they were mistaken when pouring hundreds of million dollars into Jeb Bush's campaign.

Losing the White House for the next four or eight years isn't that big of a deal compared to the survival of the GOP establishment and all the power and money-- lobbyist money, personal perks, and so on and so forth-- that the party machinery entails.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Yellow Lives Matter!

While I'm extremely proud of the thousands of Asian Americans who took to the street to protest the lynching of Chinese American police officer Peter Liang, a rookie officer whose accidental discharge of his sidearm in a darkened stairwell resulted in the death of an unarmed black man, I am also sickened by another faction of Asian counter-protesters who supported the conviction of Mr. Liang and the Black Lives Matter movement.

This reminds me of the Los Angeles riots of 1992 where black thugs and hoodlums looted and burned down more than 2,300 Korean-owned shops to protest police beating of Rodney King.  I vividly remember television images of heroic Korean shop owners armed with semi-automatic weapons lining rooftops of their businesses to fend off black and Hispanic looters.  It was a very beautiful and inspiring display of solidarity.

Many first generation Asian immigrants put their lives on the line every single day to run liquor stores, laundromats, and convenience stores in predominantly black neighborhoods to ensure better futures for their children while staying behind to face the elements.

Meanwhile, some Asian American students at elite U.S. universities were criticizing their fellow Asians, even their own parents in Koreatown, for somehow contributing to the mayhem and destruction by not being friendly enough to their customers. I would have called those ingrates disgusting animals if such an epithet wasn't so offensive to the animals that knew how to band together to protect their own species.

It appears that a similar strain of disgusting self-hate is rearing its ugly head in the Peter Liang case.  A good case in point is the shameful anti-Asian rhetoric of OiYan Poon, an assistant professor at Loyola University in Chicago, who accuses the thousands of Asian Americans who protest the conviction of Officer Liang of seeking access to the same "White privilege" that grants immunity from conviction enjoyed by white cops who shot unarmed Black men.

First, Officer Liang apparently did not even know the race of the victim in the tragic in dark stairwell when he fired his weapon. The bullet ricocheted off a wall before fatally striking the victim Akai Gurley.  At most this was a very tragic accident that did not warrant a manslaughter conviction. Protesting the wrongful conviction of a fellow Asian American scapegoated for white police brutality is a far cry from trying to gain access to White privilege.

As for the good professor, I invite her to go take an evening stroll alone in a dark South Side, Chicago ally someday. I wonder if she would rather run into Officer Liang or a group of swarthy figures flashing white teeth through their hoodies in that situation.  Judging by her penchant for masochism, I wouldn't be surprised if she chooses the latter.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Asian-Black American Relations

The conviction of former New York police officer Peter Liang for accidentally killing a black man in a darkened apartment stairwell highlights the deep strain between Asians and Blacks in America.

Officer Peter Liang is basically a scapegoat-- a sacrificial lamb-- to appease the Black Lives Matter movement.  When it comes to obeying the law, Asians are more like whites than other minorities.  The lynching of officer Liang shows that Asians face racism from both Blacks who often resent us for siding with "da man" and Whites who found a convenient scapegoat in an Asian-American police officer to take the blame for all the police brutality they commit against minority communities.

