LIVES AS TRAFFICKED WOMEN: Case Study, Roles and Difficulties of Civil Society in Addressing the Problems of Burmese Women Trafficking in Measot, Thailand

June 16, 2010

“As long as we don’t treat our guest workers
as human beings, we are not like
human beings ourselves.”

Jon Ungphakorn, Bangkok Post 14, 11, 2007


Recently women trafficking becomes a big concern in Southeast Asia. According to the statistics from the Companion Handbook On Anti-trafficking In Children And Women published by World Vision (2005)[1], from 200 000 to 250 000 of women and children are trafficked annually from Southeast Asia. This statistics confirms that the number of trafficked women and children is as equal as one third of the global trafficking trade. Among the total number, around 60 % are deported to big cities of Southeast Asia and proximately 40% to other countries in the world.[2] This evil action not only deteriorates those women’s economic status, but also forces them into the slavery works. Many migrants who wish to improve their family economics take a risk in migrating to their neighboring countries whose economics is far better than their own. However, without any awareness of being trafficked, they even fall into the debt bondage in order to pay those who wish to exploit them. They are forced to overwork or do sex work without any payment[3]. They could not access to social activities and services including healthcare. Even they are sick they have to work until they recover themselves. They could not complain or protest; otherwise they will be badly mistreated or raped. Additionally, they could not even return back home, since they are detained or frightened that they would be arrested by the police, who are the trafficker’s accomplice.

To be these kinds of workers, they are not only abused by the traffickers, but also marginalized or stigmatized by the public. Without knowing the real cause, people just blame them that they are the stealers of their jobs or parasite of the society or they are lazy; they do not want to do any proper job but sex workers. One may see this crime clearer in Thailand, which is reported as one of the biggest destination and transit countries for women trafficking in Southeast Asia. Because of its economic growth that demands 3 D workers as well as its policy to facilitate the sex industry to absorb the great deal of tourists from around the world, women very often are trafficked from Thailand’s neighboring countries. Those women are deceived or promised to be provided the job that guaranteed the far better salary than their own countries. Burmese women can provide the clearest example, since their country is torn apart by the political insurgencies and economic crisis. With their illegal status as well as the unawareness of the trap of the traffickers, they were cheated or forced to work as the slave-like employees or sex workers.

In order to respond to such a crime as well as public stigmatization, Civil Society both local and international, tries its best to address the problems of those trafficked women and brings about the awareness and cooperation with the public as well as the government to fight against the criminals. In spite of having a lot of literatures on the difficulties of those trafficked women, not much works have been done to what extent the roles and difficulties of civil society in addressing the problems of trafficking, especially the effort and dialogue that they have to make with the government who considers those trafficked women as outside of the responsibility of its Nation-State. Therefore, this study is done in order to explore the roles and difficulties of Civil Society in helping the trafficked Burmese women in Mae Sot, Tak province (please see its map in the Appendix 1).

In order to meet the satisfactory result, quantitative, qualitative, and situating data are collected. Dept-Interview is implemented with many key informants most importantly, the Civil Society agents. To understand the real situation of those trafficked Burmese women, many processes are done. Situating Analysis helps to identify if the important function of environment (pool resources), cultural and political elites in both Burma and Thailand still play a key role or not and why. To do so, the background and situation of the Burmese women is revealed. Moreover, Quantitative and Qualitative analysis is used to find out the difficulties and roles of Civil Society in helping those women, and also to cross-check the data from the Situating Analysis to make sure that the research is reliable.


According to the UN Protocol to the prevent, elimination, and punishment to the crime of trafficking in persons, particularly trafficking in women and children, trafficking is defined as
“the act of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receiving persons by threatening, forcing, coercion, kidnapping, deceiving, making use of the difficulties of victim, giving money or offering other profits in order to persuade a person to control another for abuse purposes. In a narrower meaning, abuse includes forcing a person to be a prostitute, sex salvery, labor abuse or other slavery-like forms, submission, or cutting off organs from the victim’s body.” [4]

According to this definition, trafficking seems to be a chain of two actions, to smuggle with any kind of means and force to do any kind of job without any payment[5]. But if it fails to meet the aforementioned criteria, it just can be describes as the action of smuggling and labor or human rights abuse.

Because of the genius of the traffickers, and the unclear cut definition, there are a lot of debates on how the Civil Societies can define trafficking and take action against it. We have four case studies related to sex slaves which represent the debates. The first case is about a Burmese woman who needed money to pay for her mother’s lung cancer operation decided to sell her body to a Chinese man for 1375 USD. The Chinese man just brought her to China and kept her in his home. After she learned that she was pregnant and no longer wanted to be with him, she tried to run away, but it was useless. She was always arrested.[6] The second case is about a Cambodian woman who got married with a Taiwanese man becomes a psychiatric person because of her husband’s abuse. According to her, not only beaten, but she could not go outside as well as make any friends with others. Her husband told her that he brought her to Taiwan just to produce children for him[7]. The third case is talking about a woman that got married with a foreign husband. While went to live in her husband’s country, he sold her to the brothel. The fourth case is about a Vietnamese girl who was deceived to China to work as the porter. However, in China, she was trafficked to marry a Chinese man. She had to live with him for ten years[8].

All the women in these four cases face the same result of being detained as the sex slave, but only the third and forth cases are deemed as the trafficking cases by some Civil Society, while others still keep the questions in mind if they should consider those cases as trafficking or not. It is argued that the third and fourth cases are trafficking because they were deceived or fraud, and if they let the first and second cases be the trafficking cases, someone, who wants to go abroad and has another boyfriend, or after receive money from her husband, can change the domestic violence case into trafficking case to be against her husband. So the first and second cases can be seen as only human right abuse or domestic violence, because the victims decided to do that themselves. However, others argue that those victims should be considered as the trafficked, not because of the case of self-selling or marrying, but it is because they were transferred and forced into their sex slaves after they sold themselves or married. It does not matter if they have to sleep with their husbands or others, but it matters when they did not like to have sex with them, and those people force them to do that, and it is afraid that if these cases can not be deemed as the trafficking case, maybe other people can use them as the way to mistreat or detain the women to be their sex slaves.

These two arguments have their own strength and weakness, and because of these, many cases still have impact on the Civil Society’s role. As witnessed in Mae Sot, a civil society that was interviewed, rather than consulted the case with the authority, sometimes tried to rescue those who reported to it that they were trafficked and forced to do what they did not want, even though it knows that it may risk having some problems with the employers[9].

Furthermore, the case itself is more complicated since this crime does involve with many people and processes. According to the interview with Civil Society in Mae Sot, and some literature review, those traffickers are very clever. They do not involve directly with this crime; they usually divided themselves into three groups. The first one played the role as Burmese broker who takes responsible for recruiting women and sending them to Thailand. The second one can be Thai or Burmese broker, who will bring those women to the work place. And the third one works as the employer who will exploit those women. So all these people will not be charged as the traffickers, but just as the smuggler and the labor or human right abuse, and the legal punishment will be less than the case of trafficking[10].


Burma, and Cambodia, can be called as the land of curse, because its nation state history is riddled with many plights. Not only many wars it has made with the colonialist and the ethnic insurgents, but its economic crisis also has driven people to the stage of hardship. According to USAID, roughly 13 million of 48 million Burmese populations live under the living standard. Their income is less than 1 dollar per day[11]. One may argue why the economics in Burma still declines because since 1988 onward Burmese government has changed its policy from the “way to Burmese socialism to the market orientation”. Indeed, it is true that government changed its policy, and it is true that many investments grown rapidly in Burma, especially the textile industry in Rangoon. However, with its corruption and its political crackdowns, economic sanction is imposed; as the result, this country faces the economic crisis again. Another point should be noted, even though the establishment of garment factories are seen as the most important factor in increasing the economics of the developing countries, but in Burma is the different case. The manufacturing contributes only 6.5 to Burmese GDP, but 60% from agriculture produces[12].

According to many research papers, it is reported that in order to respond to the economic crisis, the government just tries to increase the tax on the poor people. According to the crosscheck between two research results[13], an agricultural worker can earn only 2000 Kyat[14] per month, but as Reiko Harima et al. interviewed one of the Burmese country research team, ” taxes imposed on the Burmese, including porter fees, voluntary labor fees, fire watch fees, people’s militia fees, and other social donations estimated …as averaging 3000 kyat per month (3 dollars)”[15] is more than the income of an agricultural worker. Hereby, if they could not pay for that heavy tax, they will be forced to do forced labor from one week to one month. Additionally, some people who have received agricultural credit from the government have to sell their rice in the set price and amount. It is not problematic if the rice really yields well, but it will be a big concern if it produces not enough even for their own family. As Chaw Chaw[16] (2003: 209) quoted from a household he interviewed,

“My farm hardly produces the required quota these days because I cannot afford to buy fertilizer and also because of the bad weather. Sometimes I have to sell part of Wanza (rice seed which is preserved for growing the next time) to fulfill the quota, so we have to buy rice for our own consumption at the black-market price, which is twice the price of what we get when we sell to the state.”

With the economic hardship, political trauma also encourage the state itself trafficks many people from one place to another to do forced labor. Therefore, the hard life in Burma force many people, especially the women, to find the jobs in the city or in Thailand where they believed they can make more money to solve their family’s problems. However, the way they come to Thailand and the real working situation in Thailand are not like they wish. They are very easy to be deceived and forced into the forced labor or sex work.

Along the way to Thailand, they are even deceived to pay for the trip, accommodation, food, bribes to the Burmese border police, and even to pay those who wish to exploit them. Some of them who do not have any money have to force themselves to sell their property such as land; and those who could not afford may borrow some money from other people with high interest. But others choose to pay after they get the salary from their work. To do so, they are likely to end up in the debt bondage. Furthermore, they face many problem during the traveling, their property and their legal document may be confiscated; they may experience the sickness, lack of food, and even rape.

In Thailand, in the case of women trafficking to be the sex workers, as mentioned earlier, Government policy to facilitate the sex industry and great demand of sex workers and the big profit of this business stimulate many people to be involved with trafficking[17]. As described in the model by Warasak Mahatdhananobol (please see in the appendix 2), the network between Thai gangs not only is made with the Burmese, but also the Chinese gangs[18]. These groups of people have many tricks and talent to detect those women who have the problems so that they will be easy to fall into their trap. After that, those women will be forced to work as the sex workers to pay for their debt that they pay for the first broker. Or they are threatened that they can face the arrestment and punishment from the police who are their accomplice. Some of them who resist will be raped, beaten, and drugged. As Pimpawun et al [19] quoted Mei, a sex worker, the brothel owner drugged her daily so that she would have sex with the clients without any resistance.

Additionally, some of Thai police in Mae Sot also involved with this crime. Pimpawun et al[20] (2006: 196) added that 5000 baht will be paid by the owner of the Brothel to the police monthly. And some of them can go to brothel to have sex with the sex worker without paying any money or paying half. And in some cases the trafficked women who were arrested may not considered as the victims, but the illegal migrant. They sometimes got raped in the police station. As described in the work of the same author as follows:

“In the past policemen put the Burmese women and girls in Jail and charged them as illegal migrants, demanded bribes, and raped them during their incarceration in the police station. A well-known story is told that all the police in one police station in Mae Sot died of AIDS as a result of raping Burmese women that they caught. After the incident of the death of all the police in one station, they supposedly stopped raping the Burmese women whom they caught but still demanded bribes from them.”

And from what I interviewed from the Civil Society in Mae Sot also confirm about this case as continues until nowadays. According to some trafficked women that they helped rescue, they were trafficked to Bangkok in the police car, or the driver wore the police uniform. Some of them reported that the place that they were detained also displayed the picture of the police and the traffickers as friends[21]. Work in such 3 D job, and with some humiliation from some police, the trafficked women very often end up their lives as the impoverished, drug dealers, and HIV holders.

For the case of women trafficking to be domestic workers, lives of these women may be better than the sex workers, but their concern are not still in the focus of both the public and the government. The public does not see them as the victims, but as the stealers of their jobs. But when the argument is proposed which jobs they steal, the answer is not provided, because those Burmese women do the 3 D jobs, that the Thai people never wish to touch. People never imagine how they overwork daily, but they could not make much money. As Awatsaya Panam et al[22] (2004:93) quoted directly from a woman who worked as the domestic worker but believed that she herself was trafficked,

“first an aunt who had sympathy for our family introduced me to a carrier (broker) to bring me to work in Thailand. That carrier sold me from the place to place in Bangkok. The first time three of us were sold together to the same house. The word “sold” means the carrier took half of our salary in advance for one year. We stay at the first house fro one year. I received only 9000 Bath and then wanted to go home, but the carrier said I could not go yet. She took away all 9000 bath and then sent me to another house….the next house where I worked the employer gave me 2000 baht per month but the carrier took 800 baht a month for one year, so I received only 1200 baht per month. But this employer helped me to send money home and did not want to give the 800 baht per month to the carrier. However, they feared the carrier might take me away so they had to give that carrier that rate every month for more than one year. After three years, I intended to go home and had only saved 6000 baht. But, the carrier found me and again took all of my money and said I have to continue work..”

All this story maybe not heard by the Thai, and also maybe not heard by the Burmese in Burma. From the Thai perspective, Thailand is encroached by the Burmese migrant workers; but from the Burmese’s perspective in Burma Thailand is the heaven. It is ironic to see this viewpoint while listen to the Burmese migrant worker saying that Thailand is something that they never expected before.
Thai government herself also contributes indirectly to the trafficked women. Without any clear migration policy, it seems to allow those opportunists to take advantages of the Burmese women. There is no point to say that Thai Government could not control the migration flow from Burma or its other neighboring countries, but if we look at the statistic, a great deal of illegal migrants is staying in Thailand. As mentioned above, it is not the natural phenomena that Thai government could not control, but it should be something that Thai government does not care. So far, Thailand lack a great deal of laborers to work in its 3 D jobs, but the policy toward the Burmese migrant does not show that it really appreciate the Burmese migrant workers who stay in Thailand with many kind of rights abuse. According to Supara Janchitfah (13, Jan, 2008), the writer quoted the report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2007, that all the migrant workers, in which 75% are Burmese, while made $2 billion in wages last year probably provided $11 billion, or 6.2 percent, to Thai GDP[23]. The amount of this money never taken into the account, but high registration fee, anti-pregnancy, one employee one work permission policies, so on and so forth are invented to suppress those migrant workers, who little by little could not stand independently but have to rely on their employers who wish to exploit them or have to be deceived to be sex workers.
Furthermore, the police who are the state representative, sometime play a role as the gangs who will suppress those women for any money. According to Awatsaya Panam et al. (2004) 48.9 % of 132 Burmese respondents told that Thai police forced them to pay them money[24]. Therefore, lives of Burmese Migrant workers in Thailand seem to be as similarly miserable as the lives in Burma. They still face a lot of problems, especially problem that they can not stand independently, but more likely fall into the situation that other people can take advantages of their poorly economic status in term of exploitation as well as trafficking.


With the finding of this research, it is very surprising that Civil Society in Mae Sot tries its best to include all of the involved stakeholders both the local community as well as the government agencies to fight against trafficking. Their role rang from promoting public awareness, rescuing, counseling, taking legal action, and providing vocational training. Thai and Burmese Leaflets, stickers, and booklets are distributed in Mae Sot, explaining the definition of trafficking and the anti-trafficking code, the trick of the trafficker, Thai law related to migrations, and the hot line telephone which those who are trafficked, or those who know or see the case of trafficking can call for any helps (Pleas see Appendix 3).

Network has been created in the community in Mae Sot on the purpose of preventing and taking action against any form of trafficking. According to their model, they includes in their network the police, immigration police, psychological and social workers from Mae Sot Hospital, representative of Human development and human security from Tak Province, lawyers, community leaders, motor taxi Drivers, Thai and Burmese youth, volunteer HIV team, and people in Mae Sot themselves. All these members play the most significant role but in different processes. Usually, the community leaders, Motor Taxi drivers, and people in Mae Sot play the role as the observer and reporter to the police or Civil Society to take action to rescue the trafficked women; the Thai and Burmese Youth and Volunteer HIV Team play the role as the disseminator of the information of how to prevent any form of trafficking through peer-teaching or public propaganda. The psychological and social workers and the lawyers will not only work as the counselor and help those trafficked women to file their complaint against the traffickers, but also try to find out their relatives. Additionally, safe-shelter is included to provide the accommodation as well as some vocational training for those women.

To make sure that strict eyes can be put on the trafficking movement, training is also done, especially among the migrant workers, who can voice back to their communities in Burma. This training course not only provides the aforementioned materials, but also how to detect the vulnerable women who may be deceived and trafficked by other people. As in the training manual of World Vision[25] on Prevention of Women and Children Trafficking, it equips the participants with how to assess, to analyze, and organize activities to help. These three skills will help the participants to ask if in their community has any trafficking activities, what is the cause, and how to help prevent that activities.

Income generation, such as weaving the purse, scarves, bags, and painting also invented for the trafficked victims, the prostitutes who wish to change their jobs as well as the migrants who do not have any jobs at that moments. Moreover, the poverty alleviation program for the Burmese women is created too. Education, which is believed as the only effective way to move the social mobility upward in the modern world is provided to those who wish to come and study. For those pregnant women that need help also can go and rest in the shelter, where the medical service provided. And those parents that have to go to work very far from Mae Sot can have their children taken care in the shelter. Such important factors really help not simply the victim to reintegrate their lives in the society, but also can prevent the poor women from falling into the debt bondage and decided to end up their lives in the trafficking trade.

