Independent Monument at Night in Phnom Penh ("Photo by Ethan Crowley")
Independence is very important for each nation to lead their own fate towards future. Independent monument represents the real strength of the nation. Cambodia got the independence on November 09, 1953 and built Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument in 1958 as the national commemoration. 100 heads of Naga (dragon) on the whole top of this monument styling to the Angkor Era was mixed with modern creative ideas of VANN Molyvann, the famous architect in Cambodia. Therefore, being surely needed, independence for Khmer nation could be divided into two – independence country as Cambodia and independence community control in nearby countries. Why independence is so important for Cambodia and all Khmer people even in surrounding countries as the previous territory of Angkor Empire? Later centuries after the fall of Angkor Empire, Cambodia had been controlled several times by Siam Kingdom (Thailand), Annam Kingdom (Vietnam), Japanese Occupation (Japan), and French Colonial (France). Most intelligent and popular Khmer people would be killed immediately for the fear of powerful independence rebellion; more territories were cut off from Cambodia and many valuable things were taken out of Kingdom to each country controlling Cambodia. Not only taking most properties and large territories, Thailand imported from Cambodia all the literate work of Khmer Language for Thai language development as well as the ancient rule for controlling country many times, elephants, intelligent people, and thousands of local Khmer citizens as their slaves, especially also damaged all the remaining main original documents of Cambodia. From century to century, fewer documents left in the kingdom and only royal family members and monks could go to Bangkok for higher education, but the lessons were mixed with new things Thailand provided and original lessons taken from Cambodia were surely not provided for learning. Furthermore, Thai King had issued a policy for only Thai language speaking since 1950s and 1960s caused millions of Khmer citizens in Thailand illiterate for Khmer language. Besides, coming the marriage of Vietnamese Princess and King Chey Chetha II of Cambodia since the early 17th century, Vietnam also controlled Cambodia often in 17th and 18th century taking large territories of Kampuchea Krom, cruelly killing million local citizens (Kampub Tae Ong Strategy: using head of Khmer Krom people instead of cooker boiling their tea to serve their Ong - boss), changing name of all provinces in Kampuchea Krom to Vietnamese as well as today provinces of Cambodia while they controlled Cambodia, and damaged most temples and Khmer literate documents. Once again from 1979 to 1989, Vietnam controlled Cambodia flowing almost all of most expensive and valuable things as well as natural resources out of Cambodia to support Vietnam back for fighting down the Khmer Rouge and flowing millions of Vietnamese into Cambodia as thousands of Vietnamese communities showing in main cities of Cambodia, Cambodia side along Vietnam-Cambodia frontier, and around Tonle Sap Lake (Great Lake) populating around 2 to 3 millions based on the Wikipedia’s website. Today, Vietnam still restricted too much on the literate, cultural and traditional practices of all Khmer people in the South of Vietnam and today Cambodia’s province in Vietnamese map are still in new Vietnamese given name and so meaningful in Vietnamese, but were so far from the pronunciation and meaning of each Khmer names using worldwide. Turning to Japanese short occupation in early 1940s, Cambodia nearly lost large territories of western and northern part of Cambodia to Thailand since they were so close sharing benefits together during that time; Thailand was so flexible to shake hand with new winner and turn their back to them while losing for the hand shaking with western countries again. On the other hand, French colonial helped to secure Cambodia for awhile from Thailand and Vietnam since 1863, but they put Cambodia nearly beneath the land meaning making Cambodian people poorer and poorer with taxation, exporting natural and other resources to France, using too much local labor force to satisfy their needs like infrastructure building, war in Europe, and slavery. Being unforgettable besides the lost of Kampuchea Krom, France has cut administratively more territories and islands to Vietnam creating trouble for the Cambodia’s ownership of those territories, islands and marine border demarcation. Moreover, powerful Khmer people were used by those countries to fight each other as well as to fight those countries’ external enemy weakening Cambodia from time to time. At last, no independence for Cambodia and Khmer nation means no right to do anything, but to get command even contrast to the will of the nation.