Race relations is a highly complex topic in America.  A blog post or even an entire book is not going to do justice to an issue that is so deeply ingrained in American history and society. Here are just a few observations I have about race relations as an Asian American growing up in the U.S.
  • Asian immigrants living in poor urban neighborhoods are often harassed by Blacks and Hispanics. Their children are constantly terrorized in schools by Black and Latino kids.  In fact, this is one of the reasons that drove Asian kids to form street gangs to band together to protect themselves from other minorities. Of course, these Asian gangs have become menaces that now terrorize their own communities rather than just protecting themselves from bullying.
  • Asians often benefit from black civil rights movements but do not adequately contribute to the struggle for equality.  This is one of the reasons that blacks often resent Asians-- and rightfully so.  Many Asians willingly exploit and play into the model minority myth, a divide-and-conquer tactic to maintain old racial status quo's, to distance themselves from other minorities, and ultimately from themselves.
  • Asian small businesses-- convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, and donut shops-- operating in poor neighborhoods face the constant threat of getting robbed by Black and Latino thugs.  Blacks often envy and resent Asians for our economic successes despite having arrived in America only recently.  
  • Unlike Blacks, Asians manage to succeed through hard work and determination despite language barriers and racial discrimination. Asian successes are often viewed as a threat to the Black narrative of racial oppression and institutional discrimination.  
  • Asian Americans, especially East and South Asians, tend to share more values, e.g., hard work, obeying the law, and strong families, with whites than other minorities. We face discrimination from both whites and fellow minorities alike.
  • Affirmative action often benefits Blacks at the expense of Asians.  Asian kids raised in poor inner cities could score perfect SATs and participate in lots of extracurricular activities and still get rejected from every Ivy League school, whereas black kids with only an above-average SAT scores often make headlines by being accepted to all Ivy League schools.
  • College admission quotas on Asian American students show that Asians are discriminated against by white conservatives and liberals alike.  I once worked at the Admission Office of an elite university that aggressively recruited non-Asian minorities who had good grades and SAT scores.  The school was treating these prospects like rock stars, constantly calling them, urging  them to come and tour the campus, and offering them full scholarships, including free room and board.  Their scores, while significantly higher than the black average, were well below the school average.  They were certainly not something they'd even look at if they belonged to Asian applicants.  It appears that the top U.S. schools are competing hard for the handful of qualified black entrants to make themselves appear more diverse.
  • You don't see the NBA seeking  a similar "fair" representation when it comes to the diversity of its players. There should be more than dozen Asian American players in the NBA based on our population alone.  I for one wouldn't want to see even one Asian make it to the NBA based solely on his race.  But the truth is, there probably many deserving Asian basketball players who don't make it because of their race. Blacks can be just as racist as whites-- just look at how Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming have been treated by Blacks in the NBA.  And the mistreatment is certainly limited to the NBA, extending to racial taunts and bullying on playgrounds and high school basketball gyms, being passed over by college athletic programs and denied athletic scholarships, and being doubted and discouraged every step of the way. During Jeremy Lin's 38-point outburst in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, a black TV commentator tweeted, "Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple of inches of pain tonight.”  This wasn't just a crude joke; it mirrored the animosity and frustration of many blacks toward an Asian player who managed to command the spotlight during a magical run that was "Linsanity".
  • Asian Americans are not a monolithic group; they comes from different nationalities and  ethnic and religious backgrounds.  While they are allied by a common set of Asian-American experiences, they are not particular unified or cohesive.  There is no such thing as an Asian American "old boys network" that benefit them.  
As a poor Khmer immigrant growing up in the inner city I understand the struggles that underprivileged minorities, including Blacks, Latinos and Asians face.  Asian Americans in my situation had it much tougher because we experienced racism and discrimination not only from whites, but also from fellow minorities.

Despite having excelled in school, graduating from an elite university, holding a graduate degree, and having an IQ of 155 to boot, I am technically living in poverty.  Although I know better than to blame others for my own personal failures, I can't help but wonder if things might have turned out differently if I had access to a social and economic support network  that allowed my innate talents to blossom.

Even though there are enough Asians in America to form a small country, we tend to underachieve because there isn't really a culture to support and affirm our existence.  Asian Americans grow up seeing themselves stereotyped and caricatured in movies and television shows.  Unsurprisingly, many grow up with low self-esteem and deep-seated identity issues, despite any academic and socioeconomic strides we've made. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Donald Trump, the American media, and gutter politics

Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of little Latino kids cursing out 69-year-old Donald Trump (see video below).  However, Trump himself has played a huge part in reducing the Republican presidential nomination into the hateful, vulgar, tabloid clown show that it is.

Although politicians have always been self-serving and less than truthful, most understand the need to articulate their positions in a way that is inspiring and uplifting to the people. Words matter because they can bring out the best or the worst in people. Leaders and demagogues have long realized that words have the power to change the world, sometimes in catastrophic ways (e.g. Nazi Germany).

His hateful rhetoric aside, I must admit Trump is a very funny and even charming character.  He is a master attention-getter, and ironically, his popularity is being propped up by the mostly liberal media who, whether they love or hate him, are making a ton of money from his antics.

As for his policies and plans for "Mak[ing] America Hate Great Again", they're really nothing that a few friends and I couldn't come up with after a few drinks on our back porches. His ideas, no matter how outrageous they may be, are not original or even feasible. They're secondary to his celebrity appeal.