However, what have learned from the civil society about the difficulties in order to play such important role should be voiced here too. Very often when talking about fund, it is always out of the civil Society’s hand. So far each project that they use usually can be implemented with only the fund from international community, which is sometimes exhausted. Among the civil society, some of them try to generate fund by creating some weaving workshop, but this market is depended on only the market of other countries. It is not sustainable, especially when the receiving country rejected, and it can help those trafficked women temporarily.
Furthermore, the roles of Thai and Burmese Government seem to be limited. Thai government seem to play more role than Burmese government, but “a $ 12.5 million fund was established in August 2004 by the Thai prime minister to care for victims of trafficking and to support anti-trafficking project, only $ 2.5 million have been scheduled for expenditure.” (trafficking in person report in 2006: ??). So far these both countries just depend on the fund that International community provides. Furthermore, with their unclear policy toward the migrants, they sometime indirectly push those women into the hand of the traffickers. Look into Government’s policy really make the Civil Society have heart attack. Try to push the migrants to register, but the government never checks if their salary can be afford to the registration fee or not. The authority that government provided to the police can raid only the illegal migrants, but not their exploiters[26].
Even those migrant workers contribute a lot to Thai GDP, Government just see them as the national enemy. Many policies are created, even though they are against human rights. For example, the Anti-pregnancy policy which drove Civil Society crazy and asked if it is real. More than this, one may stand up and shout if Thailand is a democratic country, when he/she read the subtitles such as, ” In theory, migrant workers are granted the same occupational safety and health (OSH) protections as their Thai counterparts, but in practice they are rarely implemented”[27], ” Every objective analysis shows that migrant workers are an essential part of the Thai economy, yet many are forced to endure a cycle of harassment, deportation and exploitive brokers”[28], ” Problems with foreign laborers should be treated with a cool head – not xenophobic reactions”[29] ” We need to see our guest workers as human beings”[30].
Additionally, Thailand is probably not humiliated enough when someone read a quote by Jon Ungphakorn (2007):
“Earlier in the year Phuket, Phang-nga, Ranong and Rayong provinces announced provincial regulations prohibiting migrant workers from using mobile phones, driving motorcycles and other vehicles, gathering together for any activities except religious ceremonies, or leaving their living quarters after 9pm unless assigned to the night shift.”
As the consequence of such policies, the migrant workers could not do anything aside from falling into the debt bondage trapped by the traffickers.
There is also a dilemma for the Civil Society in term of Police intervention. When need the intervention from the police to rescue the victims, very often the procedure, including the warrant proposition from the court, takes long time before they take action to rescue the women. Sometime, this time-consuming let the traffickers aware and transfer those women to another places. However, it is ironical to see the police are very effective to raid many places to arrest the illegal migrants, or bully them for some money. Moreover, since some police is involved such a crime, it is difficult to convince the victim to take the legal action against them. As in the case of one illegal Burmese migrant, even though her case is not related to trafficking, it is very worthwhile to notice how a police abused her rights. She worked as the beer promoter in one nightclub in Mae Sot, but she did not sell sex. One day, she was drugged by her employer and raped by a police. She, with some assistance from her friend and Civil Society, tried to check her body at the hospital and bring the matter to the court. But she was arrested at the same day by the same police and her employer with the accusation of stealing their property. Later on, she was threatened and beaten by some gangsters who were hired by the police and her employer. With the threat, and failed to ask for the medical check[31], she dropt the case and returned home. Similar cases are seen in the Trafficking in persons Report (june, 2006) saying, “the Thai police reported no arrests or prosecutions of law enforcement officials complicit in trafficking. With Such a case really makes the Civil Society face a lot of problems, neither it can implement its role nor gain the trust from the victims. So that’s why sometime Civil Society tries to secretly rescue the victims themselves.
There are more factors that are beyond the capacity of the Civil Society. Since the trafficked women do not have truth in Thai Police and any knowledge of trafficking law, they wish not to report to any police. And some of them who can not speak Thai and do not know the location they are trafficked to, even they can call to Civil Society, it is very difficult to reach the destination and rescue them. Some of them that involved with sex abuse wish not to talk or file the complaint. They just want to return home.

In brief, lives of some Burmese women have experience suffering both in Thailand and Burma. Without awareness of the trafficking, and the push from the economic crisis in their country, they are likely to be deceived and trafficked to be the sex workers or slave like employees. It goes against their expectation and a hope to help their impoverished families, and they themselves have to end up in being exploited as the slave like people, as HIV holders, as drug dealers, and as sex machines. In spite of contributing to Thai and Burmese Economy, their painful lives go slightly into both Thai and Burmese governments. However, with the helps from Civil Society, their voice seems to be taken into account by the Governments and Publics. Civil Society can bargain with the governments to join in rescuing those trafficked women as well as deporting them back home. However, Civil Society itself also has its own limitation, which sometime could not even make the dialogue with the governments whose policies considered their so-called national security and economic growth more privileged than human rights. Fee registration, anti-pregnancy, one work permit-one employer, harsh raid and deportation, the ineffective measure on corrupt police officials and on the traffickers, all of these have driven the migrant workers to be illegal migrants, and from illegal migrant workers to be the trafficked women. With such obstacles, Civil Society could not implement its roles effectively. As the result, one can see the traffickers still exist in both Thailand and Burma, and still make their fruitful business along side with the corrupted officials.
[1] World Vision .( 2005). “Companion Handbook on Anti-trafficking in Children and women”. Vietnam: Hanoi; see also ISabel Horteiter. “Woman’s Human Rights in Southeast Asia”. published by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (no date)
[2] ISabel Horteiter. “Woman’s Human Rights in Southeast Asia”. published by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (no date)
[3] Some people try to argue that even the below-minimum wage salary also can be included as the case of trafficking, if the employers really smuggle, force, and detain them.
[4] World Vision. (2005) “Training Manual: Prevention of Women and Children Trafficking (for district trainers”. Vietnam: Hanoi. P. 21. Please also see UNIAP: Partnership against Trafficking (no date and publishing place)
[5] Some researchers try to argue that trafficking also means that a person is smuggled and forced to work with a below-minimum wage salary. Some traffickers tried to pay their workers some money in order to avoid any legal action against them. By knowing that the income in Burma is very low, they just gave them a little bit higher than that, but force them to overwork. Those workers could not quit the job; they are forced, beaten or threaten to bring to the police since their status is illegal migrants or their legal documents are confiscated by their employers.
[6] Please see the full story from Radio Free Asia. (17.04.2006) Burmese Woman Sold Herself To Save her Mother.
[7] Please see the full story from Radio Free Asia. (02.12.2006) Cambodian Brides in Taiwan Face Beating, Other Abuse
[8] Please see the full story in World Vision. (2005) “Training Manual: Prevention of Women and Children Trafficking (for district trainers)”. Vietnam: Hanoi.
[9] In Cambodia, we really have such a case, when civil society tried to rescue the trafficked women that forced to be sex workers. Some gangs broke into its safe-shelter and took all the women back. Many days later those women were forced to sue that civil society that it broke into their business house and arrested them. (I could not find a reference here, but it is what really happened in Cambodia many years ago)

[10] As I interview a civil society agent in Mae Sot, he told me that for the smuggler, his crime will be sentenced to jail only from 3 months to one year, but for the trafficker it can be from 1 year to ten years. However, I see only the Thai anti-trafficking law in 1997 which agrees with him, but regarding the smuggling case I could not reach it yet.
[11] USAID. “Burma”, from The entry is done by Monday, 2008, 11:55.
[12] Chaw Chaw . “Rural women Migration to urban garment factories in Myanmar”, in Mingsarn Kaosa-ard and John Dore (ed.). “Social Challenges for the Mekong Region”. Thailand: Social Research institute, Chiangmai University, 2003.
[13] I find out that some statistics used by some researchers are not clear, especially when they talk about the salary and the exchange rate. They sometimes rely on the local researchers too much without trying to check if their information is rational. In the case of Reiko Harima et al., he made a mistake on the fee of the passport saying that a passport costs from 30000 to 300000 kyat, but when he converted into dollar it turned out to be 300 to 3000 dollars while the exchange rate he claimed to use is only 1000 kyat per dollar.
[14] It is doubted on how and what kind of methods the writer used to measure poverty in Burma.
[15] Reiko Harima, Rax Varona, and Christina Defalco. “Migration” in Mingsarn Kaosa-ard and John Dore (ed.). “Social Challenges for the Mekong Region”. Thailand: Social Research institute, Chiangmai University, 2003.
[16] Chaw Chaw . “Rural women Migration to urban garment factories in Myanmar”, in Mingsarn Kaosa-ard and John Dore (ed.). “Social Challenges for the Mekong Region”. Thailand: Social Research institute, Chiangmai University, 2003: 209

[17] Please see Pimpawun, Philip Guest , et al. “From trafficking to Sex Worker: Burmese Migrants in Thailand”, in Thomas E. Blair (ed.). 2006. “Living on the edges: Cross-Border Mobility and Sexual Exploitation in the Great Southeast Asia Sub-Region” Thailand: Southeast Asian Consortium on Gender, sexuality and health.
[18] Please see Worasak Mohatdhanobol. “Chinese Women Entering Sex work in Thailand” published with other reports of the institute for health Sciences under the title of “Cross-Border Sexuality in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. Indonesia: Yayasan Galang, 2002.
[19] Pimpawun, Philip Guest , et al. “From trafficking to Sex Worker: Burmese Migrants in Thailand”, in Thomas E. Blair (ed.). 2006. “Living on the edges: Cross-Border Mobility and Sexual Exploitation in the Great Southeast Asia Sub-Region” Thailand: Southeast Asian Consortium on Gender, sexuality and health.
[20] Erika Fry. (9, Dec, 2007). “Every objective analysis shows that migrant workers are an essential part of the Thai economy, yet many are forced to endure a cycle of harassment, deportation and exploitive brokers.” Bangkok Post.
[21] Interview with a civil society agent in Mae Sot.
[22] Awatsaya Panam et al. (2004:93). “Migrant Domestic Workers: From Burma to Thailand”. Thailand: Institute of Population and Social Research Mahidol University, Salaya Campus.
[23] Supara Janchitfah (13 Jan, 2008). An Ounce of Prevention. Archived by Human rights Sub-Committee on Ethnic Minorities, Stateless, Migrant Workers and Displaced Persons. Bangkok Post
[24] Awatsaya Panam et al. (2004). “Migrant Domestic Workers: From Burma to Thailand”. Thailand: Institute of Population and Social Research Mahidol University, Salaya Campus.
[25] World Vision. (2005) “Training Manual: Prevention of Women and Children Trafficking (for district trainers”. Vietnam: Hanoi.
[26] Erika Fry. (9, Dec, 2007) “Every objective analysis shows that migrant workers are an essential part of the Thai economy, yet many are forced to endure a cycle of harassment, deportation and exploitive brokers.” Bangkok Post.
[27] Ibid
[28] Ibid
[29] Bangkok Post. (16 Nov, 2007) Problems with foreign laborers should be treated with a cool head – not xenophobic reactions”.
[30] Jon Ungpahkorn. (14, Nov, 2007).”We need to see our guest workers as human beings”. Bangkok Post.
[31] According to the interview with a woman working in One Civil Society in Mae Sot, it is believed that some staffs at the hospital also receive some bribes from the police and the employer to conceal the medical check..

























































































June 16, 2010

(the red sentences in the  whole article are the comments of my professor that we do not agree with each other; it would be appreciated if you can go down ward and read the arguments we both use to support our ideas)


In Cambodia and, probably in Indonesia, Communism is no longer an interesting subject. It becomes the taboo for both the government and people to talk about. No body, both the victims and the perpetrators, claim they once preferred communism, or if they claim, they would say it was because of their blind eyes. I, a Cambodian, also share this point of view with thousand of Cambodian people. We hate Communism, and we wish our country to be like United States which we believe it as the most democratic and developed country in the world. Some people dare to blame the recent elites as the slave of Vietnamese Communism, and may also wish to change the history, the history of colonialism and post-colonialism under Sihanouk. They wish that it should be American or British who came to colonized or cooperate, not the French and Chinese. They even invent a very popular saying, “to be a slave of the poor, you just have the bone to eat, but if you are the slave of the rich, you at least have the bone with some meat attached with”.

However, one should be aware of the variety of Communism and its practices all over the world. From its original theorist, Karl Marx, one can see such a theory transformed into Stalinism/Maoism. While the theory changed, the practice also becomes different. As some scholars argue, the main goal of Marxist is to bring about the awareness of the exploitations among the working class, and encourage them to unite and strike for the elimination of such class exploitation and create the welfare society. But the main goal of Stalinist and Maoist is to encourage all participation of all classes with all means to fight for independence, but then create the totalitarian and state capitalism. Both of these theories flowed into Southeast Asia by many kind of means, but the Stalinism/Maoism seemed to influence Southeast Asia the most and drove them to fail to help eliminating class exploitation[1].

So this paper is aimed at primarily analyzing the similarities and differences between Cambodian and Indonesian Communism and concludes how they failed. The main argument is both Cambodia and Indonesia shared the similarities much more than the differences, especially in term of receiving the policy guideline from Maoism/Stalinism.
Khmer Rouge did not use Stalinism or Maoism in the end. They used Rousseau and Ankor.
The reason that they shared many similarities can be argued that firstly they had the same nature of economy, the unindustrialized. So the force of the workers, which have been considered as the most important force in Marxist revolution, could not be strong enough and used to implement the revolution in Cambodia and Indonesia. Workers movement strong historically in Indonesia. The peasant class was used instead. No, not in the case of Indonesia. Yes, in the case of Cambodia, but again, not in a Maoist way. You must not confuse support from China to the Khmer Rouge and the use of Maoism by the KR. And as the Marxist said, “the social origin of the new class lies in the proletariat just as the aristocracy arose in peasant society, and the bourgeoisie in a commercial and artisan’s society”[2], the use of peasants in the revolution could contribute to the failure of Communism in Cambodia and Indonesia because they and their aristocrat elites have built the strong relationship through the patron-client relationship. Such attachment is written by Serge Thion as the social-cultural value that  has borne in their mind for centuries. The reason that they joined the revolution does not reflect that they wanted to change the whole society, but just change or justify the immoral “son of heaven”, which was believed as the micro-cosmos that could affect their livelihood.

Moreover, the different goal of revolution is also drawn to show that communists in Indonesia and Cambodia joined with other classes, most particularly, the peasants, to fight for their own country independence rather than for class elimination. They received whatever aides and joined with even the corrupt ruling class in order to come to power. However, remarkably, the only difference between Cambodia and Indonesia is Cambodian communists once became the government of Cambodia, while Indonesian communists just played the important role especially a few years before 1965, but never fully controlled the government.

Honestly, it is my first work related to politics. To transfer from the field of cultural to political studies, I have to confess that I could not go deeper. And another difficulty is books on communism in Southeast Asia are very rare, and among those rare books the authors explained in their own convincing word already, in which I could not find out the new things aside from trying to understand and digest out. So in this paper, it does not reflect my intellectuals at all. However, I am not hopeless, I hope that the more I try to read and research, the more I may learn and find out some thing new. I still have a feeling that richest documents in both Cambodian and Indonesian languages are not consulted yet since communism is stereotyped as the worst thing they should not touch. Whatever difficulties or hopes, I feel very grateful to my Professor and my dear friends, who spent their valuable time to help me to have critical thinking and interest in Politics. Without their help, I would not see how vital I and other people are in sharpening our society democratically.


While some scholarships shed light on Communism in Southeast Asia, the general agreement turns out that Communist movement in Southeast Asia was not the same as the communist movement used to eliminate the class exploitation in Europe, Actually Stalinist parties took power in Eastern Europe!!! Actually, communism in Southeast Asian was used by the Southeast Asian nationalists to liberate their own countries from the colonialism. It is clearly mentioned in Milton Osborn (2004) when he observed the Communist movement in Vietnam. He claimed that in Vietnam Communism became the last choice for the Vietnamese nationalists A strange way to look at it. I prefer to say that the CPVN managed to win leadership of the nationalist movement after their old value, Confucianism, failed many times to prevent their country from falling into the French occupation. With such a useful notice, one can draw the same conclusion about other countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao so on and so forth that their nationalists gave up their traditional way to fight against their colonialists, and started using the modern ways of which communism was deemed as the most effective tool. And even there are many forms of Communisms, it was conceded that Maoism/Stalinism is the most influential, since the nature of Chinese and Southeast Asian society and politics were alike. But in Vietnam they used non-Maoist Stalinism. This is something you need to understand. So below is the argument that will show how and why the Indonesian and Cambodian Communism received the influence from Maoism/Stalinism, and changed from the Class struggle to nationalism. Then to self-sufficiency community politics of Rousseau and Ankor.

It is believed that Marxism came to Indonesia yes and Cambodia ?? before Maoism/Stalinism. It was said that Indonesia formed the Marxist revolution in 1914 by Sneevliet, a Dutch-born Socialist[3]. And in Cambodia, even it was unclear when Communism took place, it was said that after the Second World War, many Cambodian Marxists who went to study in France came back, formed their political party, and won the election to push French-Cambodia to be the constitutional monarchy country.

However, the questions are raised up if all these Marxists really hoped that their revolution could work with a small amount of working class in their country; and how they could make their revolution without any supports from the outside influences. As one understands the nature of revolution in Europe, it is very different from Southeast Asia. The first difference is Europe became the industrialized countries since 19th century. There, small scaled agrarian economies replaced by the large-scaled industrial economics. The Marxist Russian revolution 1917 led by Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks was successful in a country dominated by peasants and agriculture!!!!! There were 3 million workers: 160 million peasants!! Many people changed from the peasants to be the wage labor workers in the urban areas, where they were exploited. With this big amount of people and their material support, Marxist worker union leaders could put pressure easily on the ruling class. Moreover, their revolution was made against their own nation rather than against the colonialist. The nature of revolution in Europe is the reform that they wanted to do from the internally unequal and exploited to the welfare society.

