Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brother Number 2 walks out.

According to the Bangkok Post, Brother Number 2, otherwise known as Nuon Chea, walked out of the court proceedings as of June 27, 2011.  In fact, the defiant attitude of the Khmer Rouge leaders gives you an insight into their soul.  Brother Number 2 was a real effective administrator of death.  Ironically, he was not of the same educational background as Pol Pot who was heavily influenced by the French.  Nuon Chea went to Thammasat University in Bangkok, and became a fan of the Communist party in Thailand during the 1940s.  Whatever the source of indoctrination, the main motivating factor behind the Khmer Rouge was their obsession over an idealized utopian world of the proletariat which warped into a dystopian reality of genocide.

What is curious is that in a cafe in the old Khmer Rouge strongholds in Pailin Province, there were cheers for him as reported in the Phnom Penh Post.  Culturally, you are dealing with a complex series of factions within the country.  In this sense, the ghosts of past are still present.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Khmer Rouge trial fraught with drama in Cambodia

Khmer Rouge trial fraught with drama in Cambodia

The latest so far on the Khmer Rouge trial is coming through the news. This is really ironic since we are talking about events which occurred largely in the 70s followed by a various levels of insurgency which also encompassed the now popular Angkor Wat temple complex. Who's on trial? It's a pretty thick list according to the LA Times: Head of State Khieu Samphan, 79; Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, 85; his wife, Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, 79; and the revolution's chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, 84.

The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, was a mid level Khmer Rouge member, so the resistance to the trials may not be exactly unexpected. This gets into the entire complexity of the role of the Khmer Rouge and the role of ideology in human affairs. Whatever the causes, the trials were started with much promise.

The Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia is actually an effective warning against how the power of ideas can destroy a country. Humans have the most unique capacity of using ideas as weapons of war. Although it is a trial about the past, it is more about the present than anything else. Can people get away with genocide? Well, that is possible. Hitler killed himself before getting captured, and therefore he escaped trial. Pol Pot died of old age before he ever got to the point of being on trial. If you look at the USA's history, we never really did convict anybody of massacring Indians, and Columbus was never held accountable for setting up the slavery system in the Caribbean. Maybe because of the amount of reading and research that I have been doing on the issue of genocide, I'm not entirely convinced that people are held responsible. For every feel good trial, there are others that escape prosecution. Numerous Nazis never were caught like Dr. Mengele.

On the other hand, the Rwanda trials are going well. In the sentencing of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the court has begun the process of healing in Rwanda. This is in direct contrast to the trials in Cambodia. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda are actually being held in Tanzania, not in Rwanda.

So what does this mean for Cambodia? I'm not sure. We are dealing with many things when we talk about the Khmer Rouge. Without the Khmer Rouge, you ironically would not have Cambodia Town or "Little Cambodia" in the middle of Long Beach, CA. You also wouldn't have things like the TRG (Tiny Rascal Gangstas) or Asian Boyz either. Ultimately, everything is interconnected. Events in the world do not happen in isolation. The trials in Cambodia will have a ripple effect in Long Beach, CA.

A colleague of mine at the college, who is Khmer, told me that "I won't ever go back! You've been to Cambodia more than me." In that sense, I was looking at the soul of the trials. The Cambodia of the past is a source of pain and of shame. The Khmer Rouge essentially lost face for Khmers in the world. And who is to say if the trials go on, that more specific people will lose face. It does show how difficult it is to have a genocide trial in the country itself.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tensions in South China Sea.

According to the LA Times, there is an increase in tensions between China and Vietnam.  This has gotten to the point in which the Chinese are running live fire drills in the area.    As Vietnam grows economically, China is also expanding.  This thing doesn't just involve Vietnam, but also the Philippines and other SE Asian countries.  Problem--The world is actually infinitely tied into the Chinese manufacturing sector.  You can't go to Walmart without seeing "Made in China" labels, but we are also increasingly seeing more "Made in Vietnam" labels too.  Apple iPhones are made in China.  Nikon cameras are made in China and Thailand.  Some of my iZod shirts are made in Vietnam.  So, why then tensions?  It's complicated.

To get an idea about the bad mojo between the countries, you have to go back to 1979.  Much of those tensions were related to the Chinese support of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the 70s.  Cambodia increasingly became confrontational with Vietnam with border incursions.  Given that both governments at the time were Communist, it shows us that nationalism trumps ideology any day of the week.  The end result was that Vietnam got pissed and promptly invaded Cambodia, which triggered the 1979 response from the Chinese.  The fact that the Chinese supported Pol Pot makes sense, since he was trying to initiate every single rule in Mao's Red Book into reality.  Ideologically, the Khmer Rouge were more aligned with the Chinese.  Historically, Vietnam has always resisted China.  China seems to view Vietnam as sort of a rogue province.  Sort of like Tibet, but you know how that worked out.  Vietnam has viewed China with caution.  It seems to be in their historical DNA.  The Truong Sisters are national heroes for resisting the Han Dynasty Chinese, so it makes sense that the Vietnamese would have an inherent sense of caution.  The fact that China has invaded and dominated Vietnam historically at least 4 times doesn't seem to lend validation towards any sort of comfort with China.  It is sort of like Thailand's relationship with Burma.  They have to cooperate to a certain extent, but there is a history of wars and confrontations between them.

The problem today is economic.  According to NPR, the South China Sea supposedly has numerous mineral deposits and natural gas pockets.  Ultimately, it may not be just a Vietnam/Chinese problem.  It may be a regional problem that can't easily be solved as the SE Asia economies also rebound.    

For a little background, you may want to look up the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979.

This is the Vietnamese perspective of that war.

The Chinese perspective

Some French News Footage of the conflict.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Agent Orange and US Vietnam Relations

It appears that the relationship between Vietnam and the USA is improving. According to the BBC, the US is going to fund about 32 million to address the issues of dioxin.

What exactly are dioxins?  You can go here to get an idea.

All acts often have repercussions years after they had occurred.