Truth be told, leading the most powerful nation on earth is a very difficult balancing act that requires a sophisticated, nuanced approach.  A president must have not only intelligence, knowledge and good deal-making skills but also diplomacy, wisdom, and the proper temperament to solve highly complex problems involving many different nationalities, cultures, mindsets, interests, religions, and so on and so forth.

Just because one is a successful businessman doesn't mean he'll succeed as POTUS, just like a butcher who has had a lot of experience cutting up carcasses isn't necessarily qualified to perform brain surgery.  For that matter, a good neurosurgeon will not necessarily make a good president-- not that politics is any more difficult than brain surgery; it just requires a very different set of skills.

That said, I would not at all be surprised if Donald Trump goes on to win the Republican nomination and even the presidency, given his popular appeal.  And he might even make a good president (on the domestic front at least, on the international front he's a bit more scary) because unlike the establishment politicians who woo ordinary citizens but really work for special interests, he will actually try to implement some of things he has promised.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

A moral outrage

As an immigrant born in predominantly Buddhist Cambodia and raised in Judaeo-Christian America, I am disgusted by the pervasiveness of prostitution in Cambodia. 

Perhaps more appalling than the abundance of prostitutes in Cambodia is the casual attitudes of the Khmer people toward this lowly profession.  Most Khmer folks seem to be okay with prostitution as long as it's their own daughters or sisters who are selling their bodies.

In truth the prostitutes might as well have been their own daughters and sisters because the ubiquity of prostitution in Cambodia degrades the entire nation.  Many foreigners see countries like Cambodia and Thailand as nothing more than giant whorehouses. 

Moreover, there is an ugly racial component to the Cambodian sex trade because it attracts foreigners who patronize Khmer prostitutes as a form of sexual conquest. This is common among misguided Western neocolonialists who travel to places like Thailand and Cambodia to have sex with young women and children as a way of asserting their masculinity and white superiority.

In truth, there is nothing remarkable at all about an old white guy having sex with a teenage Khmer prostitute, as an old Khmer guy can do the same as long as he has the money. Besides, most prostitutes in impoverished Cambodia are themselves victims of sex slavery in one form or another-- you cannot enslave someone who is already a slave.

As far as bragging rights are concerned, I think Western men are better off patronizing prostitutes in their own countries, where there are no shortages of high-end swimsuit-model-quality women (real women, not ladyboys) that can be had for around $300 to $500 USD an hour.  Of course, they charge much more than the Khmer prostitutes, but when you factor in the money spent on airfare, accommodations, and the risks of getting scammed by the Khmer and Vietnamese prostitutes, you're better off doing it in your own country.

Moreover, Western men will not be troubled by the language barrier in dealing with the skanky "me-love-you-long-time" Asian hoe-ziz. Patrons can enjoy much more meaningful interactions with clean, curvaceous, upscale London escorts, some of whom college students with fairly impressive general knowledge. The British accent alone will make you forget that you're with a prostitute-- not that you'd want to spend $500 an hour to discuss 18th century English literature with them.

Best of all, you won't have to feel guilty about exploiting an impoverished third-world country because no woman in an affluent Western country needs to sell her body to survive.  They have many other choices in life but choose to become escorts because it allows them to easily make a lot of money in a very short period of time.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A reality TV reality

Having lived in the U.S. for nearly four decades, I think the American middle and working class are arguably the most decent and honest people in the world.

It's just too bad they have been turned into sheep, mules, and drones by the tiny political, economic and cultural elite that dictates pretty much how they think, feel and act.

The idea that America is a free country belies the reality that a small minority of the population pulls all the strings in the country.  People send their kids to foreign wars in the name of patriotism and freedom only to protect the interests of a handful of greedy oil and Wall Street money men.

The average American works 40 to 50 hours a week, yet many are struggling to make ends meet. Many are just a few paychecks away from losing their cars, their homes, and everything they've worked so hard for.

Yet, they don't mind professional athletes getting $20 million a year just for throwing a football or running up and down the basketball court, while they spend their entire paychecks on overpriced game tickets and watered-down beers. They profess to be good Christians and yet enjoy living vicariously through the lives of celebrities like Kim Kardashian as she fills the minds of their children with utter trash.  Did you know that Kim Kardashian, whose only claim to fame is having a big butt and a sex tape, pulls in some $60 million a year for her shenanigans, while her stepdad Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner makes the rounds collecting heroism awards as a cross-dresser?

Deep down, however, there is real anger and frustration in the American middle class. Anger and frustration at what they perceive to be responsible for their struggles-- the political establishment, the Mexican immigrants, the Muslims.