But In Cambodia and Indonesia, the nature of revolution is different. Firstly, these two countries were not the industrialized states, in which could absorb labor workers from the rural areas. And among the limited workers, most of them were not really the nations of these two countries. They were IndianNo Chinese?, and Vietnamese?, who were seen as the foreigners as well as the associates of the colonialists. Therefore, the revolutionary nationalists that played the most important role in fighting for the independence were very reluctant to associate with those workers.No! not the case in Indonesia at all. Workers were Indonesians In Indonesia, it was not different from Cambodia; the nationalist decided to work with those they called “Original Indonesian”, especially the nationalist group led by Sukarno and Sarekat Islam.No They even forgot about their original doctrine that rejects the cross-class alliance and religion manipulated by other classes. They joined Sarekat Islam and Sukarno group in order to fight against the Dutch as well as Christians, who they saw as the imperialists.

Furthermore, it was the tradition in Asia that all the unrest, both the millenarianism and nationalism movement, involved with the peasants. Serge Thion (1983), and other many scholars, saw this tendency not only in Southeast Asia, but China too. According to Serge Thion, while the political space in the urban area did not allow those millenarianists and nationalists to operate, they wished to go to the village where they tried their best to mobilize people and their local elite called by the Southeast Asian communists as the “petty or little bourgeoisies”. And the most influential example before the creation of nationalism in the 1920s and 1930s, the victory of the Chinese people, with cross class alliance, to overthrow the absolute monarchy and the defeat of the Russian in the Japanese-Russian war in 1904-1905 also had a lot of impact on the thinking of the future nationalists (Milton Osborn, 2004?). Therefore, peasants were seen as the most pure and potential group for those so called “revolution Nationalists”[4]. The reason why Mao was forced to use the peasantry was because of the massacre of Communists by the Kuo Mintang in 1926, 1927 (a result of Stalinist policies). You should read the books in the reference list at the end of Thammasart paper on S.E.Asian Communists.

Additionally, as one could see in Cambodia, before the independence, the concept of nationalism really split even communism into two adversary groups. Even all of the revolutionaries claimed that they were communist, but they rarely united. Those who did not allied with the Vietnamese communists[5] fought against those who allied with the Vietnamese communists in term of protecting their nation from the Vietnamese interference. The dispute was really about the fact that the CPVN was a much stronger nationalist movement and they decided that a cross-class alliance with Sihanouk would be good. This handicapped the communists in Cambodia until 1970. The former group very often had the feeling to join with other nationalist movements. These different schools of Communism in Cambodia are very often used to refer to the reason why Pol Pot killed those who he thought as the (Soviet) Vietnamese-communist spy. The same thing happened in Indonesia, the Indonesian communists were never united. For example Tan Malaka and Amir Sjarifuddin and Musso can be seen as two different figures of Communists that had different thought. Tan Malaka supported Sukarno, the representative of bureaucrat Bourgeois, who was ready to negotiate with the Dutch to share the power, while Amir and Musso worked against Sukarno. No In 1948, while Amir and Musso made the coup and then were executed, Tan Malaka still worked for Sukarno. According to M.C.Ricklefs (1981: 229), he described the political policy of Aidit, the leader of Indonesian communist party, “Aidit argued that Indonesia was as semi-colonial and semi-feudal country, and that the first target of the party must be the remnants of colonialism. The party should therefore seek cooperation with non-communist but anti-colonial forces…Rather than social class determining political orientation, in Aidit’s argument political orientation became a determinant of social class. Thus, he argued that the Communists could collaborate with the petit bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisies against the comprador bourgeoisies and the feudal classes.”

Therefore, what we can see the revolution in Indonesia as well as in Cambodia, it is not the revolution to eliminate the class exploitation, but it is the revolution that the nationalist borrowed to use against the Colonialism and imperialism that they saw as the neo-colonialism. As it became clearly that class elimination was not the prioritized policy in their revolution, the revolutionaries both in Cambodia and Indonesia, changed their tactics to associate with whoever they thought could help them to come to power.


It will not be surprised when talking that Cambodian and Indonesian Communism could rise and fall because of Sihanouk and Surkarno. Similarly, these two figures have been considered as the fathers of independence, even their achievement could not be succeeded without the Anti-colonialism Communist movement. Their influence really eclipsed all the parties even the communists’ or the non-communists’.

It was reported that Sihanouk, with his charismatic leadership, stole the independence from Communist movement that worked very hard to fight against French colonialism. However, here it should be clarified that some part of the report is true, but other part is not true. Taking advantages of weak colonialism and imperialist movement of anti-communism, Sihanouk started his crusade to ask for support from international community and then independence from France.

However, at the first stage, the international community (including USA and Brittan) and France did ignore his proposal saying that when the troop of Colonialists withdrawn, the Vietnam-supported Cambodian communists would seize the power. However, without any hopeless, Sihanouk returned back home and started mobilize people to be his voluntary army. Thousand of both men and women, and with some support from the monk, joined his independent movement. The question here should be raised if Sihanouk really stole the achievement from the Cambodian Communists. Indeed, it should thank to the French policy to popularized Sihanouk during the colonial period. They changed the way the previous king did to Cambodian people. They brought Sihanouk to the countryside to talk, to join the ritual and inauguration of schools, pagodas or any kind of infrastructures and construction, and provide gifts to the people. This can explain how Sihanouk could mobilize people and their support quickly. Even though it is true that without the communist guerillas the French would not consider Sihanouk’s case, as explained above, the Cambodian communists sometime made people confused if they were the independent movement or bandits.

Furthermore, it is worthwhile noticed that the nature of Cambodian revolution is to fight for an independence. So some communists as well as the other non-communists, at the first stage, thought that they should unite under the umbrella of nationalism. The one that had such a charisma to unite them is Sihanouk. We can see clearly after the independence when Sihanouk himself invented what he called “the Buddhist socialism” to fit with all the ideologies. This national policy really reflects how he lumped together the Buddhists and Socialists to work under his patronage.

With all these merits, Sihanouk really won the heart of people, who previously trusted the communists or democrats that spent much times but could not gain any independence for them. Moreover, with the policy of national unity and neutral, and with his political harassment, he won the first election after the independence. Such a result, not only drove away some Vietnamese supported Cambodian communists to Vietnam, but also helped him become the father of the nation until 1970 when he was overthrown by Lon Nol, United States-supported Military general.

When Cambodia under Sihanouk adopted neutral policy, the Vietnamese supported communists could not even do anything, just kept silent as ordered by their main supporters, Vietnam, China, and Soviet which wished to use Cambodian Neutral policy to prevent any foreign military bases in Cambodia.

During Sihanouk regime, the one political party system did not allow any spaces for other political party to run independently. They had to associate with Sihanouk party and policy. Some Cambodian students who just returned from France and who claimed that they were Marxists (?), such as Hou Yun, Kiev Sampan, or even Pol Pot decided to work as the government staffs or the private school teachers. With the economic crisis after the withdrawal of the United States Aids, corruption, and low agricultural production, some of the aforementioned Marxists (?), with their merits, won the heart of the poor people who voted for them to be the parliament members but still under the control of Sihanouk who became the head of state after his father died. They could voice their criticism against the government, or to be more correct, Sihanouk, but very often they had to run to the forests, otherwise they would be killed or jailed. Hou Yun, Kiev Sampan, and Pol Pot are the best example; they had to flee to the forest before the unlucky fate fell on their shoulders. However, their action could not make any serious problems toward Sihanouk government.

Even after 1970 coup, the communist still could not mobilized people if they did not use Sihanouk’s name and declaration for Cambodian people, especially the peasant to join the revolution. This may explain clearly when Sihanouk return back to Cambodia during 1991, thousand of people came to welcome him; and his son, Ranarith won the national election in 1993 because of his King father’s popularity.

Talking about Indonesia, indeed, the communists were not the leader of the independent movement. They were just one part of the united nationalist movement run by Sukarno. Even though they had their own political program, their association with other classes who had different interest really made them eclipse. As in the word of Miltone Osborn (2004: 185) described how they were:

“The Indonesian Communist party was only one of the many political parties and groups that joined together on the nationalist side, ….This concern with their own political interests, as opposed to the interests of the nationalist anti-Dutch movement as a whole, led elements within the communist party to attempted a takeover of the revolutionary movement. The attempted coup ended in bitter failure. In less than one a month, during September 1948[6], the communists operating from their central Javanese base in medium experienced brief success and then suffered near total eclipse.”

And with this reason, as in Cambodian case, Sukarno used it as the evidence to win the heart of the international community that they really fought against their enemy, the communists, so they should deserve independence from the Dutch. And after the independence, the Indonesian communists even could they have much influence on the peasants, especially when the country faced the economic crisis, and Anti-Malaysia Confrontation, they were manipulated by Sukarno and other classes to join in the government. They chose to join with Sukarno!!! As M.C Ricklefs (1981: 267) described Sukarno’s manipulation over the Indonesian Communists, “The Chinese publicly urged the creation of a ‘fifth force[7]’ …Nor did Sukarno order that a ‘fifth force’ be formed, which is evidence for those who believe that the president had no genuine intention of helping Indonesian communists to power but sought only to pressure the army leadership”. Sukarno’s such charisma could be traced to the colonial period when he tried to eliminate the gap between Communism and Islam. Chr.L.M Peners (1977) quoted his most influent statement: Sukarno had a very weak power base he therefore relied on both the PKI and the army, who were opposed to each other.
“We are convinced that there are no important obstacles to Muslim-Marxist friendship. As we have explained, true Islam has some characteristics of Socialism. it is true that socialism is not necessarily Marxism, and we know that this Islamic Socialism is different from Marxist- because Islamic socialism is spiritual, while Marxist Socialism is based on materialism. But it is sufficient for our purpose to show that true Islam is socialistic in Character… The nationalist who are reluctant to seek contact with Marxists and work together with them show great ignorance of history and of the way the world’s political system has evolved. They do not realize that the Marxist movement in Indonesia and Asia generally has the same origins as their own movement. They forget that to oppose those of their countrymen who are Marxist is to reject comrades in the same struggle and to add to the number of their enemies. They forget or do not understand the significance of the policies of their fellow fighters in other Asian countries, such as the late Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, that great nationalist leader who happily and wholeheartedly cooperated with the Marxists, even though he realized that a Marxist organization of society was still impracticable in China because of necessary conditions did not exist..”

Again the Indonesian Communists did not learn anything from their previous mistakes. They were plotted and killed after the 1965 coup by the military leaders.
In conclusion, with a very limited space in Sukarno and Sihanouk regimes, the Communists could rarely implement their revolution, but integrated themselves to the ruling class. Only when they rejected completely from that class, they started to think how to do their revolution in the countryside. However, with their unclear policy and the suppression from the Governments, they could not win the heart of people much. Sukarno and Sihanouk still played the role as the peasants’ elites. Without their support, the communists could not push up to the power.


In Southeast Asia, during the cool COLD war, it was very hard for each country to survive without any foreign financial support. Even the country that wished not to align with both the left and right wing blocs, it would be put under pressure soon and had to decide to align with one of them. The communists in Cambodia and Indonesia also have the same fate. Source of fund also played the most important role in shaping Communist ideology in Indonesia and Cambodia. NO, this does not explain the policies of the PKI or the Khmer Rouge AT ALL, No! China and Soviet were the main source for them. These both countries always encouraged not only Cambodia and Indonesia but Southeast Asia as a whole to use their ideology rather than let them to be independent. Their actions could be waned and waxed because of the changing foreign policies of their supporters. Even though, there are not much documents providing the clear and enough evidence, in this section I will try to show how the policies of the foreign supporters of the Indonesian and Cambodian Communists really affected them.

So far, it was agreed that without important foreign fund, the revolutionaries really could not fight against the colonialists. Cambodia can explain this case better than Indonesia, since the economy of this country in French colonialism was weaker. Before any support from Vietnam, China, or Soviet, the revolutionists could only rely on the tax they collected from the peasants and traders. With the small amount of tax, and with the repeated attack by the colonialists, sometime the revolutionists became the bandits robbing the people for their survival. With such a weakness, they allowed other classes to join in their revolution in term of material supporting as well as forces. It is very clear in Ben Kiernan’s words:

“A captured Viet Minh Document dated June 1952 noted that the KPRP[8] ‘ is not the vanguard party of the working class, but the vanguard party of the nation gathering together all the patriotic and progressive elements of the Khmer population ”

Even though somewhat period before the independence no much evidence to show the number of fund from Vietnam, china, and Soviet, Ben Kiernan tried to show the relationship between Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese communists. Such a relationship could be seen through the training, and arming. In 1954 Geneva conference, Vietnamese communists stood with the Cambodian Communists to negotiate in order to split Cambodia into two areas. Luckily, China and Soviet did not approve with this. Moreover, the failure of the first election after the independence, at least two thousand of Cambodian Communists went to live in Vietnam.

After the independence, the Cambodian Communists really could not pursue their job effectively. The main support from China or Soviet through Vietnam did not wish to make Sihanouk, the most influential leader, angry, since his neutral policy really favored their sides. Here we can see a lot of financial aids provided by china or Soviet to Sihanouk government instead of the Cambodian communists. With their own interests, China and Soviet also failed to provide any protection to the Cambodian communists when Sihanouk took the harsh measures against them. Only until 1970, when Sihanouk was overthrown and decided to join with Cambodian Communists, China publicly funded the Cambodian Communists movement in order to fight against the republican, Lon Nol. it is believed that it is because they could see the clear victory came along side with Sihanouk. Furthermore, what we should notice in the book on Sihanouk Biography that the split of Chinese and Soviet communism also made Cambodian communists suffer. While China decided to support the Cambodian Communists and Sihanouk, the Soviet recognized and donated Lon Nol Government. In 1978-79, while Vietnam invaded Cambodia, china could not help Cambodian communists at all, so they had to end up by running to the Cambodian-Thai border.

Without surprising, the Indonesian Communists also shared this problem with Cambodian Communists. After the 1948 coup, they were very weak. And while China and Soviet favored the neutral policy and anti-imperialism of Sukarno, the Indonesian communists could not do anything. They just decided to join with the government, especially a few years before 1965. Ji Giles Ungpakorn (1998) described one of the reason that the Indonesian Communists join the government is because of nationalism. His idea was supported by the proclamation of the PKI leader, Aidit, in the beginning of the 1960s that national struggle was put above all. Justus M.Van der Kroef in winter 1964-1965 (maybe before the coup) also tried to explain that it is the Indonesian Communists’ strategy to join with the government because it really helped them to be able to make national policy decisions as well as popularity among the people, especially during the economic crisis and Anti-Malaysia confrontation. However, it is also taken into account that China and Soviet who stayed behind the Indonesian Communists supported and funded their idea, because Anti-Malaysia Confrontation was seen as the anti-imperialism and gave a favor to the pro-Chinese and soviet Communists in Malaysia and Singapore.

According to M.C.Ricklefs (1981), in 1960 Khrushchev paid a visit in Jakarta and provided USD 250 million credit to Indonesian Government led by Sukarno and the Communist cabinet. In 1961, USD 450 million also came from Soviet to fund the arms. The same thing happened in the Chinese side; China also provided Indonesia many financial aids. Most important thing that we can see during that time is the creation of “the fifth force” in which the peasants were armed. Moreover, China even promised with Indonesia to launch the nuclear bomb. However, the split between Soviet and China made the Indonesian communists have the same fate as the Cambodian. Soviet, instead of helping the Communists, funded the anti-communist Government. When, the Indonesian communists were massacred by the USA-supported Indonesian Government, China could not even provide any protection. So the communists just ended up in the bloodbath.

Here the argument is to show that the failure of the communists both in Cambodia and Indonesia is because they depended too much on their external friends rather than their own people. One may argue that if they do not have any mass base to support them, how can they came to power. For my own opinion, in the Cambodian case it is the Sihanouk’s popularity rather than the Communists themselves, and in the Indonesian case, even though they said there were many million people supporting them, the question was put back why they had to end up in the bloodbath and disappearing from Indonesia.


In brief, Communism in Cambodia and Indonesia shared the similarities, both their weak policy and external dependency. The unclear policy in which sometimes to work with other classes with different interests always made them less influent, since they were seen as the associates of the government. And with such a policy, other classes, especially the rulers could exploit their influence to guarantee their power when they were weak and then threw them away when they revived their power. The External dependency, especially toward China and Soviet, also helps explain that they could not have their own stance. Their policy and power always changed according to their supporters, who saw their interest above all. I really see these aforementioned as their mistakes, but such mistakes are probably out of their control, since the post independence-situation was worst, did not provide any space or choice for them to elect, aside from the armed struggle, cross-class alliance, and external dependency. This era can be called as the darkness, since the ruling class, with the full support from many blocs such as the colonialism, USA imperialism, China, and Soviet to harass and kill in the inhuman way. However, what I wish to say here, the failure of Cambodian and Indonesian Communism are applied only in their own context, one can not really generalize that their failure are the failure of all communists. And Communism probably can be applied in this recent Southeast Asia better than the past, since each country now are urbanized and industrialized. However, the question of which form Communism or Marxism can be applied, is still controversial. From my own perspective, political form is maybe the best choice, not the armed struggles.


Ben Kiernan. (1985). “How Pol Pot Came to Power” Brittan: The Fthetford Press Limited.

Chr.L.M Pernders. (ed.) (1977). “Indonesia” University of Queensland Press.

D.W.Ashley. Pol Pot, Peasants and Peace: continuity and change in Khmer Rouge Political thinking 1985-1991. Thailand: Indochinese refugee information Center, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University.

Hal Kosut. (ed.) (1967). “Indonesia: the Sukarno Years”, Newyork: facts on file, Inc.

Harold Crouch. (1998).”The Rise or Fall of Suharto’s generals” in third world quanterly, Vol. 10, No. 1.