After long consideration on the reason why Cambodia and Khmer nation should be independent, there will be a talk on how Cambodia should consider for using this independence properly. After getting independence from France, the stability in Cambodia was confidently seen from 1953 to the end 1960s. King NORODOM Shihanouk was smart for economic development until end 1960s starting the economic falling down because of the involvement of Cambodia with Vietnam War. Wishing to be a neutral nation, Cambodia had no choice since China, Russia, and the United State of America used political ideology in the region against each other and at last Cambodia chose China as the nearer country. According to political analysis of the researchers in the United States in 1958, position of Cambodia was in the dangerous world being challenged by superpowers, so it was not a mistake of any Cambodian leaders driving Cambodia to the poorest condition in Pol Pot Regime (1975 – 1979), but Cambodia was forced to and nearer nations always took much benefits of that situation. Billions US Dollars was lost through the war and the benefit-taking helpers. It is sure that Cambodia today being independent with own government, but how the government do to achieve the right target of economic development. Until today, Cambodia only produces raw materials to export while the Sangkum Reastr Niyum at least produced own goods and services to satisfy the local needs completely and appreciably. It was not just the admiration of Sangkum Reastr Niyum Regime, but the purpose of this is for today government to learn more how we achieve the target of the economic development in past decades before the last war period. It seems Cambodian leaders being admired too much with his Excellency, but do not forget that word is meaningless sometimes while the reality is much more to be done and should be done quickly while Cambodia is still rich of natural resources as well as young labor forces. How should the government manage those valuable things in own hand effectively and efficiently? Natural resources in Cambodia were seen for decades not being controlled righteously. Gems and forest in Pailin have been illegal dug and cut down nearly out of the soils without providing much benefit to country. Forest and wild life management has been being too weak to prevent the illegal logging as well as exporting to foreign countries. Why is it so bad? Forest and wild animals is actually the right thing for government and people to use, but using righteously means sustaining the forest and wild life for use longer period from generation to generation. Forest is not only providing wooden logs, but also able to attract local and foreign tourists bringing more revenues to the place. Wild life could be kept as natural zoos or artificial zoos to catch the interest of local and foreign tourists bringing much more benefits than sell its meat or export alive to nearby countries. Additionally, land concession is really being a main issue against good natural management. Why? Obviously, the main purpose of providing land concession is to develop on the land factories, hydro dams, big orchards, mineral explorations, or other kinds of development giving benefits to government, local people, and to the economic growth of the country, but today high percentage local people are being affected negatively and the sustainability for next generation is not really secured. Being heard on radio, some political activists raised the stakes that some companies just got the land concessions to log the woods and use all other natural resources like wild animals, mineral resource, and so on; then continued to ask for more land concession and transferred the old one to other companies or leaving it alone. If it is really happening, what would the government do to prevent those activities? Punishment in cash as well as growing back the green forest should be done to warn all other companies not to follow; land concession should be given with condition in contract and never given to nearer people nearby the border with their country. If providing to nearby people, 99 years or 100 years is so long and who would be responsible to get it back? And if they don’t grant it back, what are the prevention strategies for that generation government? If strategies exist, how effective and efficient is it to use? It was sure for today government being better to bring Cambodia here better situation after wars. However, most Cambodian people spent too much money extravagantly from lowest class to highest class people on the most luxury and modern finished goods that no longer bring much more benefits back to them if considering on the opportunity cost. It was not only the fault of government, but people themselves forgot the past as well as most new generations knowing nothing about the hardest time of Cambodia. Tourism sites such as ancient temples, natural sites, cultural sites, and proper creative amusements and parks should be established and protected both in town and field. Smiling and friendly environment to all tourists should be a good standard for all Khmer people to practice. Being imported from foreign countries, materials should be limitedly used like the most expensive car, cigarette, wine, beer, modern mobile phone, jewelries, most expensive electrical equipments and electronic devices, etc. Television and radio broadcasting system should focus more on new development research and education as well as proper news sharing and tourism promotion rather than just entertainment and advertisement; advertisement is surely good, but too much and advertisement for products and services not benefit to the economic development is worse than no advertisement. Advertising only good products and services, local citizens will also benefit and admire the smartest idea of each broadcasting system. Last but not least, Khmer community in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam should focus more on language conservation as well as better well-being adapting new good ideas from each country and giving up all bad ideas for the sake of modern development and better cultural protection. Each country should allow Khmer people and other ethnic groups to practice their own culture just guaranteeing no actions affect negatively the development of each country. “Wishing better, taking better actions!” “Opportunity cost should be first consideration before doing anything in this world globalization!” “Development is not only for the country government, but also for all people within the country!” “Independence means self-economic supports, self-political supports, and self-sovereignty supports!”
By: POK Panhavuth