So what do they do?  They turn to Donald Trump, the very embodiment of the rich jerk who is very much a part of the ruling elite toying with their lives. It's hard to imagine how a greedy real estate mogul who once tried to use eminent domain to raze an elderly woman's home to build a limousine parking lot for his casino has become a champion for the plights of the average working American.

What's becoming clear is that reality itself is mimicking the bad reality TV shows that have become an American entertainment staple.  Just like Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, and Honey Boo Boo, it's a clown show that is depraved and despicable and yet at the same time very entertaining and endearing.

I for one can't wait for the Donald to get his narcissistic fingers on the access codes to the U.S. nuclear missiles-- should be very fun to watch, indeed. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Proloeng Khmer by Prof. Sar Sarun

Since this site is about the Khmer mentality, I want to share the full text of Khmer Mentality (Proloeng Khmer) published in 1973 by Professor Sar Sarun

An academic publication like Proloeng Khmer is certain to generate controversy as it promotes generalizations about a particular group.

Some people do not like generalizations as they tend to oversimplify a complex and nuanced phenomenon and promotes potentially harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes about Khmer people.

Generalizations, however, aren't necessarily false. More often than not, they are more true than they are untrue. While Proloeng Khmer was written in 1973 and much have changed in the last 40 years, many of Professor Sar Sarun's observations about the Khmer mentality still hold true today.  It's nevertheless a very fascinating and useful work that is still very relevant in today's world.

Title: Proloeng Khmer (Khmer Mentality)
Author: Professor Sar Sarun, Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences, University of Phnom Penh
Editing author: Khmer Aphiwath Group
Publisher: Khmer Aphiwath Group, Melbourne, Australia
Translator: Kua Cham
Further Edited 2003 for the Khmer Institute by Vannareth Lamm and William Snyder

The First Root: MATRIARCHY
A principal component of the Khmer mentality is matriarchy. At all levels of organization within Khmer society, ranging from family life to national government, the accepted leader or decision-maker is a woman.

This pattern dates back to the beginnings of our recorded history. During the Funan Period we had as our monarch a queen known variously as "Soma," "Liev Yi," or "Neang Neak." An Indian prince known as "Kaodinhya" (Indian name), "Hun Tien" (Chinese name), or "Preah Thong" (traditional Khmer name) conquered the nation of Funan and eventually married the Khmer queen. During the wedding the prince followed the queen, and held on to the edge of her scarf so as not to be distracted by his surroundings.

Our Khmer ancestors carved this story into the walls of Angkor to remind us of the ancient origins of our matriarchy. At present-day royal weddings, custom still requires the groom to hold the edge of the bride's scarf. For ordinary people as well, matriarchy is a basic principle of social organization. This can be seen in the titles of important positions, in educational maxims, and in common social beliefs.

A) Within the family, female titles normally precede male ones:
  • "mother and father"
  • "grandmother and grandfather"
  • "aunt and uncle"
B) In the armed forces, important titles include:
  • "mother of the army" (army chief)
  • "mother of the command" (commander)
  • "deputy mother of the command" (deputy commander)
C) Government titles include:
  • "mother of the commune" (commune leader)
  • "mother of the town" (mayor)
  • "mother of the district" (district councilor)
  • "mother of the block" (block representative for a group of ten households)
D) An educational maxim:
  • "It is better to face a shipwreck than to have the house burn down." (meaning: it is better to lose the father than the mother, because the father is less important.)
E) Some common social beliefs can be expressed as follows:
  • Clean husband + Corrupt wife = Corrupt
  • Bribe-free husband + Bribed wife = Bribed
  • Husband's disapproval + Wife's approval = Approval
The wife is the chief of the family, while the husband seeks work outside the home in order to bring money back to her. If the sum is less than expected, his wife may chastise him. Khmer wives have the personality of "master-wife." In contrast, in Chinese society the husband controls the family's finances, and Chinese wives have the personality of "slave-wife."

According to current research into our national history, a second element of the Khmer mentality is a "hidden strength," which has kept the nation from perishing despite repeated attacks from the outside world. We are now asking ourselves, "What is this hidden strength?"