J.D. Leggge. (1972) “Sukarno: A political Biography”. Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Ji Giles Ungpakorn. (1 June 1998). “The Failure of Stalinist Ideology and the Communist Parties of Southeast Asia” in Thammasat Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, You don’t have to agree with this paper but then you must be able to argue why this was wrong!!! You must read Ruth Mc Vey on Indonesian Communism and David Chandler on the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot.

Jean Gel Man Taylor. (2003). “Indonesia: People and Histories “, New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Justus M. Van der Kroef. (winter, 1970-71) Interpretation of the 1965 Indonesian Coup: review of the literature” in pacific Affair, Vol. 43, No. 4, P: 87-96.

Mckay Hill Buckler. 1996. “A history of World Societies”. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

M.C.Ricklefs. (1981). A history of Modern Indonesia” London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Asian Histories series, the Macmillan Press LTD.

Milton Obsorne. (1994). “Sihanouk: prince of light, prince of Darkness” Thailand: silkworm books.

(2004). “Southeast Asia: an introductory history”. Singapore: South Wind Production.

Rex Mortimer. (1974) “Indonesia Communism under Sukarno”. Ithaca and London: Cornell Univerity Press.

Serge Thion. (1983). The Cambodian Idea of Revolution” in David P. Chandler and ben Kiernan (ed.) Revolution and its aftermath in Kampuchea. Monograph series no. 25, Yale Univeristy of Southeast Asian Studies.

Vedi R. Hadiz. (December 2006). “The left and Indonesia’s 1960: the politics of Remembering and forgetting” in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Volume 7, Number 4.

[1] It is very difficult for me, who are very new to politice, to understand what is the mainstream debate about the different definitions of Communism defined by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Rose Luxemburg, and others. In this paper, the aforementioned definition is received from some books and lectures from my professor in Southeast Asian Studies program. However, I sometime find there are some historical points that go against my professor and other authors of those books too.
[2] Mckay Hill Buckler. 1996. “A history of World Societies”. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p: 1222.
[3] According to Jean Gelman Tylor (2003), in 1914 a group of Dutch socillists and indonesian political exiles created Indies Social Democratic Union which functioned as the Labor union Study Clubs, and political parties. Therefore, it was not called Indonesian Communist Party until 1920.
[4]This word is preferred by Serge Thion to call the Cambodian Communists rather than Revolution Marxists or Cambodian Communists since the ideology is different. (please see Serge Thion, 1983)
[5] Vietnamese communists or Viet Minhs were the Vietnamese communist party members, who operated not only in Vietnam but also in Cambodia and Loa; with the belief that revolution against the French could not be succeeded if only Vietnamese Communists alone operated, they came along side with some Chinese communists to create the Communist movement in Cambodia and Loa too.
[6] This uprising headed by Musso, a leader of Indonesian Communist Party. He used to live in Moscow for 23 years. After he returned back, he captured Madium and declared it as Soviet Republic. However, this uprising was suppressed by Sukarno ad his band. Please see Hal Kosut (ed.) 1967)
[7] This “fifth force” was a proposal of the Communist leader in Sukarno’s cabinet to arm the peasants in order to balance their power with the military leaders. At first Sukarno did not accept, but until the problem was out of his control, he came to agreement.
[8] Cambodian Communists.

Posted by Southeast Asian&Great Mekon Subregion Studies at 12:20 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Sunday, April 13, 2008 


(The red letters are the comments one of my dear professors gave to me when i submitted my paper; then the black ones are what i reacted back; but without much proofs i could not convince my professor. So, he gave me other comments in the blue color. I understand that i do not understand many things, and it is very dangerous to express when we do not understand the full context. I always lose in these points. And all of my writing expresses how weak and unreliable i am. So, please make sure that when you read all these stuffs in this anonymous web, you use your great knowledge to ask yourself if it is reliable or not.)

1)      Khmer Rouge did not use Stalinism or Maoism in the end. They used Rousseau and Ankor.

‘Here it is depended on what you argued, but I personally believed that Pol Pot used varieties of ideologies one of them is Maoism. I am probably convinced by the propaganda of the Pro-Vietnamese government in the 1980s, but Serge Thion (page: 26) probably influenced me the most. As he wrote:

“Certainly the Khmer communists entertained the illusion they were not “Maoist” and were devising some sort of original version of the old dogma, even though Pol Pot paid tribute, when Mao died, to the power of his “thought.” But the true originally of the Kampuchean experiment is more on the authoritarian aspects of ruling methods in the “Chinese way.”…..Similar results stem from similar causes. A brief and penetrating analysis of china in 1949 points out, “the truth of the Chinese communist revolution is the encounter between the smallest of the social groups, the thin layer of the modern intellectuals, and the largest social force, the peasantry. as a group standing outside of the power structure, but nurturing the idea of modernization as a reaction to western domination, the radical intelligentsia in China suffered from the failure of the Republic in the twenties, and, after 1927, adhered to the motto of one of its most admired thinkers, Li Dazhao, who said: “go to the village.” One aspect of Maoism is the rationalization of this breakaway from the ruling class, and the subsequent reorientation of political activities towards the countryside. “Rectification campaigns” are the way for the party to adapt to, and adopt the new social environment. This broad outline of events applies perfectly to Cambodia. The leadership of the KCP is made up of “outcast” intellectuals who could never gain control inside the power system (although some Khmer Marxists, later purged by Pol Pot, tried hard to do so) and who were rejected by the traditional body politics. They “went to the village “(1963-68) and had to place themselves under extreme pressure in order to become professional peasant leaders. The theorization of their evolution was then, quite normally, very close to Maoism, i.e., and ideology which rationalizes the substitution of the radical intelligentsia for a powerless, and occasionally privileged, working class. ”

Thion uses a psychological analysis. He doesn’t understand Maoism and he says nothing about what the Chinese communists actually did. They didn’t clear the cities and they didn’t remain in the shadows. The Chinese communists did not use much repression to force the peasantry. They couldn’t do that even if they wanted. They were too weak compared to the peasantry.

2) Workers movement strong historically in Indonesia.

Read Hadiz’s history of labour, Anne Stoller and Ruth McVey …..the workers movement in Indonesia is well documented from 1914 onwards.
I do not understand well with your sentence. I just wonder what you do mean by historically strong. Do you mean the number of the Workers? by this definition, I could not find the good book that can provide me the clear cut statistics on it, I find one of the statistics in the book by Adrain Vickers (2005: 49) “a history of Modern Indonesia, saying in 1929, “among the 180 sugar factories, employing 60,000 permanent hands….another 700,000 temporary hands came to cut the cane or perform the other seasonal tasks…………the poorest of Javanese sold themselves to join the coolies labor force of 360,000.” I know the real figure probably is more than this, but if compared to the figure of the peasants, Indonesia was still agricultural based. By other definitions, I did not see them strongly, and working class was seen by Sukarno in 1926 as weak in Asia or non-existed in the same sense as in Europe, but still a part of the main force could be manipulated to fight against the Dutch. In his word, Sukarno said:
” Marxism which was previously so violently anti-nationalist and anti-religious, has now altered its tactics, especially in Asia, so that its previous bitter opposition has turned into comradeship and support. Today there is friendship between the Marxists and nationalist in China, and between Marxists and Muslims in Afghanistan…Marxist Theory has also changed. In fact it had to: Marx and Engels were not prophets who could determine eternally valid laws. Their theories have to be changed with the times; they must be adapted to fit a changing world if they are not become bankrupt. Marx and Engels themselves realized this and in their writings they often showed that they had changed their minds or changed their interpretation of certain events of their time… This ability to make tactical and theoretical changes explained why the “younger” Marxists, whether they are “patient” or ” tough”, especially the younger Marxists in Asia, are all supporters of genuine nationalist movements. They know that in Asia, where there is no proletariat in the European-American Sense, their movement must change its character to fit in with prevailing condition of life. They know that the Marxist movement in Asia must employ different means than in Europe, and that they must “work together” with the petty-bourgeois parties”, because the prime target here is not to achieve power but to fight feudalism… The workers in Asia can only organize a socialist movement, if these countries are free, and workers have national autonomy. As Otto Bauer said, “national autonomy is a goal which must be pursued by the proletariat in its struggle, because it is very necessary for its policies……” (Chr.L.M Penders. 1977: 309)

Here Sukarno’s idea is maybe not clear, but the Medium Affair really shows the working class is weak. The communist strikes or front was suppressed very cruelly. Moreover, if we talk about the post-independence, working class worked under the ineffective leader, Aidit. M.C. Ricklefs (1981: 235) said, “As the price of PNI protection, PKI muted its criticisms of corruption and economic problems. In May 1955 SOBSI members even helped to break a strike by a PSI Union. ” M.C.Ricklefs added, “while Aidit was on a visit to the Soviet Union in March, his leadership was challenged by Alimin, who had twice seen the downfall of PKI and was now an elderly man in his late Sixties. he circulated a statement that the Aidit leadership group was soft, opportunist and deviationist, and was leading PKI to become an ordinary bourgeois party by stifling class-consciousness. He was largely correct, but it is hard to see how PKI could have survived in any other way. Alimin found no support, was forced to recant, and withdraw to a lonely and embittered old age. He died in 1964 before having to witness the third and bloodiest destruction of PKI”. Moreover, aside from the aforementioned, I just wondered how the figures really mean something, especially when Aidit claimed that over 27 million Indonesians were the members of PKI.

3) No, not in the case of Indonesia. Yes, in the case of Cambodia, but again, not in a Maoist way. You must not confuse support from China to the Khmer Rouge and the use of Maoism by the KR.

Having a support base among peasantry does not imply Maoism. The PKI didn’t use armed struggle from the countryside at all.
I am sorry to say honestly that I do not know much about Indonesian history, but I read a few books and they told me that peasants were important for the Indonesian communists. As Vedi R. Hadiz (2006: 560) reported, “One of the major support bases of the PKI was in the peasantry, especially on the most populous island of Java. Indonesia’s low level of industrialization in the 1960s meant that the traditional agricultural sector was important to the PKI in terms of maintaining strong grassroots support in society. More so because the party’s gradual gravitation towards Beijing and away from Moscow meant that the Maoist version of Marxist-Leninist doctrine became ever more a distinctive feature of PKI propaganda.”

4) Actually Stalinist parties took power in Eastern Europe!!!
Here I refer to the 1917 revolution, This was not Stalinist the one that used to eliminate the class exploitation (I am not sure this is true or not, since I do not read much about that revolution; but I learn that Lenin, since the first hand, decided not to collaborate with the bourgeoisie class.)

5) A strange way to look at it. I prefer to say that the CPVN managed to win leadership of the nationalist movement

Here I understand Milton Osborn. He just wanted to claim that the Communist leaders did know the operations of Vietnamese millenarianism movements against the French. Not true. They were involved in Nge-Thin. However, such movements could not help liberate the country; so even though they worked with some of those people, they preferred to use the structure of Communist revolution. And sometimes the unclear idea of Ho Chiminh to contact or ask for support from USA, also can be used to support Milton Osborn’s idea. How? However, I still could not understand clearly the Vietnam communism since there were a lot of interpretations, not only among the external, but internal scholars. You have to look at the fact that the non-cp nationalists cooperated with the French and , very importantly, the Vichy French who were allied to the Japanese in Indochina. In other areas of SEAsia CPs had to ally with the colonialists.

6) But in Vietnam they used non-Maoist Stalinism. This is something you need to understand.

Sorry I could not understand what you mean; however, I still believe, especially in Serge Thion, that it is depended on which corner of Communism you look at. If you look at the cross-class alliance, the peasantry arms, so on and so forth, you will see how similar ideology the Vietnam communists used. You don’t understand Maoism. The Vietnamese never left the cities in order to wage a peasant war. They waged a conventional war from the north plus guerilla war in the south. No hint of Maoism. Thion is a journalist who does not have deep analysis. However, indeed, I wish not to use Marxism/Leninism or Maoism/Stalinism, because the concepts themselves are very complicated, I wish I can use the same concept as Serge Thion, “the revolution nationalists.”

7) Then to self-sufficiency community politics of Rousseau and Ankor.

I know you believed in David Chandler, I have no idea since he is the great scholar. However, I wish, one day, I can access to original Khmer documents so I can prove or disprove him. In Cambodia, the recent years, some Cambodian scholars have a lot of arguments about Cambodian history; some of them base their arguments on foreign scholar while other on the local. These two schools of thoughts sometime run into contradiction. So, Cambodian history by David Chandler is under the question. Cambodian Scholar, Keng Vansak, the one that Pol Pot used to work in his party So he isn’t going to say there was a problem with Khmer Rouge, but to say the top guy was crazy instead. That way he can avoid blame, “democratic” claimed in the broadcast of Radio Free Asia CIA radio, yes, hardly academic truth that Pol Pot became violent because his only one favorite girlfriend was “stolen” by Sam Sary, the political opponent, the father of Samraingsy, and high ranking official of Sihanouk. This a very stupid explanation. A bit like saying you can explain Nazi Germany because Hitler was crazy and had a chip on his shoulder. No sense of social political and economic circumstances!!! He added that, the last time he met him, he told Pol Pot about a traditional Khmer folktale that usually the prince, who lost his kingdom, always went to the forest and learned some magic from the hermit, then he returned back to fight for his kingdom. Therefore, Pol Pot did as if he commented. All these information sometime make me get stuck, and wish that I can learn here and have capability enough to dig out. Please give me more times.

You have to prove that Pol Pot wasn’t interested in Rousseau when in France. Actually it was other left activists too , not just Pol Pot. And you cannot deny the importance of Ankor . These ideas arose because of the terrible conditions created by US bombing. (CIA radio won’t talk about that).Your explanation about him losing his girl friend is nursery school compared to real evidence.

8) It is believed that Marxism came to Indonesia yes and Cambodia ?? before Maoism/Stalinism.

I failed to understand the concept since the beginning, so I have no ground to argue with you. But since they called themselves, or the writers called them, I just use that word. I hope you do not mind since my accessibility to books is limited here.

9) The Marxist Russian revolution 1917 led by Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks was successful in a country dominated by peasants and agriculture!!!!! There were 3 million workers: 160 million peasants!!

Yes, I am thinking about that too. I just wonder if you are right to say the working class in Indonesia was strong; I asked myself if it was true, why they could not win. Because the PKI didn’t lead a fight against Sukarno!!! Does number or historical strength really mean anything else? I am so sorry that I could not attend your last lecture, but when I read your handout, it seems to tell me something. It sounds like even though each country in Southeast Asia is urbanized and industrialized, working class could not really enjoy their rights fully; and in each country, the strengthening for class struggle also produces different result. It is depended on the quality of the union, the class consciousness among the workers, and the measurements of the government. So to conclude the case of Indonesian “revolution” and Marxist Russian revolution, I have to say strength and the unity of working class in Russia was probably better than the Indonesian. Russia was ruled by an absolute monarch!!!! Moreover, during that time, war against Germany really deteriorated the ruling class. But in Southeast Asia, the revolutionaries had to wait until the end of World War II, so that they could “fully” wage the war against the colonialists. (with Japanese guns? and the intervention of international community).

10) They were Indian No Chinese?, and Vietnamese?, who were seen as the foreigners as well as the associates of the colonialists.

I am sorry, in this point I am so ambiguous. Indeed, I am too quick to draw the Indonesian case in the same conclusion as in other parts of Southeast Asia. However, it is not me who invented this idea. It is Milton Osborn who explained that the Colonialists preferred to use the ethnic immigrants rather than the indigenous. A generalization which should not be copied without thought. No Indians or Vietnamese in Indonesia, No Indians in Cambodia. Hardly any Chinese workers in Cambodia. Also, Osborn ignores that it would be much more expensive to hire local peasants because they were doing OK by being peasants. Why should they move to the city at that time? (circumstances change later).There are many reasons, but one of them is their labor was cheap. Honestly, I mean in these two countries, the workers can be Indian or Chinese, or Vietnamese. I am sorry my English is not good enough.

11) Therefore, the revolutionary nationalists that played the most important role in fighting for the independence were very reluctant to associate with those workers. Osborn is really talking about Burma and attitude to Indian workersNo! not the case in Indonesia at all. Workers were Indonesians.

