Thursday, 7 August 2008

Cambodian History books

Alongside language study I have been trying to study Cambodia in general. In the first half of 2008 I read some books about Cambodian history, here is list, some titles are clickable.




Cambodia: Report from a Stricken Nation, Henry Kamm, Arcade Publishing, 1998


Covers 1970-1998. Very readable and put together lots of different events that I didn’t know how they were related. Let me tell you about the first chapter and the afterword.

“Hope is for the unborn” (chpt 1) talks about the state Cambodia was in 10 years ago, when the book was written. It was in such a bad state that a UNICEF worker concluded there was no hope for the people who are here now, only for those who will be born in the future.

“How much can be expected from an education system that started from zero in 1979? After the Pol Pot years, in which schools were abolished, only three hundred Cambodians with a higher education were left in the country.” (pg 11)

“Cambodia today is also a ward of untreated psychiatric illnesses that have their principle origin in the four years of the genocide. Twelve psychiatrists practiced in Cambodia before 1975; none were left after the despots fall.” (pg 14”)

And in the afterword…

“Over the past century its (Cambodia’s) life has been grossly tampered with by many outsiders. By France…By Japan… By the United States…By China…By Vietnam…By the Soviet Union…” (pge 251)

“Cambodia looks mortally ill, and experience has shown that its own doctors are not up to the task of curing it. When a powerful Cambodian falls ill he goes abroad to be treated. I fear “abroad” would have to come to Cambodia to try to pull the stricken nation through. I see no other way but to place Cambodia’s people into caring and disinterested hands for one generation, administer it for its own sake, and gradually hand it back to a new generation of Cambodians , who will have matured with respect for their own people and are ready to take responsibility for them.” (pg 252)

A bleak diagnosis! I wonder what Kamm would say ten years on?



Christians and the Church in Cambodian History


The Tears of my Soul, by Sokreaksa S. Himm, Monarch Books, 2003
After the Heavy Rain, by Sokreasa S.Himm, Monarch Books, 2007

The author of these books lived through Pol Pot time. After crawling out from under his dead family members he managed to survive the rest and eventually made it to Canada. Recently he has shown his forgiveness to his family’s killers in very tangible ways (building a school).

From Phnom Penh to Paradise, by VarHong Ashe, Hodder and Stoughton, 1988

This is an autobiographical account of the Khmer Rouge time. This lady was a new Christian, living in Phnom Penh in 1975 when the city fell. She and her extended family are forced out of the city, along with everyone else. Its hard to imagine all the horrible things that happened to them are real.

Where blood flows the heart grows softer, by Jeanette Lockerbre, 197?

This book was written during Pol Pot time about the first half of the 1970’s when many Cambodians became Christians.

Killing Fields, Living Fields, by Don Cormack, Monarch Books, 1997

History of the church. Spans

Remember Cambodia


The 1990’s in Cambodia


Gecko Tails, by Carol Livingston, Phoeix, 1996


Written by a journalist who was here during United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). Writes about life, especially the political scene, in the early 1990s. I’m amazed that things were so different here such a short time ago.

Off the rails in Phnom Penh, Amit Gilboa, Asia Books, 1998


Written mostly about a particular group of ex-pats (“adventurers” and “misfits”) who lived in Cambodia in late 1990s. Includes the author’s experience of the coup in 1997.


Pol Pot Period

Movie: The Killings Fields

When Broken Glass Floats , by Chanrithy Him, W.W. Norton & Company, 2007


First they killed my father, byLoung Ung, Harper Collins, 2000

These two books are both written by Cambodian women who were about 5 and 9 years old when Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge. They tell us about their families being forced out of the city, and the years that followed of hunger and fear and death.




Year Zero, Francois Ponchaud, 1977


A short history of Cambodia, by Francois Ponchaud , 2007

Hun Sen, Strongman of Cambodia, by Mehta, Graham Brash, 1999
Sihanouk, Prince of Light Prince of Darkness, Milton Osbourne, Silkworm Books, 1994


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