Many academics, as well as other citizens who are concerned with the nation's future integrity, are now searching for the source of this defensive power. Historical research tells us that the Khmer nation has repeatedly been invaded. In some of these periods the Khmer were enslaved by the Thai. The successive Khmer capitals of Angkor and Longvek were subjected to terrible devastation. The great sages and scholars were taken prisoner and sent to serve in the invaders' country. How have the Khmer land and the Khmer people survived to the present day?

These case studies show that the Khmer have a hidden quality of persistence, which gives them defensive strength and keeps the Khmer nation from falling. For this reason our ancestors created the popular proverb, "The Khmer territories will never perish." The very fact that they had the confidence to say this clearly indicates the strength contained in the Khmer mentality. Yet, we no longer know the exact nature of this essential, hidden strength, nor exactly where it resides in the Khmer identity.

Only when we find this hidden part of the Khmer spirit can we continue to protect our land and our nation from danger. Until then, we will have no reason to believe the optimistic proverb mentioned above. The Khmer spirit and identity are tightly intertwined with our culture and civilization.

The Third Root: SELF-PRAISE
The third element of the Khmer mentality, based ultimately on considerations of geography, lies in the fact that the Khmer have considerable pride, and have a strong inclination to praise themselves. This is because the Khmer people originally belonged to an ethnic family known as the Mon-Khmer, which inhabited the entire peninsula of Indochina . At that time the region was called Sovanna Phum ('Golden Country'), and shared a border with China .

The name comes from the Pali words sovann , meaning 'gold', and phum , meaning 'land' or 'country'. People living in the Golden Country of Sovanna Phum led joyful lives, blessed with natural riches, and in their unconscious mind there slowly developed a high level of pride, as well as a tendency to boast. The inhabitants of Sovanna Phum belonged to three different ethnic groups: the Mon, the Cham, and the Khmer. They lived in tribal communities, without clear land boundaries, and mainly traded gold with the Portuguese, who traveled by sail in the China Sea .

The people of the Golden Country had no concerns other than the gold trade. This is what gave rise to their boastful attitude, and to the development of a high level of pride. In this respect the Mon ranked first, followed by the Cham and then the Khmer, who were the humblest of the three. Nonetheless, the Khmer were firmly trapped in the same up-bringing, and our Khmer ancestors made this explicit in the following parable:
  • The Mon take the heavens for their seat.
  • The Cham raise a single palm to the sky.
  • The Khmer ascend to the clouds, but then pass through the earthworm's shit.
According to this saying, the self-praise of the Khmer went as high as the clouds, but not so high as the sky or the heavens. Moreover, the Khmer usually came back down to earth quickly: They boasted, but then returned to reality. When the Khmer spoke among themselves, they did not realize that they were boasting, because they shared a common level of pride. But when they spoke with the Cham, who were even prouder, they could see that the Cham liked to boast. Likewise, the Cham did not see themselves as a boastful people, but when they spoke with the Mon, they did notice that the Mon were remarkably fond of boasting.
  • The Mon boasted more than anyone else, until they lost all their land.
  • The Cham, second only to the Mon in boasting, lost their land, too.
  • The Khmer boasted only moderately, and thus retained some of their land.
Yet, by no means should we expect the Khmer to retain their remaining land forever. At present the Khmer nation is headed for catastrophe.

How did boasting cause these three ethnic groups to lose so much of their land? The answer goes something like this. As they continued boasting and enjoying their natural resources, they forgot that the surrounding ethnic groups coveted their land. The Thai, who originated in China 's southern province of Yunnan , became known in the Eighth Century when they started to migrate southward. When the Mongolians invaded China in the Thirteenth Century, the Thai took advantage of the resulting chaos and attacked the city of Sukhotey . They took over all the Mon areas, and also conquered a number of northern Khmer provinces beyond the Danrek Mountains , along the Semourn River . These included Nokoreach, Surin, Sangkeas, Kouk-khan, Sisaket, and Burirum. Moreover, they extended their control into southwestern areas, as far as Malaysia . All of this territory had belonged to the Sovanna Phum Peninsula .

Later, in 1794 and 1795, three Khmer aristocrats were competing for state power. Each considered himself superior to the others, because all three belonged to an unconditionally proud people. One of the aristocrats, Ben, tricked another, Sous, into assassinating the third, Mou. Afterwards Ben tried to kill Sous, but failed, because the latter had strong allies. Ben then requested the help of the Thai army, whom he allowed to enter Cambodia . In exchange for their help, Ben let Thailand annex several Khmer provinces, including Battambang, Mongkolburi, and Serisophan.