Yes, you are rights, but Chinese in Indonesia, suffered a lot from the Indonesians both the communists how? And when? Data please! and non-communists. No, the PKI organized across ethnicity. Osborn is totally ignorant. The PKI didn’t attack Chinese and most Chinese in Indonesia were not workers, but small scale self employed businesses. I know here I am a bit convinced by Milton Osborn saying that it is only the stereotype that saying that Chinese are the rich and the exploited. Many of them are in the working class too. For example, in the case of Malaysia, the poor Chinese were always attracted by the Chinese Communists until the British administration changed their policy to upgrade their economics and slums. However, I realize it is my mistakes. I read a few books but still could not find Chinese were poor workers. You read the wrong books!!! Thailand & Malaysia are two very good examples. However, some books really show that the Indonesian did not like Chinese. M.C. Ricklefs wrote, “Amy interference in the economy and administration was also increasing. In May 1959 it had decreed that, with effect from 1 January 1960, aliens would be banned from rural trade. While this affected Arab and Indian traders, it was mainly an army-instigated move to hurt the Chinese, weaken Jakarta’s friendship with China and embarrass PKI. Late in 1959 the army began forcibly moving Chinese from rural areas to the cities. Eventually about 119, 000 were actually repatriated to China.” Jean Gelman Taylor (2003: 353) added, “Other enemies were found. Chinese filled this role as a foreign minority that had been in partnership with the Dutch….Indonesian’s founding constitution identified all people of Chinese ancestry as foreigners until they applied for naturalization… Those who stayed could not free themselves from the perceived taint of Dutch privilege. Young men wishing for military careers found the armed services closed to them, except medical corps. There were quotas in university and pressure to change names to Indonesia forms. In 1960 the army ordered foreign Chinese out of rural towns across java and herded them into clusters in cities… People of Chinese origin also were targets for killing and arson whenever government authority weakened and local heroes marshaled armed supporters”

Yes, the army tries to turn peoples anger against Chinese. You just go along with a one-sided argument that Race is more important than anything else. We had a lecture on this argument. To believe what you do you must show evidence why my argument is wrong, not just repeat what Osborn thinks

12) led by Sukarno and Sarekat Islam.No Read the context of what you wrote. There is no question that the PKI worked with the SI
What do you mean by saying No. Jean Gelmantaylor (2003: 353) said yes, ” From the first, Indonesian communism tangled with Organized Islam. In the second decade of the twentieth century, party leaders pursued a Strategy of “Red Islam”. Members joined branches of Sarekat Islam. When they lost the contest for control of Sarekat Islam’s central leadership, they formed Sarekat Rakyat ( people’s union).” Moreover, Vedi R. Hadiz (page 588) referred to Mc Vey (the one you recommend), saying, “So much so that the indonesian Communist Party’s origins lay in an association called Sarekat Islam (Mc Vey 1965). Even many devoutly Islamic political actors of the day were simultaneously leftist or communist in their political ideology- as best personified by Haji Misbach- who led the secret ‘section B’ of the Sarekat Islam, any many times fell afoul of Dutch authorities.”
13) The reason why Mao was forced to use the peasantry was because of the massacre of Communists by the Kuo Mintang in 1926, 1927 (a result of Stalinist policies). You should read the books in my reference list at the end of my Thammasart paper on S.E.Asian Communists.
I think you have similar idea with Serge Thion; This isn’t my “idea” . Look at the history of China 1926-1927. No such event happened in Cambodia. the difference is only Serge Thion mentioned about the limited political space in the urban areas, and about Li Dazhao, who encouraged Mao to: “go to the village.” I am still not clear if the idea to go to the village happened before 1926/27. ” NO it did not. That is why I say 1926-27 is vitally important . You obviously never read my Thammasart paper!!!I am sorry, I do not know much about Chinese history, but I will try to read more.
14) The dispute was really about the fact that the CPVN was a much stronger nationalist movement and they decided that a cross-class alliance with Sihanouk would be good. This handicapped the communists in Cambodia until 1970.
Yes, maybe. But the dispute between Cambodia and Vietnam can not just explained with a few words. It can trace back to the pre-colonial history. Yes, yes, “difference races hate each other by nature”. Actually this is rubbish. The Chams who attacked Ankro were not Vietnames. Vietnam is a much more recent invention. But the Cambodian ruling class want you to hate the Vietnamese by “nature”.But I do not want to talk about that period, what I wanted to say is French colonialism also helped increase this dispute. One of them is national identity/nationalism. Cambodian students who study in French school especially in France had a deep feeling on what their Cambodian identity is and how it is different from others, especially Vietnam. Ben Kiernan wrote that sons of the Thhion family, one of the highest elites in Cambodia, and later worked as the high ranking officials in Pol Pot regime, rejected when their friends asked them to welcome Uncle Ho Chiminh in France, saying that “he is not our uncle”. Another point is economic inequality. French so far saw Cambodian people as the lazy people; they did not wish to hire them. They preferred Vietnamese. And it is clearer when see more developments such as road, University, and … in Vietnam, but a very few in Cambodia.
However, I can see the similar paradigm in Chinese-Vietnamese relationship too. While Cambodians wished to work with China rather Vietnam, Vietnamese wished to work with Soviet rather than China. So is it about stronger national movement, or what else I am not sure.

Yes, and whites always hate blacks and Thais hate Chinese…oops the Thais ARE Chinese!!!
15) Tan Malaka supported Sukarno, the representative of bureaucrat Bourgeois, who was ready to negotiate with the Ducth to share the power, while Amir and Musso worked against Sukarno. No
No? I say yes with M.C.Ricklefs (1981: 216-17), “In September the government released Tan Malka in the Vain hope of wining leftists away from Musso…With the removal of the Stalinists, the ‘national Communists’ who followed Tan Malaka’s thinking and opposed the PKI rebellion at Madiun, joined together to form Partai Murba (proletarian Party in October 1948 ” indeed, I read other book saying that Tan Malaka really criticized Sukarno, but in the point of attacking Amir and Musso, I think he did not object Sukarno.” so I should say, he did not object. Stalinism and National communists are the same. Ricklefs doesn’t understand. They may have a small difference in approach but the politics is the same. Bad analysis!
16) They chose to join with Sukarno!!!
They chose to join, or they were persuaded that Sukarno could bring Indonesia into Communist state with them, I think it is the same thing. No, not if you understand Stalinism and what CPs did all over the world. You would understand this if you read my paper. Now, if you did and don’t agree, then tell me why Egypt, Iraq, Thailand and China, where CPs did the same thing are somehow all unique!
17) Source of fund also played the most important role in shaping Communist ideology in Indonesia and Cambodia. NO, this does not explain the policies of the PKI or the Khmer Rouge AT ALL, No!
I understand that I do not have enough evidence to convince you, but

This is because you cannot believe that ordinary people support Communism. PKI Had 20 million members!!! You may love American democracy (which supports dictatorships all over the world and 60% of Americans who are poor don’t bother to vote) but you need to be critical. So far you just believe in right-wing myths.

First of all, let me quote Vedi R. Hadiz again, ” More so because the party’s gradual gravitation towards Beijing and away from Moscow meant that the Maoist version of Marxist-Leninist doctrine became ever more a distinctive feature of PKI propaganda.” This quote does not mean much, I know, but what about the quote from M.C. Ricklefs (1981) saying, “Late in September 1963 Aidit returned from extended visits to the Soviet Union and China. On his return, for the first time he aligned PKI unequivocally with China against the Soviet Union. It is possible that Aidit had accepted Chinese advice to mount a domestic political offensive… But the difficulties of PKI soon became clear, and sealed its fate. China shortly became so confident of its influent in Jakarta at government-to-government level that its support of PKI rural policies may have been qualified. The Soviet Union looked to the Indonesian army and anti-PKI leftist for allies. The Americans almost certainly became involved in clandestine encouragement of anti-Communists. Chinese delegations paid frequent visit to Jakarta… In April 1965 Zhou Enlai himself came. The Chinese publicly urged the creation of a ‘a fifth force’…On 16-19 September Omar Dhani went secretly to China upon Sukarno’s instructions to discuss, among other things, the Chinese offer of small arms, without prior notification having been given to Nasution as defense minister…In 1964, China had also offered to turn the assets of the Bank of China in Jakarta over to the Indonesian Government, and did so in November. This move is still not entirely explained. The Bank was believed to be PKI’s main source of Chinese financial aid. That this represented a further step in the Jakarta-Beijing alliance is clear.”

And in 1959, what is the point that both PKI and Sukarno in 1959 attempted to prevent the army from taking even more sever measures against the Chinese, when Chinese government imposed very heavy diplomatic pressure on Jakarta.

By the way, between 1979 1nd 1991 the USA supported the Khmer Rouge and armed and supplied them, keeping the civil war alive in Cambodia. By your logic this “proves” that the US government was Maoist. The “must” also be radical Islamists because they armed and funded Bin Laden in Afghanistan in the same period.

George Bush also attacked Iraq because an Arab man stole his first girlfriend.

This is the end of the debate.

















State Crime: The National Policies Of The Thai And Vietnamese Governments Towards the Thai Muslims and Montagnards

June 16, 2010

After the independence from the colonialists, Southeast Asian leaders have to face another problem. It is the problem of how to build their nation. It is the most difficult issue since the concept of nation is not an easy term to define when there are a lot of diversified identities among the people who live in each country. However, eventually, according to Chan Heng-Chee and Hans-Dieter Evers (1978), in Southeast Asia there are three ways of building the national identities​, in spite of a pile of disagreements, and sometime lead to the wars. The first one is Regressive Identity which refers to the attempt to connect the colonial construct with the past tradition in the pre-colonial era. The second is Progressive Identity which sees the past (both in the pre-colonial as well as the colonial construct) as the barrier to the progress of the nation. This group mostly is the socialists and communists who would like to use socialism or communism as the way to lead their country since they find it more relevant and fair if compared to the feudalism, colonialism, and capitalism which very often taking the advantages of the people. The last one is the non-ideological identity or the ideology of pragmatism, which applied only to the case of Singapore, where they can not choose one of the two aforementioned cases. If they choose the first one, it means they will create the Third Chinese state, which is against the Malays. If they choose the second one, it means they choose to be communist state, which is against the British and other powerful countries who can bring about the economic crisis in Singapore.

However, whatever form the national identity is created, it is often set up to favor the majority rather than the minority. Such policies lead most of post colonial Southeast Asian countries to face a lot of problems to deal with the ethnic minorities who prefer their own identity. Some of such policies drive some of the ethnic minorities to stand up and protest against. For the most explicit example, the Montagnards in the Central Vietnam, and the Thai-Muslims in the Southern provinces of Thailand, with their strong resentments to the unfair policies of the governments, tried to form the big demonstrations or sometime the uprisings to claim for the readjustment of the governments’ policies. To counter these two groups, the governments tried to suppress them by using the iron fist rather than other peaceful means; however, the problems could not be ended but have continued until nowadays. Therefore, the reason behind the usage of the iron fist and the reaction against it are the aim of this paper that is going to explore.
Honestly, it is my first two works related to ethnic minority. To transfer from the field of culture to ethnicity, I have to confess that I could not go deeper. And another difficulty is the shortage of the books on ethnic minorities in general as well as in Thailand and Vietnam, and among those rare books the authors explained in their own convincing word already, in which I could not find out the new things aside from trying to understand and digest out. So in this paper, it does not reflect my intellectuals. However, I am not hopeless, I hope that the more I try to read and research, the more I may learn and find out something new. Whatever difficulties or hopes, I feel very grateful to all my Professors and dear friends, who provided me their material supports as well as their valuable time to teach and advise me. Without their help, I would not see how vital I and other people are in building the democratic society for both the majority as well as the minority.

Montagnard is the French word naming the Ethnic minority group who live in the central Vietnam. Montagnard means the mountainous dwellers or the highlanders. Many researchers and the Montagnards themselves prefer to use Montagnard, highlander, or Dega rather than the Vietnamese word “Moi” which means “savage”. The Montagnards consist of main five groups: the Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, M’Nong, and Koho (please see appendix 1). Their geographical size is roughly 55,000 square kilometers and covers 4 provinces: Lam Dong, Kontum, Gia Lai, and Dak Lak (Joanna B.Hurlburt, 2007). These people formerly believed in the Animism; however, later they are converted to the protestant Christianity. Even they have 5 main different groups, they have collaborated as the Montagnards or Dega, a political group to demand for the rights of their people in Vietnam. In 1964, their movement become bigger and bigger when they and other ethnic groups in Vietnam formed the Front Unifie de Lutte des Races Opprimees or FULRO (United Front for the Liberation of the Oppressed Races). However, in spite of its quick growth, there was also a sign of disagreement among their group to choose the partners as the strategy to achieve their goal. Therefore, according to Jens Wandel (1997), while some of them supported the National Liberation Front (Vietcong) believing that when the war finished the Vietnamese would hand the independence to their group, others supported the South Vietnamese Regime (a regime supported financially and technically by the US government) thinking that this regime was more potential in term of the support from the powerful country, United States. However, the result is not different; it is just the deception from both the North and South Vietnamese governments. As the consequence, after the war they were left without any things but many kinds of suppression and strict controls for those who supported the North Vietnam and those who supported the South Vietnam; without any foreign aides, they had to end their movement in 1992 when there were only 400 members left. Only in 2001 onward, this movement has been revived because the living condition of the Montagnards in Vietnam becomes worst and could not be tolerated anymore. However, their aim, this time, is just to ask the Vietnamese government to help solve their economic problems, their land conflicts, and their religious suppression rather than building the so-call nation. Very often their activities are only the peaceful demonstration, without involving with any arm struggle.

As for the Thai-Muslims, they also share similar things with the Montagnards. Live as the ethnic minority in the land that used to be theirs but they feel that they are not well treated. In fact, The Thai-Muslims originate in the three southernmost provinces close to the Malaysian and Thai border: Narathiwat, Pattani, and Yala (please see appendix 2). Majority of the group are Muslims and speak Malay as their first language. Historically, these people had their own kingdoms; however, their kingdoms were annexed to Siam (currently Thailand) by wars as well as the treaties between Thai and British governments. There were many resistant movements in this region to claim back their rights to rule their own fate. However, they were suppressed many times. According to some scholars, their movements faded away gradually after the introduction of economic development plan as well as the constitution reform in 1997 that allowed the local people to participate in the local administrative offices. However, since 2004 onward the movement has been revived its life. The reasons are because of the sharply falling of the local economy in that region (because the government prefer to support the big business rather then the Muslim petty business people), the less help and mistrust between the local people and the authorities, the religious suppression, and some killing and cruel tortures.

The concept of the historical enemy does not mean that it is because they are Muslims, Buddhists or Christians but it is because they are associated with another enemy or they used to wage the anti government wars, protest, and demonstration which is accused under the governments’ pretexts as the disunity actions. For the Thai and Vietnamese government, history of the Thai-Muslims and Montagnards are riddled with many riots and protests against them since the pre-colonial era. Their protest and riots always inculcate the mistrust in the Thai and Vietnamese Governments. Such mistrust pushes the governments to form the biased policies as well as the forced assimilation. Apparently, the word that Thai government use to call those people who lives in the three southern provinces of Thailand as the Thai-Muslim reflects the policy that wishes to assimilate those that they believe are not Thai yet. The same thing happens in Vietnam too, Vietnamese government always rejects the protests of the Montagnards saying, “The world only accepted Ho Chi Minh as the leader of the Vietnamese nation. By historical tradition the whole world recognized the nation of Vietnam; No one in the World recognized a Dega nation” ( Human Rights Watch, 2002: 100)

For the Thai and Vietnamese governments, all the demands that those minorities asked for only resulted from the cause of the separatism/national liberation/independence. They never look further to what factors make those people decide to ask for what they see as the impossible or difficult thing from the most powerful. According to the synthesis of many studies, it shows that the problem resulted from many factors such as the economic marginalization, the interference into their religious practice, and the forced assimilation. But while those factors could not be solved or ignored by the Thai and Vietnamese government, the idea of self-autonomy or independent state eclipse all the factors and pushes them to join the separated movement to find some help to solve their grieves.

Historical evidence shows that these people need and join those who help them to solve their problem but the governments are the prioritized choice they choose. Without doubts the economic development after the 1980s and the creation of 1997 constitution which provide the space for the local people to be the authority in the southern provinces really reduce the separatist movements. As Chidchanok Rahammula wrote

“Another reason that contributed to the success of resolving the violence issue in the south was the development of democratization in Thailand especially the time of using the new constitution of Thailand in 1997. This constitution openly let the citizen participating in the government administrative process by establishing the Tambon Administration Organizations (TAO) through out the country including the most southern provinces. Some of local Muslims were TAO members resulted in reducing the political tension in the area.” (2006: 28)

In Vietnam, people also prefer to support the government rather the separatists. In 1992, the FULRO, the Montagnard separatists had only 400 members and lived their hard lives in the forest. They surrendered to the UN and were migrated to USA. The ordinary Montagnards, even they are poor, agree to give their own agricultural land to the government when it needs. However, the Vietnamese government treats them unfairly by providing those lands to the Vietnamese. With their poverty on their neck and such an unfair policy very often push them to ask for the land back, but there is no attention paid to their call. As the result, they saw only the separatist group as their last choice. As quoted by the Human rights watch:

“I do not know what the movement is called. I only heard “Dega”, the struggle to get out land back. In my village no one but me followed the movement as far as I know. As for Kok Ksor[1], I had only heard of him, but not so clearly from A.S[2]. I knew that Kok Ksor was in America and that he would come in the future and help us.” (2002: 54)

However, both governments never learn about the people they govern. Instead of cooperating with the local people to solve the problems, the Thai government tried to bring the outside problems into the country. It entered the new wave of United State’s anti-terrorism which brought about much suppression on the riots of the Thai Muslims. While the Thai Muslims, including some Buddhists, came out to protest against United States’ anti terrorism policies, the Thai government did not condemn USA‘s invasion in Afghanistan, but also sent 477 Thai military officers to Iraq, and finally generalized that some Thai Muslims involved with those terrorists and caught them without any clear evidences. Therefore, Phuwadol Songprasert (2005: 207) described Thaksin Sinawatra, the then prime minister, as “who habitually speaks before carefully thinking.”

Even though, some researchers agreed with the Thai government that the unrest come to life is because the dropt of the Civil Police Military Task Force (CMP43) and Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC) that previously worked effectively in keeping the security in the regions, it can be argued that it happened because of the implementation of the policies in the inhuman ways during the anti-terrorism campaign. While people were doubtful on the Government ‘s policies to support United States and its Anti-terrorism, Thai police, authorized by the martial law issued on 5 January 2003, without thinking of fundamental rights, searched and abducted all the suspicious in the cruel ways which served as the main problems to enrage those Thai Muslims to unrest against. As Phuwadol Songprasert (2005: 179) wrote:

“Accordingly, they always employed brutal methods with the suspects by torturing them to make a confession or killing them so that the word “abduction” returned to cover tactics of anti-terrorism among Thai police in the three southern border provinces since the middle of the year 2003.”

Moreover, the disappearing of some Thai Muslim heroes, especially the famous lawyer, Somchai Neelapaijit, arrested by the Thai police in the outset of year 2003, with the accusation of official gun robbing, it was believed that he was killed; this is, this event enraged Thai Muslims. Added with the aforementioned issues, Thai government, involved with the death of the Muslim rioters in Kruse Mosque (on 28 of April, 2003) did not recognize its mistakes and did not quickly confess, but justified itself from being accused of human right violation, and giving itself a space for next national election competition (Ibrahem Narongraksakhet, 2005). Even though, General Phanlop Pinmanee was accused of ordering to kill the Thai Muslims in the Kruse Mosque was dismissed, without any clarification of who really was behind this incidence, the mistrust between the government and the Thai Muslims still remained.

Even though, the Thai government created the independent Fact-Finding Commission for Violent Case[3], and for finding the best strategies to solve the problems in those three southern provinces, the 6 recommendations, from the commission, that suggested to the government to stop using suppression towards Muslims, but recognized the cultural diversity and developed those regions were rejected by the Thai Government. To counter those recommendations, Government armed the people who volunteered to be the Village Security Guard. This strategy, somehow, made relation of the Thai Buddhists and Thai Muslims worst. Gradually, conflict spread larger from the government level to the grass root level as James R. Klein (2005), who did a survey on Buddhist and Muslim perceptions of the conflict in Southern Thailand, gave the result of research that 75% of Buddhist respondents believed that the Thai Government’s policies to suppress those Thai Muslim is the best way to solve the problem, while the Thai Muslims refused it.

Furthermore, in 25, October 2005, with the rumor that 6 Thai Muslims were caught by the Thai police, a number of the Thai Muslims protested against them for releasing them back. However, they were dispersed harshly. Some of them were died in the place, and some were died of suffocation during the army custody according to the Thai government‘s reports. However, the reason and the number of the death could not be tested. There was still the debate about it among the Thai Government and the Thai Muslims. As the leader of the Thai government, Thaksin Sinawatra, found the pretext that, “Breaking up the demonstration at Tak Bai was carried out according to Academic Discipline…We feel regretful. We’d try to look after them but they died from a trivial cause”. (Phuwadol Songprasert 2005: 195, quoted from Bangkok Post October 26, 2004:1 and Daily Manager October 28, 2004:15).

As for Thai Muslims, they believed that the deceased did die of being tortured by Thai police. Amporn Marddent (2005:272-338) who interviewed many women whose husband or relatives died during the protest at Tak Bai revealed the mistrust of those women to the government policy. They still had a wonder why their relatives, who had bare hands, were killed, and what was the truth behind that events. This is, it shows very clearly that the problems in Southern Thailand provinces are not easy to be solved, if there is no truth being revealed because James R. Klein (2005:370) found out in his research, “While those in the rest of Nation would prefer to seek the assistance of a third party to help settle their disputes, Southern Thai, and particular Yawi-speaking Muslims, prefer and seek out reasoned, face-to-face discussion about the problem”.

For the Muslims, they feel alienated from the Thai Government gradually and this is what the Separatists/Terrorists have taken this opportunity to convince those people to participate in their Group. In addition, Amporn (2005:272-338) evaluate the Thai government strategies in her paper that those strategies were not sincere and practical in solving the problems among the Thai Muslims.

Additionally, with the fear of the separatism supported by the outsiders through Islam religion, Thai government did not tolerate nor pay attention much to differentiate between the group of the Thai Muslim separatists who used religion as the political tools and the ordinary Thai Muslims who believe in only the religion without any political involvement. One of these problems resulted from the Thai government officials in the southern part, who seemed to know very little about Muslim’s religion and culture. Until 2001 the government still runs a program to train the new government officials to understand the Thai Muslims’ religion and culture. Bring with their unfair eyes of their government, the Thai police looked at the Thai Muslim protestors as the group of separatists rather than the simple protestors in other parts of Thailand. For example, the Thai police, with the martial law, looked for the separatists without giving any respect to the holy places of the Thai Muslims. The Mosques and Pondoks were considered not as the holy places anymore, but as the places of shelters or rebellion training center for the Separatists/terrorists or guns (Alexander, 2006).

Every one that are identified as the Muslims would be interrogated by the Thai polices, especially the Muslim women, who always wear their veil conformed to their tradition, also were reported being physically abused. Amporn (2005:270-338) interviewed many people, including the Thai Muslim women raped by the Thai police shared their bad perception of the Thai Muslims towards those Thai police, that not only abuse them, but also their religion and culture. In addition, the abduction and the disappearing of the religious Muslim leaders did by the Thai police were believed as the religious discrimination among the Thai Muslims. To counter Thai police’s actions, some Thai Muslims, wore their Dakwah[4] clothes (religious clothes), targeted their shots to those who were thought as the Buddhists including the Monks.

Recently, a question is asked to the Thai government if their policy can bring any solution for them and the people for the last three years. Apparently, the answer is no. The situation becomes worst. According to Bangkok Post (22, march 2008), the number of the attacks are increasing. While there were only 1342 cases in 2004, there were 2633 cases last year. No body can give as good answer as Supara Janchitifah. She wrote two articles in the Bangkok Post under the title, “Tragic Death Fuels Acrimony” (6, April 2008: 12) and “An End to Torture?” (6, April 2008:8) show very clearly how the Muslims feel very bad with the government. In the first article, she wrote:

“It has taken more than three years of court trials so far in the Tak Bai case. Many Victims and their families have been given compensation, but as yet no one has been held responsible for the death of 78 people”

If one just finish reading this first article and goes through the second article, he or she may come to the conclusion that if someone can describe cruel actions of the Burmese armies toward the ethnic women and children as “the license to rape”, the same person can describe the actions of the Thai armies in the southern provinces as “the license to torture and, in some cases, to kill.” According to her, “there are a number of different types of torture, the most basic being beatings to the body or head. Other types includes electrocution, asphyxiation, suspension by arms or legs, painful body postures, burning plastic bags dripped on to the body or other uses of heat. In some cases, suspects are detained in a very cold room.” All these tortures in some case cause the victim die. These cases are supported by the Army Chief Gen Annupong Paojinda. He gave a speech after a visit to the chaotic South that the Army’s investigation group found out that there was a “not good” soldier that caused the death of the Imam.( Supara Janchitifah, 6, April 2008:8)

In the case of Vietnam, they also have something to share with the Thai government. The demonstrations in 2001 and 2004 were the peaceful demonstrations that wanted to ask the Vietnamese government to help solve their problems. These two demonstrations ended with the promise by the government officials that they would help solve their problems as soon as possible. However, after the demonstrators, especially the members of the demonstration organizers came back home, they were arrested. They were cruelly tortured before they forced to confess that they involved with the separatist movement. As a man describes the way the Vietnamese police treated him during the interrogation:

“Three police interrogated me in a room. They asked me whether I had documents from Kok Ksor and I said no. Then they beat me. They used an electric baton near my eyes (he has a small scare there still). I do not know how many times they shocked me; I lost consciousness. When I came to, I realized my back and my stomach hurt badly and that I had probably been kicked many times. They brought me to the police station for such sessions-beating and interrogation- fifteen times over the next fifteen days. In some of the sessions the policeman pinched my ears and twisted my eyelids, and slammed his elbow into my ribs. He was angry that I’d shown other villagers the map and documents (about the proposed Dega state) and demanded that I confess.”( Human Rights Watch. 2002: 102-103)

Some of the Montagnards that could not tolerate with such cruel tortures run to Cambodia and ask for the asylum to live in the third country.

For the Vietnamese government they see such demonstrations only as the destroying of the national unity. And the group that they focus mostly is the Christian Montagnards. For them, the Christianity that the Montagnards believe is the evil religion or the religion of the outsider or enemy that they do not want the Montagnards to follow. The Vietnamese government always finds the excuses to suppress them; for example, confiscate their farm lands, stop them from believing in the Christianity, demolish the churches, and arrest the church leaders. One reason behind the 2001 demonstration is also to demand the Vietnamese government to release the two church leaders that they arrested.

No body could understand why this government come to the generalization quickly that the Christianity or other religions are the evil or enemy. Indeed, as Joanna B. Hurlburt (2007) expressed in her theses that some religious groups are associated with the political movement, but others do not. Therefore, the quick generalization by the Vietnamese government brings the matter back to themselves. The ordinary people who feel unhappy with the religious suppression gradually are attracted by the separatist movement.


The conflict in the Southern Thailand and the central Vietnam referred by governments as the result of the separatist movement and the separatists who wish to take advantages of the ordinary people as well as to destroy the governments’ development schemes. Thai and Vietnamese governments never think that their development policies can produce the negative impacts on the lives of those minorities. While these ethnic minorities depend their lives on the small business, the governments support the big business. It is good that these two businesses can get along with each other, but if it is not, the minorities are the persons who receive the miserable destiny and then stand against the government. Historically, thousand of example can be drawn from the colonial era, where the colonial governments just planed the development project to benefit their own governments and businessmen. Their exploitation toward the people resulted in the collapse of their regimes. Thai and Vietnamese government actually should learn from this.

Lirtchai Sirichai (2006) provided a very good, updated example about the aforementioned controversial cases when he did his research in the fishery Malay community. He explained in his research finding that Thai government officials in the region ignored the micro level Muslim fishermen who have lived on their fishing in the coastal areas with their traditional tools for many decades, but supported the commercial fishing boats, even though they knew that those kinds of modern boats equipped with modern tools would not only affect the lives of those Thai Muslim fishermen, but also the natural resources.

Even though, those Thai Muslim fishermen, without any senses of collaboration, reported individually again and again about the negative impact on their livelihood and natural resources, there was no help from the Government officials. At the last resort, they bought some guns to fight in a small group against those commercial fishing boats[5], but they very often were fired back and defeated by the modern gun. In addition, Police always came with the commercial fishing boats to detect those Thai Muslims. Therefore, some of them, without any hopes to live on the coastal fishing, went to Malaysia to find the same jobs there. But some of them that still remained in their community had to receive their miserable fate. If such development plan is fair, there would not be the word “they are Thai/ Buddhists, we are the Malay/Muslims”.

In Vietnam, the situation is not different. The development plan always come from the top. There are no any studies before they implement their plan. The encouragement from the Vietnamese government to the Vietnamese to migrate to the Montargnards’s highland always creates the strong resentments. The unfair land division, the negligence of the Vietnamese authority when the Montagnards reported that the Vietnamese grab their lands are the main factors that push those Montagnards to protest against the government’s development plan. It is clearly expressed in the quotes did by the Human right Watch:

“in my village from 1994-2000 the Vietnamese took our land-even plowing over our cemetery to build their houses. People were very unhappy when they plowed over the cemetery but did not dare oppose them. They felt the district officials would do nothing to help.”

“we consider ourselves the owners of the land and natural resources. Forestry and Agricultural enterprises take over an area by official decree, and then it belongs to the state. The government explains to us that the forestry enterprise is supposed to benefit us- but then we see Vietnamese buying off the plots. Suddenly agricultural land that used to belong to us belongs to Vietnamese people who have the proper stamps and papers. It happens through the administration. We freely withdraw or are told we can’t live there anymore. In the end there are threats: you must move for development.” (Human rights watch, 2002: 53-54).

Additionally, without any good mechanism to protect the minority groups, the Vietnamese government’s development plan which transfer them from the shifting agriculture to the cash crop cultivation, especially the coffee really pushes them to face the risky issues. As Joanna B. Hurlburt wrote in her theses:
“As the land for ethnic minorities became scarce and making a living became increasing difficult, many Central Highlanders (Montagnards) turned to cash cropping coffee to supplement their family…However, cash cropping can be very risky because small farmers have virtually no risk margin to allow for environmental catastrophes to downturns in the market price. In 1999 the global coffee market crashed. The deregulation of the international coffee market trade in the post Cold War era, the consolidation of the coffee industry, and, ironically, the vast increase of coffee production in Vietnam all contributed to this economic downturn.” (2007: 41)

As the consequences, the Montagnards had to sell their land and their coffee products in the cheap price to get rid of their crisis. Lives are getting harder and harder. The only one reason that they can do is to do the demonstrations to ask for the government’s help; but in contrast, their demonstrations were seen as the separatist movement, even they have only their bare hands demonstrating their grieves in front of the arm-equipped people.

Ken Kampe may understand the risk of such development very well. He quotes Franks 11 years ago to support his idea that the top-down development scheme always results in the negative impact on the grassroots people still show the truth in today:

“Development, as in third world development, is a debauched word, a whore of a word. Its users can’t look you in the eyes. Among biologists, the word means progress, the realization of an innate potential. The word is good, incontestable, a cause for celebration. In the mouths of politicians, economists, and development expert like myself, it claims the same approval but means nothing…It is an empty word which can be filled by an user to conceal any hidden intention, a Trojan horse of a word “(1997: 145)

In brief, even each government, the Vietnamese or the Thai, have claim their own way to govern their own country. The policies that they use to build their national identity as well as to suppress those who they see as the enemy to their national identity are the same. With their own rights to govern, they just justify their own actions as the way to protect the nation or the unity of the nation, even though in reality it creates the national insecurity. While the minority protest, the governments come to their quick conclusion, a conclusion that look beyond the economic discrimination, the interference into the local people’s religious practice, and the forced assimilation. Their conclusion always drawn that because those minority do not want to live harmoniously with the majority, or those minority are cheated by the outsider who wish to destroy the national unity. But a question is raised up of what the governments do mean when talking about the national unity. Is it a unity that the ethnic minority should live their hard lives until they die, while the governments can receive the benefit from the hard work of those ethnic minorities and have their live as happy as in the heaven. Without any clear answer, the problem will not be solved.


Alexander Horstmann. “Ethno-historical perspectives on Buddhist-Muslim Relations and
Coexistence in Southern Thailand: From Shared Cosmos to the Emergence of Hatred?”, Sojourn Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, Vol 19, No. 1 April, 2004, p 76-99.

“Islamic Studies in Southern Thailand: between Traditionalism, orthodoxy and Islamic Missionary Da’wa Movements”, Workshop Paper of Voices of Islam in Europe and Southeast Asia, 20-22, January, 2006, p117-121, Thailand: Walailak University.

Amporn Marddent. “From Adek to Mo’ji: Identities of Southern Thai People and Social Realities” , in Utai Dulyakasem, Lertchai Sirichai. (ed.). Khnowledge and Conflict Resolution: The Crisis of the Border Region of Southern Thailand. Thailand: School of Liberal Arts, Walailak University, 2006.

Bangkok Post. (22, march 2008). “3000 Lives Claimed Since the Unrest started Four
Years Ago”. At the Front Page.

Chan Heng-Chee and Hans-Dieter Evers. 1978. “National Identity and Nation Building in
Singapore” in Peter S J Chen and Hans-Dieter Evers (ed.) “Studies in ASEAN Sociology: Urban Society and Social Change.” Singapore: Chopmen Enterprises, 1978.

Chidchanok Rahimmula. “Violence in Southern Thailand: A Crisis Issue”, in Utai Dulyakasem, Lertchai Sirichai. (ed.). Khnowledge and Conflict Resolution: The Crisis of the Border Region of Southern Thailand. Thailand: School of Liberal Arts, Walailak University, 2006.

Human Rights Watch. 2002. Repression of Montagnards: Conflicts Over Land And
Religion in Vietnam’s Central Highlands”. USA.

Ibrahem Narongraksakhet. “Pondoks and Their Roles in Preserving Muslim Identity in Southern Border Provinces of Thailand” , in Utai Dulyakasem, Lertchai Sirichai. (ed.). Khnowledge and Conflict Resolution: The Crisis of the Border Region of Southern Thailand. Thailand: School of Liberal Arts, Walailak University, 2006.

James R.Klein. “Buddhist and Muslim Perception of the Conflict in Southern Thailand” , in Utai Dulyakasem, Lertchai Sirichai. (ed.). Knowledge and Conflict Resolution: The Crisis of the Border Region of Southern Thailand. Thailand: School of Liberal Arts, Walailak University, 2006.

Jens Wandel. (1997). “Development Opportunities and Threats to Ethnic Minority
Groups in Vietnam” in Don McCaskill/ Ken Kampe (ed.) “Development or Domistication?: Indigenous Peoples of Southeast Asia” Chaing Mai: Silkworm books.

Joanna B.Hurlburt. (2007). Loss and Politics-Seeking Asylum: a Study of Vietnamese
Montagnards” a Bachelor Degree Thesis for International Studies Program and the Honors College of the University of Oregon.

John. L. Esposito. “Islam in Asia: Religion, Politics and Society” New York: Oxford
University Press.

Ken Kampe. 1997. “The culture of development in Developing Indigenous Peoples”, in
Don Mccaskill/Ken Kampe (ed.). “Development or Domestication? Indigenous People of Southeast Asia” Chiangmai : Silkworm Books, page145.

Lertchai Sirichai. “Socail Movement in the Southern Border Provinces from Violence to Non-Violence: A Case Study of the Fisherfolk’s Movement in Pattani” , in Utai Dulyakasem, Lertchai Sirichai. (ed.). Khnowledge and Conflict Resolution: The Crisis of the Border Region of Southern Thailand. Thailand: School of Liberal Arts, Walailak University, 2006.

Patrick Jory. 2007. From “Melayu Patani” To “Thai Muslim”: The Spectre of Ethnic
Identity in Southern Thailand.” Singapore: Asia Research Institute.

Phuwadol Provin. “Chronic Conflict in the Three Southern Border Provinces of Thailand” , in Utai Dulyakasem, Lertchai Sirichai. (ed.). Khnowledge and Conflict Resolution: The Crisis of the Border Region of Southern Thailand. Thailand: School of Liberal Arts, Walailak University, 2006.

Supara Janchitifah. (6, April 2008: 12) .”Tragic Death Fuels Acrimony” Bangkok Post

(6, April 2008:8). “An End to Torture?”. Bangkok Post.