What led these Khmer aristocrats to fight one another for power? In that day there was an active race for power based on self-proclaimed superiority, with assistance from foreign armies. The aristocrats had placed on the throne a six-year-old prince named Ang Eng, the son of Prince Otey II, who was too young to rule. Their goal was to seize power for themselves.

Thus, we can see from history that foreign invasions of the Khmer territory were possible only because Khmer leaders were stubbornly convinced of their own superiority, and failed to realize that the country was headed for disaster.

The Khmer fondness for boasting is also well-documented, for instance, in such ethical poems as "Father's Testament," "Rules for Children and Grandchildren," "Fable for Children and Grandchildren," and "Conduct Rules for Men." All these writings seek to awaken the Khmer people from their dreams of self-praise and irrational pride.

The following are some examples.

"Father's Testament":
"Fable for Children and Grandchildren":
"Rules for Children and Grandchildren":

Another example comes from an academic conference held at Chakdhumuk Hall on 9 November 1970 , where a Buddhist monk argued that the Khmer language "has excellent linguistic rules that are superior to those of any human language in the world [sic]."

Further discussion of our people's taste for boasting can be found in a recently published book by Mr. Bun Chan Mol, The Character of the Khmer .

The Fourth Root:  AGRICULTURE
The fourth element of the Khmer mentality is a link to agriculture. From the beginning, Khmer society relied almost exclusively on agriculture, and eventually it took agriculture as an important source of cultural identity. All aspects of Khmer education have their "roots" in agriculture, because the Khmer have a strong tendency to use agricultural metaphors in explanations.

A) In the family domain:
    (meaning, when you marry off your children, look at their partners' roots.)
    (meaning, start courting the girl now, while your heart is still aflame.)
    (meaning, a wife can elevate her husband.)
B) In the military domain:
    (meaning, you fight a war with food.)
C) In the domain of national development:
D) In education, more generally:
    (from "Father's Testament"; original verse in crow's-walk rhyme)
    (from "Inherited Conduct Rules"; original verse in Bhramngit rhyme)

The fifth element of the Khmer mentality, due once again to considerations of geography, is a relative indifference to laws and regulations. Why should this be so? The Khmer region is seldom threatened by the natural disasters found in Japan and Europe :
  • Freezing winters
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Savage storms
  • Typhoons
  • Large-scale floods
The Khmer territory seldom faces such disasters. Indeed, natural disasters are almost unheard of, aside from minor floods that occur every few decades, and even they are not especially brutal.
The climate is so warm that Khmer people can survive without clothing. The only significant "earthquakes" are caused by bombs dropped by B-52's, which come day and night, destroying both the farmland and the occupants of many villages.

Because the Khmer countryside is rarely subjected to natural catastrophes, the Khmer people are less aware of nature, and have little need to adjust themselves to natural constraints. This exemption from constraints has shaped the Khmer mentality, making it insensitive to social and legal rules except where there is coercion. This stands in contrast to countries in colder regions, where people cannot even survive without appropriate clothing.

Yet, people from those regions who migrate to the Khmer territory eventually adopt a mindset similar to the Khmer people's. Likewise, Khmer people who go to live in colder regions eventually adopt the mindset of the people there. Thus, the fifth element of the Khmer soul is explained by geographical conditions.

The sixth element of the Khmer mentality is inactivity. Because the Khmer people live in the tropics, they tend to avoid physical exertion. The Khmer artistic spirit dwells in a soft, fanciful, and romantic state, one that is low in energy. Khmer music tends to be sentimental, and to make people sleepy.
Khmer people move slowly. They set off for the workplace at a relaxed pace, as if they were on vacation. These factors have shaped the Khmer mentality to prefer people who are inactive rather than active, conservative rather than progressive.


The Khmer admire people who work less and earn more, rather than people who work hard and earn little. Likewise, the Khmer admire a government official who simply signs a document and earns millions of riels, rather than one who works from morning till evening and hardly earns enough to survive. In fact they should appreciate the latter, who makes a personal sacrifice and saves money for the national budget. Yet, if an educator and a customs official simultaneously ask to marry a family's daughter, the former will end in despair. Where does this come from?
Indeed, this is the unfairness of society in a tropical country.

Shall we continue with this lifestyle, spoiled by nature? Or shall we try to win out over nature? Shall we destroy this root of the Khmer mentality, or leave it undisturbed? The solution lies mainly in the awareness of Khmer youngsters, but the right awareness will be possible only after education – that is, after enlightenment. If we lack enlightenment, our minds may unconsciously drift in the wrong direction. Being blind or ignorant is a great evil, and allows other people to manipulate us easily.
The authors of Khmer folktales exhibit this aspect of the Khmer mentality in the following ways:
  • An ignorant man finds two jars of gold hidden in the ground;
  • A senseless man usually has a wife of excellent quality;
  • A stupid man is the one likeliest to get sacred powers;
  • An uneducated man gets promoted to the rank of lord;
  • Kong Hean is made a Khmer hero by his own shit.
Another example is an old Khmer saying that tells us, "A sage falls into a hole, while a fool rises up to paradise." Shall we retain this root of the Khmer mentality, or cut it off?

The seventh root of the Khmer mentality is a tendency to be confused about commitments.
This is because the Khmer people live in a country in which the various seasons are not clear-cut: the rainy season and the dry season, as well as the cold season, start and end at fuzzy dates, known to no one. In contrast, countries in colder regions have clear-cut seasons. For example, on the European continent:
  • Spring is from 21st March to 21st June;
  • Summer is from 21st June to 22nd September;
  • Autumn is from 22nd September to 21st December;
  • Winter is from 21st December to 21st March.
  • Clear-cut seasons have trained the people of that region to have clear plans:
  • When they work, they concentrate on working;
  • When they play, they concentrate on playing;
  • When they study, they concentrate on studying;
  • When they eat, they concentrate on eating;
  • When they rest, they stop all work.
In France it is almost impossible to find a restaurant that serves anything more than drinks before 9AM , or after 10PM . The Khmer region's fuzzy seasons have spoiled the minds of the people living there, with fuzziness in all aspects of commitment:
  • Work and play are mixed together;
  • Conflict at work is similar to conflict at home;
  • Study time and break time are intermingled;
  • Eating time lasts from morning through the middle of the night, until the sun rises again;
  • Office tasks and home tasks are mixed together;
  • A government-owned car is also taken as a personally-owned car, and used to carry the wife, transport the children to school, and even carry the mistress;
  • Experts at organizing theatrical plays, or at teaching in school, assume ministerial positions in the government (although different people have talents in different areas).
  • In order to correct this root of the Khmer mentality, it is necessary to impose truly strict laws, and also to have good examples from the top down.

The Eighth Root: EXTREMISM
The eighth element of the Khmer mentality is an ambivalent extremism. Khmer extremist thinking is not always oriented in one particular direction. When we come to like something, we go out of our way to stick to it. But when we start to dislike it, we go far in the opposite direction.
This is reflected in the following popular expressions:
  • The more loving, the more hating. For example, in the story of "Tum and Teav," Teav's mother initially loved Tum so much that she asked him to become her adopted son. But when she started to dislike him, she sought to have him killed in an extremely violent way.
  • When we believe people, we believe them a hundred and twenty percent. But if we stop believing, we stop forever.
  • If you drink, then drink so much that others have to carry you. If you can still walk by yourself, then what was the point in drinking?
  • If you kill someone, go ahead and taste the flesh.
  • If you put your hand into the fish paste, go ahead and stick your whole arm in.
  • If you want to cut someone, go ahead – don't just pretend!

The ninth element of the Khmer mentality is the sanctity of one's "truth-word," or oath. Faithfulness to one's word is among the principal Khmer virtues. Examination of Khmer literature indicates that this has been true for a very long time. Some believe that it resulted from contact with Hinduism, for Hindu Brahmans were considered the agents of God, with a mission to spread their religion, and were said to honor their word strictly. Truth to one's word was seen as a major virtue of Hinduism, and indeed as the essence of its theology.
  • The essence of the body is chastity.
  • The essence of speaking is one's oath.
  • The essence of the mind is courage.
We can see this philosophy in the Khmer version of an Indian legend called "Ramayana," where a king named Preah Bat Tusarath does not dare violate his oath. The King has promised a woman named Neang Kaikesi that he will leave his throne to a particular prince, Preah Phirut, if he wins a war with the Sun. In Part One of "Ramayana," the city of Aiyutya is at the center of a conflict over the throne, and the solution is for the King's oath to take priority over tradition. As a consequence, Preah Ream, Preah Laksma, and Neang Sita have to leave the kingdom and live in the forest.