Thomas I. Parks. 2005. “Maintaining Peace in a Neigborhood Torn by Separatism: The
Case of Satun Province in Southern Thailand.”
[1] Kok Ksor is the leader of the Montagnard movement which has a base in United States.
[2] A.S is the faked name giving to the person that do not want his/her name to be cited.
[3] This phrase was probably translated from Thai by Phuwadol Songprasert (2005:190)
[4] The international Islamization Movement.
[5] Even though Lirtchai Sirichai tried to prove in his book that their fighting was not involved with the separatists or terrorists, the Thai government really recorded their case as the action of separatism.











June 16, 2010


Under the umbrella of globalization, with the prospect that to deal individually with world multi-trade countries is impossible and unbeneficial, ASEAN leaders agree to jointly build up its policy of economic integration under the concept of regionalism. Under this concept, ASEAN leaders believe that the imported goods from the non-ASEAN countries could not compete with them in term of low price, tax exemption, and cheap labor and transportation. To do this, they even believe that it can attract the external investment to come and invest in ASEAN rather than import in this region. Therefore, to materialize their belief, many components have been set up, mainly, Preferential trading Arrangement (PTA), ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), ASEAN Industry Cooperation (AICO), ASEAN Investment Cooperation (AIC), Service Cooperation, Cooperation in Customs, Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and forestry so on and so forth[1]. According to ASEAN leader, in 2020 the abovementioned policy that liberalizes the trade, investment, and free movement of people will be achieved [2]. However, despite this policy has been launched for many years, the new statistics about the intra and extra ASEAN trade shows something in contradict. According to the 2006 Intra and Extra ASEAN Trade issued on 15 August 2007, while 25.1 % represent the trade that ASEAN make with their members, 74.9 % indicate the trade that they make with other non-ASEAN member countries[3] (please see the appendix 1). In other word, ASEAN member still has some weakness in implementing their ideal policy to harmonize their intra-trade. It is believed that if this situation is still the same, the goal will not be reached. Therefore, by seeing the weakness, this paper is going to choose free labor movement as the indicator to explain that ASEAN need to put more effort otherwise, it will not achieve what it plans. Cambodia and Thailand are selected as the sample in this paper. The reason that this indicator is chosen is because, as Patric Ohlsson[4] cited Beyrer, “there is a very strong bond between the states in Southeast Asia, which is based much upon the economy and trade, even at the most simple level of the society, and that economy can not exist without the people and their labor.” However, while ASEAN leaders believed that economy and trade is the only way that Southeast Asian states can survive, the people and their labours which is the main source of the economic existence never come into the true consideration of ASEAN leaders.

Furthermore, this paper will argue that the bilateral agreement without legal spirit could not help the regional economic growth but creates the bad feeling among the migrant workers because it could not help protect the rights of workers, but encourage the exploitation and corruption. This bilateral should be reformed as the law based agreement which can reward or punish the party that breaks it. To do this, it can prevent its members from breaking the law and working out the problems by their own way. Secondly, it is argued that while allowing people to cross the border to work or do business, the mutual understanding program should be created to reduce the nationalist sentiment. To do this, ASEAN not only get its objective of its regional economic integration succeed but it also can create what it calls the socio-cultural community.


Recently, there is a welcomed remark for Cambodia that encounters the economic growth in the region. The estimated GDP is around 7.5% in 2008[5]. However, it is believed that GDP growth does not mean all the people can enjoy it. The economic growth distribution still has the big disparity between the rich and powerful and the poor. It is reported that the per capita GDP is proximately 356 dollars (?) (According to U.S Department of State, Per capita GDP in 2007 is around 571USD(?)[6]; however, whatever they are reported, they are still low compared to other countries. According to Vichuta Ly and LSCW team[7] cited Gender ad Development Network, in 2003 90% of Cambodian people [in the rural areas] still live under the poverty line. In other word, while depending their lives on the small farm land, they have to find another source of income; otherwise, they will face the crisis or bankruptcy. One of the sources that they can depend on is migration. While some people decide to migrate inside the country, other decide to migrate outside the country where they believe or hear that salary is more better off than in Cambodia. For instance, according to Sarthi[8] who did research on Labour migration in the transitional Economies of Southeast Asia (2003), in the late 1990s, the daily salary in Cambodia was ranged from 0.50 to 0.80 USD, while it ranged from 2.20 to 6.10 USD in Thailand. So, Thailand becomes the attracting country for poor Cambodian people. According to the same author, nearly all of the 163 respondents who had experienced the migration to Thailand, were underprivileged, 47 % did not have land and 23% had land less than one hectare.

While Cambodian economy is categorized as one of the poorest country and still depend on foreign aids, Thailand becomes one of the most developed countries in Southeast Asia. Even there is some deflation recently, U.S. department of state shows that Thailand’s GDP in 2007 was around 4.8 % and the per capita was around 3,737 USD. Moreover, Thailand becomes the world exporter in some fields to the west and other countries in the world, and has played the most important role in GMS by becoming the destination place for all the poor migrants to migrate to work.

Therefore, the poverty at the original home and the expectation of the high salary in the destination become the push and pull factors for Cambodian to migrate. However, life that they dream for is not coming true yet. Below will describe more how those migrants face the problems in Thailand but before going in detail I wish to explain about the Asian way or non-interference which most ASEAN countries have adapted and also have been under the criticism from the western democracy or human right agencies.


According to the nature of ASEAN, non-interference or Asian value is taken and applied in the full range by the ASEAN leaders. Due to this norm, ASEAN does not have or does not want to interfere into its state members. Whatever state members choose policies (democracy or socialist), ASEAN does not care about and this serves as the base for the public to criticize its role so far. One of the criticisms is ASEAN allowed Myanmar to be its member even this country is condemned worldwide as one of the worst country in term of abusing human rights. Moreover, there are a lot of examples how the ASEAN’s loose policy lead its members, sometime, choose to do whatever they want even it is not humanitarian. For instance, while Singapore and Cambodia choose to be authoritarian states which allow the raid against or outlaw the public demonstration, Thailand decided to use force to not only kill nearly 1300 people during the government campaign on “war on drugs [9]”, sacked out the Karen to Myanmar where the fighting between Myanmar government and the insurgents still exist [10], and also recently cracked down the demonstration which resulted of the death of two people and many injured. Therefore, Vitat Muntarbhorn[11] summarized Asian Value (or its non-interference) as follows:

The claim of Asian Values is presumptuous and misleading in a variety of ways. First, it is not so much the conundrum concerning “what are Asian values?” but “who is making the argument?” which is really the key to unraveling the subject. A number of governments have, for their own political ends, capitalized upon the Asian values argument to legitimize their action against the population and as a testament to opportunism. In a sense, the Asian values argument is very much a state instrument-an instrument d’etat- which some less than democratic governments use to gloss over their excesses and lend themselves credibility while dampening popular participation and democratic constituents. This is a process of politicization and instrumentaliszation, claiming to provide a homogenized approach for Asia, when in fact it does not represent the expectation of civil society and democracy in the heterogeneous setting which personifies Asia.

Furthermore, In ASEAN, there is no regional or group law based agreement which can have the effective measurement to deal with the problem in the region. ASEAN members prefer or are advised to use Memorandum of Understanding or Bilateral Agreement in stead. This way of dealing can be seen in the recent case between Cambodian and Thai border conflict. ASEAN’s general secretariat just advised these two countries to deal with each other in bilateral agreement. There is no any intervention/ interference/ mediation formed as the pressure or facilitation for these two countries to deal with each other peacefully. Therefore, with no hope, weak arm force, and regardless of ASEAN, Cambodia wish to bring the matter to UN, while Thailand, with strong and modern arm force, but does not want to bring the matter to UN, tries to ask Cambodia to agree bilaterally. As the consequence, recently, the injuries of two Thai and one Cambodian armies resulted from the small arm clash reflects more tension and the failure of bilateral agreement and the role of ASEAN to keep its member dealing peacefully. Neither these both sides admit their mistakes.

Come to the core argument of this paper, in term of cooperation in employment of workers, Cambodia and Thailand signed the MOU to facilitate migration in 31st May 2003. Thai government played the role as the receiving country while Cambodia is the sending country. This agreement allows eight authorized companies to recruit and send Cambodian people to work in Thailand as proposed by the employers in Thailand. A review through this MOU, there are two main articles to protect the rights of the migrant workers. They are:

Article 17: The parties in the employing country shall ensure that the workers enjoys protection in accordance with the provisions of the domestic law in their respective country
Article 18: workers of both parties are entitled to wage and other benefits due for local workers based on the principles of non-discrimination and equality of sex, race, and religion[12]. (p.52)

Despite there is the agreement in the paper which reflect some rights respects to the workers, recently there is the criticism from the public and the academics that it is not fair for the workers. While they pay for all the process, the sending government who gain benefit from the remittance and the receiving country who get the high contribution to its GDP do not spend anything. For the receiving country, Bangkok Post (20 December 2007) quoted ILO, “while Thailand’s estimated 1.8 million migrant workers earned 2 Billion USD, in wages last year but may have contributed 11 billion, or 6.2 %, to the gross domestic product.” In the sending country there are some benefit gaining for its economics too. Masud Hassan Siddique[13] showed that approximately 300 million USD remittance from Thailand are sent to Cambodia, Lao, and Myanmar.

According to Chantavanich et al [14], the worker has to pay totally around 20000 Baht (nearly 600 USD) for the process. While this money will be deducted monthly by the employer, the worker still face a lot of problems in term of increasing price of accommodation, food, bad living and working condition, so on and so forth. Their finding is supported by Khoun Saingpanarith[15], an official from Ministry of Labour and Vocational training Cambodia. he described the difficulties of the labor as below

The problems faced by both documented and undocumented Cambodian worker migrants in Thailand are enormous. In many cases, migrants are restricted from freedom and movement due to fear of arrest and deportation. Most migrants are employed on the fishing boats and fish processing sites irregularly or high risk professions. Language barrier is a major problem. This resulted in lack of work contract and the migrants are mistreated by employers and supervisors. For documented migrants, the high cost of registration often results in debts. Many migrants lack information about rights, laws, and registration process. (p.13)

Moreover, time to process this application is too long (around 3 to 6 months) which becomes the barrier for those who are in the very need. And since corruption is involved, the tea money will not be refunded and the applicants are not guaranteed to receive the job either. Those who pay more, those who can get the job first. As witness in these last two or three years, while there are jobs available with higher salary in Korea, many people pay the tea money which is sometime around 1000 or 1500 dollars to the brokers, who claim to involve or have the very close connection to the persons who take in charge of screening the applicants. However, some brokers just take the money, do not provide any jobs to the people, and do not return the money back. Those that are cheated in this process, go out to protest in front of the parliament or Prime minister’s house to ask for their money back to pay for the high interest debts, but it is in vain. Maybe Thailand is not different form Cambodia either even in different form. It is reported that police sometime bully the money from the workers even though they are documented. The minimum is around 200 bath (more than 5 dollars). And sometime, the employers can spend money for the police to arrest or deport those who try to protest against the working condition. For the police, migrant workers are not trustworthy[16].

Additionally, even they are provided the jobs, there is no any mechanism to make sure that the contract is followed and the environment of the work is safe. Alison Vicary[17] did her research in Thailand and summed up the finding in her own word as follows

In province such as Kanchanaburi, Lobburi and Pechaburi (Thailand), there is a lot of quarrying going on. The wages are quit good; we have not yet analyzed injury rates nor done any costing on that. But OHS (occupational Health and Safety) is very poor and from roughly 50 men, around one per month is killed. Blindness, paralysis, and head injuries are commonplace. The conditions are primitive at best, for example, what you see is the guys drilling holes in the rock, these are the guys who work at the bottom, and then they will put nitro-glycerin and the detonator in, then they run around the rocks and light the fire, and then run from the explosions. Women also face OHS problems because they work in the belt system where the rocks are crushed for road making, and all the machinery is exposed. I think about two months ago there was a woman killed because her hair was caught in a band and her whole body was dragged into the machinery. No safety helmets, harnesses, anything, nor warning system when the explosions are going to take place. (P.22)

Even recently, there are a lot of criticisms to the immigration law in Thailand that looks like unconstitutional. For instance, a criticism was reported in Bangkok Post in June 17 2008 saying[18],

The alien working act, which came into force on Feb 22, is prejudiced, unconstitutional and a breach of human rights, …the law focused on national security and the economic benefit for business operators. It was passed without any public hearing.
…officials can conduct a search without obtaining a court warrant.
Under the act, unlicensed migrant workers face a maximum of five years imprisonment or a 100000 baht fine, or both. A migrant worker who fails to carry a work permit could be fined up to 10000 baht.
…while unlicensed alien worker face harsh prison terms, the employers had been spared. For example, employers hiring unlicensed workers are exempt from criminal charges. However, employers will be fined 10000-100000 baht for every unlicensed worker.

Remarkably, it is reported that the Cambodian embassy in Thailand knows about the case that both legal and illegal migrants are arrested by the Thai police; however, there is no any clear measurement to protect them or give them any advice [19]. The information of the poor working condition and exploitation never sent to inform the people in their country. It is unbelievable that around 800 to 1000 Cambodian people are arrested and deported back each month by the Thai police [20]. Furthermore, ironically, the working contract is only in Thai and English language. Cultural and working orientation has not done as much as in the case of the Korean where basic language, culture, and working orientation have to be done in Cambodia or in Korea before allowing to work, even the role of embassy is similarly unsatisfactory. Therefore, without any legal support from both the sending and receiving country, the workers could not enjoy many rights, but are exploited and paid less. And this is one of the reasons that some worker fail to pay for the registration after they become poorer and poorer. And sometime they failed into the trap of the traffickers and become the forced or sex workers.

Many people see MOU as the legal mechanism; however, repeatedly the party of MOU also abuses their agreement. Some raids and arrests have been done to the factories or brothels. The arrestees sometime were detained and deported without any screening process. For example, according to Phil Robertson[21] even there is Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between Cambodia and Thailand to protect the rights of the workers and provide the support to the trafficked victims, in 2003 and 2004 in order to prepare the luxurious aspect of Bangkok for the APEC meeting, the Thai government arrested and deported the Cambodian women and children beggars without screening who can be the victims of trafficking. Therefore, Rosalia Sciortino provided the weak points of MOU as follows:

Initial attempt to support this intervention is through bilateral agreement. Nevertheless, present bilateral agreements are still lack of legal protection. Migrants at destination countries often experience poor living condition, exposed to health hazards and had barriers in accessing health and education services.

According to Reiko Harima, “the impact of local policies on migrants’ lives can lead to the increased racism and further division between migrants and local community”; therefore, the case between Thai and Cambodia should be treated in the special manner. Since people claimed that they inherit from the old kingdom that have made enemies with each other for thousand of years. Hostility and sensitivity is still very influential and serve as the weapon to destroy the relationship between Cambodian and Thai and their cross-border trade. However, all this points are not yet drawn seriously attention of the ASEAN leaders. Only from the academics, the warning is given to set up the programs that can reduce the hostility and good cooperation among the ASEAN people.

The riot against the Thai film star, Suwanan Khongying which resulted in burning down the Cambodian based Thai embassy and destroying many Thai business establishments, does not only mean that the anger erupted because of the rumor that she looked down Cambodian people or would like to take Angkor Wat temple, the Cambodian national pride, for Thai people. But it also derived from the long hostility ignited by their own history books. Thongchai Winichakul[22] expressed that, for Thai people, such hostility is resulted from the nationalist movement during the war between the French and Thai in 1893 when the Thai elites tried to push Thai people to hate French and its colony, Cambodian people. However, the hatred feeling did not only start from the time of war, but went beyond even to the 16th century when it was reported that Cambodian king took the opportunity to fight against the Thai, when they were involved with the Burmese war. Then that memory was ignited again by the international court in 1962 who decided to return the Cambodian ancient temple, Preah Vihara, to Cambodia.

However, as for Cambodian historiography, it probably came to existence in the period of Colonialism. In Cambodian history, Thai is the one who destroyed their great Angkor civilization, and mistreated them even after that. They destroyed 16th century Lungwak palace, killed and put many people in slave. Their hostility became bigger and bigger when talking about the invasion and taking control of Preah Vihara by Thailand before the 1962 international court’s decision, and during the flee from the Pot Pot regime, it was reported that many Cambodian people were robbed or raped, and killed by the Thai armies. However, notably, they both claim they lost the land to each other.

Therefore, the riot is the result not only from the rumor, but from the long hostility they had after they read their history books. The riot is very fierce and nearly became the battle field. As Alexxanser Hinton[23] described the feeling of both people as follows

If this Thai actress said that she hates Cambodians like dogs, we would like to tell her that Cambodian throughout the country hate Thai like leeches that suck other nation’s blood…If it is true, Khonying must lower her head to the ground and salute by placing palm to palm in order to apologize to Cambodians, who are a gentle and polite race and have never encroached on other countries’ land. It is insulting enough for Cambodian to hear Thai wickedly saying to their Children, “you must not be born a Khmer in your next life and so on. (p.445)

The Thai response was immediate and strong, as the government downgraded diplomatic relations; closed the border; began evicting thousands of Cambodian traders, beggars and labourers; and demanded an apology, and investigation, arrests and compensation… Thailand had assumed a military posture, ready F-16 fighter jets, commandos and special forces to enter Cambodia if C-130s had been attacked… many Thai on web board were outraged about what had happened, particularly the highly insulting desecration of the king’s portrait, and called for military action (Khun Tui, [#19 let go war with Cambodian]) (P.450)

Not long enough, recently there was a big conflict again between Cambodia and Thailand on the status of Preah Vihear temple being awarded as the world heritage. This conflict again involved with many university students, academics, and politicians of both countries. They tried to push their governments to claim for the ownership of the temple. And this time looks more serious than the riot in 2003 because it involves with the military tension which resulted of the injuries of Thai and Cambodian armies during their arm clash. Interesting enough, while there was the clash between the armies, the newspaper did not warn about the bigger conflict but instead tried to claim that the number of Thai wounded armies is less than the Cambodian or the Cambodian is less than the Thai.