In the story of "A Young Weaver of Palm-leaf Baskets," a personal oath is once again taken as a binding contract. The weaver is stuck at the top of a palm tree, and promises to become a slave to anyone who will save him from falling to his death. A person passing by, riding on an elephant, takes him at his word and initiates a rescue, without asking for any real guarantee of the promise. The elephant rider himself becomes trapped with the weaver. The two make the same promise to four bald men, who again come to their rescue without requiring any real guarantee, because they take the two men's promise as an oath.

In two other folk tales, "A Man and a Tiger" and "A Man and a Crocodile," the main character promises a wild animal that he will come back and be eaten, as soon as he has written his will. In each story, the man keeps his word. Likewise, in "Golden Arrow," a king states that he will kill anyone who interferes with his war plan. When he discovers that his own consort, the Queen, has made this mistake, he bitterly forces himself to keep his word, and executes her with the golden arrow.

To capture the sanctity of one's oath, the Khmer people have formulated the following proverb:
Yet, the sanctity of one's personal oath decreased somewhat after an event known as "the lord's tea-spilling," which first occurred around 1845 under an occupying Vietnamese general, Troeung Minh Yang. One night the general ordered his troops to behead four or five Khmer citizens, in response to an order from the Vietnamese emperor, Ming Mang. The victims' heads were then used to support the boiler for his tea.

This practice, which continued up until the French entered our country, shook the Khmers' spirit to its very core. In response, the Khmer people began to consider "tricky" approaches to problem-solving, as indicated in the following saying:
Yet, the value placed on one's oath persists to this day, and has been inherited in something close to its original form by people in rural and mountainous areas, whose strict adherence to their personal word resembles the practice of an ascetic monk. In mountainous regions, people teach their children that a person who fails to honor an oath cannot live on the mountain.

The tenth element of the Khmer mentality is to place a high value on chastity and purity. Indeed, the Khmer essence is a devotion to chastity, especially in women. Khmer women work incredibly hard to preserve their chastity, including, of course, their physical purity, or virginity. Correspondingly, Khmer men are inclined to accept as "queen" of their heart only a woman of fairly complete chastity, for which bodily purity is a necessary condition.

When a single woman loses her purity, she generally believes that her body has no more worth, having lost its essence. Her life becomes meaningless, and she sometime tries to end it through suicide. This stands in stark contrast to European women, who generally accept the loss of bodily purity as a natural event in their life, and who are more inclined to value the reality of their heart, which they consider the essence of their life.

Khmer people place greater value on the quality of the body, than on the quality of the heart. There are those who believe that this emphasis on bodily essence has its roots in Brahmanism, for the Brahman likewise values bodily essence as a principal quality of Brahmanhood. Yet, we believe that such a transfer of values is possible only when the recipient was, at some level, already thinking along similar lines.

The existence of this value in the Khmer mentality is noted in many works of Khmer literature:
  • In the story of "Ramayana," when Preah Ream takes refuge in a forest, his wife Neang Sita accompanies him.
  • In the story of "Preah Vesantar," when Preah Vesantar is exiled to a forest, his wife Neang Metri goes with him.
Some people think that these stories are influenced by Indian thought. Yet, acceptance by one country of another country's influence, whether in beliefs, customs, religion, or ideology, is possible only when the influence is compatible with the accepting country's pre-existing ideas. Hence, we conclude that Khmer women's devotion to chastity existed even before the Indian influence, which simply added new momentum to our own way of thinking, and led to a greater fondness for stories that praise this value.

For example:
  • In the story of "Tum and Teav," which is a purely Khmer love story, we see the Khmer woman's devotion to chastity clearly in the deeds of Neang Teav. When she learns that her lover Tum has been executed with a knife, she follows him by cutting her own throat with a knife.
  • In the story of "Sophat," Neang Manyan believes that Sophat has drowned, and follows her sweetheart by drowning herself in a river.
Now, what evidence do we have that this characteristic is invariably present? One piece of evidence comes from the present-day rotation of Khmer soldiers through different locations, which is required by different missions of the armed forces. As the husbands respond to various dangers, the wives follow them and devote themselves to providing support. Despite the challenges to family finances, and the difficulty of constantly changing their habits and lifestyle, Khmer women take this devotion as their highest priority, and thereby preserve their chastity.

"Knowing others is Intelligent;
Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is power;
Mastering yourself is true strength."