In term of cross border trade, it also affected by both the riot in 2003 and the new conflict, Cambodian people always ask the government to boycott the goods from Thailand. As the result, the Thai lost their gain from their trade while Cambodia who demanded for goods supplies from Thailand causes the shortage of goods and the high price. It is reported that Thailand should take more flexible action since Cambodia is one of their local market. As the matter of fact, Thailand imported from Cambodia only 11.7 million USD (the average amount), Thailand exported to this country 475.2 million USD. However, Cambodia also need to soften their stance to this conflict because it still need capital and market for their own local products and labor market for their own people. Interesting enough, all the time when such conflict happened, the complaint from the workers of both sides are always cited about the suffers or grievance resulting from the exploitation, cheating, assaulting so on and so forth. For example, while Cambodian complained about the bad employers who did not pay them the salary but called the police to arrest them or some of their relatives being detained, maltreated, raped, and killed by the border soldiers, the Thai complained about being cheated, looted, destroyed their products by the Cambodian. Therefore, to let all these things come to the public without any clarification and serious solution, the past wound can be hurt and the conflict will happen again.

As it is depicted above already, ASEAN leaders encourage their members to make bilateral cooperation but the cooperation is mostly related to the economic cooperation which focuses mostly on the movement of the goods, but not much labour workers. This is seen as unfair for the less developed countries because their poor people, with the high rate of unemployment, need more jobs outside of their countries but it turns out that this sector is very strictly restricted. However, even the governments of both countries, the sending and receiving, try to create the MOU to help facilitate some limited space for the labour movement, it is not much helpful. The fee to process the out-migration is very expensive and it takes too long time which they can not wait. Moreover, even they can go to work, the salary is limited and the living cost including the accommodation, food, so on and so forth is very high. Some of them fall into debts, could not renew the registration and then become the illegal migrants who will be likely to be exploited by the employers, polices, and the traffickers. Furthermore, MOU is not fully implemented as it is not the law based agreement.  Furthermore, since the historical hostility is high between Cambodia and Thailand, there is no any real program to create the mutual understanding among the people of these two countries. So, very often the same conflict always happens, and it did not only affect the people, but the trade, and ASEAN goal. Therefore, as the recommendation, ASEAN should look into not only the regional economic integration, but the migrant worker integration too. ASEAN should be aware that those people are the ambassadors who will report everything to their people when they return back. Therefore, the program for mutual understanding should be provided

[1] Please see Apirat Petchsiri. 2002. Market Economy, Regional Integration and Laws in Thailand: Overview of Free-Trade, Regionalism, and the Rule of Law, in Apirat Petchsiri et al. (ed). Comparative Regional Integration: ASEAN and the EU. P.8. Thailand: Interdisciplinary Department of European Studies, Chulalongkorn University.
[2] Nattapong Thongpakde. 2001. ASEAN Free Trade Area: Progress and Challenges. in Mya Than (ed). ASEAN Beyond the Regional Crisis: Challenges and initiatives. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. P. 66.
[3] Please see
[4] Patric Ohlsson. 2003. The Modern Slave Trade: Trafficking in Women and Children in the Mekong Sub-Region. Mater Degree Thesis. Lund University: Department of Sociology. P. 17.
[5] please see
[6] please see
[7] Vichata Ly and LSCW team. 2008. Gender Analysis of the Patterns of Human Trafficking into and through Koh Kong Province, in Suchada Thaweesit, Peter Vail, and Rosalia Sciotino. ed. Transboder Issues in the Great Mekong Sub-region. Thailand: The Mekong Sub-region Social Research Center (MSSRC), Ubon Ratchathani University.
[8] Sarthi Acharya. 2003. Labour Migration and Urbanisation. Thailand: Economic and Social Commission For Asia and the Pacific, United Nation Building. P. 7
[9] please see
[10] please see
[11] Vitat Muntarbhorn. 2004. Rule of Law and Aspects of Human Rights in Thailand: from Conceptualization to Implementation?, in Randall Peerenboom. ed. Asian Discourses of Rule of Law: Theories and Implementation of Rule of Law in Twelve Asian Countries, France and the U.S. London and New York: Routledge.
[12] Vitit Muntarbhorn. 2005. The Mekong Challeng Employment and Protection of Migrant Workers in Thailand: National Laws/Practices versus International Labour Standards. Bangkok: ILO.
[13] Mekong Institute. Policy Dialogue Preceedings: Transborder Migration Policy Implementation and Monitoring: Its effectiveness and Current Policy Gaps in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. 15-17 November 2007. Thailand: Mekong Institute.
[14] Chantavanich, Supang. 2007. Synthesis Report: Migration Recruitment from Cambodia and Lao into Thailand. Thailand: Asain Research Center for Migration, Chulalongkorn University.
[15] Mekong Institute. Policy Dialogue Preceedings: Transborder Migration Policy Implementation and Monitoring: Its effectiveness and Current Policy Gaps in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. 15-17 November 2007. Thailand: Mekong Institute.
[16] please see Mekong Migration Network and Asian Migrant Center. 2004. Mekong Symposium On Migration: Protecting Migrants’ rights when they leave the Host Country. Chiang Mai, Thailand.
[17] ibit.
[18] please see
[19] Chantavanich, Supang. 2007. Synthesis Report: Migration Recruitment from Cambodia and Lao into Thailand. Thailand: Asain Research Center for Migration, Chulalongkorn University.
[20] Royal Cambodian Government. National Report for UN about Women and Children Trafficking from 2000-2004. (not date and publish place). (in Khmer)
[21] ibit.
[22] Thongchai Winichakul. 2004. Trying to locate Southeast Asia from its Navel: Where is Southeast Asian Studies in Thailand? Siksacakr, No. 6, 2004 PP-52-63. Cambodia: Center for Khmer Studies.
[23] Alexander Hinton. 2006. Khmerness and the Thai ‘Other’: Violence, Discourse and Symbolism in the 2003 Anti-Thai Riots in Cambodia. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 37 (3), pp445-468. University of Singapore.













































June 15, 2010


Women in Cambodia received much attention only after the UNTAC operating their peace-building and first national election in the early 1990s. The reason behind such attention is because there was the research result showing that women were in the very low economic, political, and social status. In the family level, they lived dependently on their husband rather than being the equal partner in supporting their family and sometime such dependency drives them to have domestic violence so often. And even they worked very hard in the household or in the farm, their jobs are usually considered as the secondary (or slight) and unpaid job which is not valued in the society and culture. One of the reasons is because they did not access to the education or vocational training and jobs. The government before the 1990s adopted the state market rather than free market which led to the shortage of jobs. Most people were just farmers and lived on their farming. Education was very limited since there was civil war in the country and lack of funds and human resources. Additionally, a long civil war also becomes the main mental cause which made men, especially the soldiers, to be alcoholic and use violence to solve their family problems, and the long civil war also revitalize the existing belief that women should not be allowed to go away from home or to study higher.

In the government level, only a few women got high position. As Trudy Anne Jacobsen[1] described in her Ph.D thesis, until the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in the early 1990s only 18% of the parliament members were women. In 2001, among 13.1 million population, 52 % of them were women [2], but according to the statistics in 2003, 65% of women were farmers. Therefore, more funds and projects had been flowed into Cambodia on the purpose of empowering Cambodian women. However, as Petre Santry[3] expressed, those projects failed to address gender issues in Cambodia. He put in his word, “despite the constitution of the newly elected democratic government in Cambodia in 1993 including laws to end all forms of discrimination against women, and a strong national development agenda for women being supported by international funding bodies and numerous NGOs in the 1990s, the vast majority of women saw little change to their situation.” Therefore, Petre Santry as well as other researchers, practitioners, academicians had doubt and did research if Cambodian culture generates the barriers to empower the women.

However, such exploration created many contradict ideas, and interestingly, such contradict ideas happened not only among foreigners (outsider) but also Cambodian people (the insider). For instance, while some of them record that Cambodian women did not even enjoy as equal right as their male counterpart, some of them examine and find out some rights Cambodian women have received. Therefore, this paper is going to show that clash by taking account first about the contradict ideas to record what they call the history of Cambodian women, and then provide more examples and debates among the foreigners and Cambodian about what they agree and disagree.


In Southeast Asia as well as in Cambodia, there is still a very controversial debate that before the colonial period there is no such Cambodia as the present Cambodia. It is believed that in pre colonial period, all the kingdoms hosted many ethnics and did not have a polity to demarcate their land or define the people in their land as their own citizens. People had freedom to move where they wanted if they found that the king was not good enough. Usually, people attached to the king only because of the religion and patron-client relationship. There is no such nationalism or nation-state to attach people to their land, their nation, or their government.

From the aforementioned fundamental idea, a question is raised up how the researchers can write the history of Cambodian women to answer the criticism that historians never pay much attention to women. According to the review on many research papers, it is likely that researchers just write their own studies base on only their own background rather than developing a unique model to record Cambodian women; and sometime their finding is similar and sometime is contradict to each other. Among those researchers we could differentiate into two groups-those that write part of the women history, and those that write the whole part of women history.


In the field of religion, Andaya Barbara Watson[4] explained how Southeast Asian women contributed to Buddhist survival and enjoyed some special status such as the mothers of the monks and the spirit mediums that villagers highly respected. May Ebihara[6], in 1968, found something that could confirm Andaya Barbara’s idea. She did her ethnography research on one Cambodian village, Svay, in which one part of her thesis described about the live of women in the grass root level and find out that even though Buddhism and legal code provided more privilege to the men, in the village men and women seemed to enjoy equal right. But she also observed that women’s movement is still confined to the specific location since some dangers such as rape can happen to them.

Penny Edwards[5], as the scholar of the colonial history, in her two articles,  provide how the identity of the women were changed. In her first article, Restyling Colonial Cambodia (1860-1954): French Dressing, Indigenous Custom and National Costume Fashion Theory, she explained that French just could not identify if they were women or men since Cambodian women had big build, smoked cigarette, had a short hair cut, and dressed as if a man did. And with such confuse drove the French to restyle Cambodian women’s dress, hair and so on and so forth as if what they had in their own country.

However, in her second article, Womanizing Indochina: Fiction, Nation and Cohabitation in Colonial Cambodia, she provides the paradoxical identity of the women after being modernized by the French because after being modernized, those women were seen by the French, especially the French government and women in France, as the threat to the purity of the French race. They saw Cambodian women as those who need them to dominate and fulfill their sexual desire. Such perception alerted the French to concern about the intermarriage or the children of the intermarriage that could put the French purified race into question. This is, the French tried to forbid their fellows from making any sexual relationship or getting married with Cambodian women. Those who broke the rule would be disintegrated from the French community.
Judy Ledgerwood[7], as the anthropologist, tries to explore the perception of Cambodian women on their gender role through the folktale. May be contradicted to some of previous researchers, her finding recorded that Cambodian folktale such as Mea Yoeng played the role as the prescription to the women to cline to what it is called as Srey Kruap Leakkh (perfectly virtuous woman) which required woman to “know how to keep order in the household, how to cook delicious food, wash clothes, take care of babies…” She also talked about Cbab Srey[8] (code of women) that binds women to the concept of Srey Kruap leakkhe which provided a little space for them in the society.

Anuska Derk[9], the expert in urban migration, while recorded many cultural issue related to the obstacles to empower women, also tried to describe how women tried to move from those obstacles in order to migrate away from their home to earn money for their poor family ‘s survival. She even mentioned more that, to some extent, those women become the income source for their family; however, their seclusion from family or village become the stereotype that some people use to look down on them. As she put in her word,

Even though migration to the city has nowadays become a more viable option for young women from the countryside, the reputation of a young woman leaving her village for work in Phnom Penh may be quickly called into question by villagers speculating about her virtue and the nature of her work. A young woman who is leaving the spatial boundary of the village is considered to be vulnerable to the dangerous influences that are associated with leaving the social order of the village and against which she is supposed to be protected. Her behavior will therefore easily be considered as morally doubtful. A woman leaving such a protected environment is, as Peou noted, like a flower outside the gate. As long as the flower is inside the gate, the owner will take care of and protect it, but a flower outside the gate is unprotected, and therefore susceptible to the harassment, scorn and games of other, most notably in relation to her sexuality.” (p.76-77)

Trudy Anne Jacobsen maybe is treated as the very special case since her study using different approach and tried to take all the account of the women in Cambodia since the prehistory until nowadays, which is opposed by some historians that believed no such smooth set of history of a nation state starting from the prehistory until nowadays. According to her, aside from referring to the Nang Nak (Naga), who is written in the Cambodian literature as the first tribal (or kingdom)leader in Cambodia before Preah Thong, the Indian Brahman (or prince?) invaded her kingdom, married her, and become the first male king, she claimed that according to the statues of some female goddess, women may have the important role in Cambodia. However, later on, the disappearance of the statues and the introduction of more male god statues convinced her to draw the conclusion that it was the beginning of the male domination at that time. She traced the roles of the women more in different historical stages but the role of women seem to vary according to the reign of the king, era, or regime–sometime down sometime up.     

Therefore, as abovementioned, we can see many ways of writing the history of Cambodian women; but the problem is why this or that author write like this or that also come to the question and may vary from one to another. For instance, in the case of Trudy, the reason that led her to write her paper by using her historical approach recording everything from the early day is because she would like to answer to the debate that some people believed that Cambodian women really enjoyed the high status in the past and some people believed that those women were powerless. However, the question is raised to her how she can define all part of her information as refer to what she called Cambodian History. According to her thesis, it seems she depended on the inscription; however, even inscriptions were in the debate, not only for the correct meaning or interpretation but also their ownership. Some people believed that Cambodian language have been used only since the 6th century (because it is used the Cambodian language; previous inscriptions used Sanskrit), so how she can prove that the inscriptions before that belonged to Cambodia. And as mentioned above already, there was no such nation state as if we had nowadays, so what can be drawn a conclusion that these queens or kings have a role to play in the  gender history of the present Cambodia. She also quoted Zhou Daguan, but the problem with Zhou Dagaun’s source is it is full of hearsay, and without the specific border, who could clarify that the women Zhou Daguan referred to is Cambodian women. Moreover, in the middle age of Cambodia, she even used the Cambodian Chronicles as her reference, but it is very often warned to the readers to be careful to use them too. And for other people who mentioned about the Cbab Srey (codes of women), the folktale, or religion (Buddhism) also come to the question that to what extent and how many Cambodian people those Cbabs, folktales or religion can influence.

In conclusion, there is no clear answer yet to the way how the history of Cambodian women should be recorded; the researchers on Cambodian women have come up with some similar and different idea. This is because they use different approaches and objectives. While some use anthropology to study about the village structure, the belief, the culture, and the religion, other use historical approach which recorded how women played the role along with their male counterparts. However, it is remarkable that the problem still exist posing the question if the time frame of history of Cambodian women can be counted from the prehistory until nowadays, to what extent the territory should be included to record the history of Cambodian women –from some part of present Thailand until some part of present Vietnam, which usually claimed by Cambodian people as their lost land), and finally how they can generalize their finding as the representative of whole Cambodian women.  


Trudy’s case is very interesting again to be debated here since she receives both the agreement and disagreement from Cambodian people and foreign researchers. She, and many Cambodian people, tried to describe the history of Cambodian women since the prehistory. From the prehistory until the beginning of Angkor period, she started with the legend that the first leader of Cambodia was the queen whose name is Nang Nak (Naga), Liu Yi or Soma. However, she was conquered and became a wife of the Indian Brahmin who then became the king of Cambodia. They even cited Chinese envoy who came to the area in 230 to prove this legend as the true one. And many kings even use that legend to seek for the legitimacy by claiming as their descendents. Such practice seemed to continue for a long time. As shown clearly, Yasovarman (889-921) built a temple in which erected the statues of his matriarchal ancestors to show that his ascendance to the throne was legitimated. Such a highly respected status also existed in the belief, Zhou Daguan[10], another Chinese envoy, narrated in his annals that he heard that if the king did not went to sleep with the female Naga who would transform into a girl, his kingdom would face the disaster.

One of Trudy remarkable observation also makes Cambodian people happy because she found out that there was even the erection of the independent Devi (goddess) in the temples in the pre-Angkor period. For example, there were the erection of the statues of Durga Mohissuramardani (the slayer of the buffalo-demon), Uma, so on and so forth as the very independent goddesses without associating to other male counterparts. Moreover, at least two queens were recorded as be able to ascend the throne after their husband or father died. For instance, Queen Kulaprabhavati (514-517) and Queen Jayadevi (685-720).

One interesting thing should be noticed, Trudy tried to explain that in the Angkor period (802-around 14th or 15th century) that women did not enjoy their highly respected status anymore even though she mentioned that some women received the high and respected status[11].[For instance, In addition to Jayarajadevi and Indradevi, queens of Jayavarman VII, who were the professors and persons in charge of three ‘universities’: Nagendratunge, Tilakottare, and Narendrasrama, Trudy, citing Zhou Daguan, said that Cambodian women were considered as the favorite wives of the Chinese because they were good at trading.]. She provided some examples especially the erection of the independent goddesses who were absent in this period. Those goddesses were erected only to supplement their male but superior god. She even described how the kings managed to put all the women into their control as the faithful wife who served their sexual desire, and sometime they even used violence against women. As Trudy wrote, “the wives of the kings’ enemies were the recipients of particular violence in the inscriptions. The wife of Dharmaraja ‘was struck by the enemy in his presence.’ as inscription of Suryavarman I related that ‘the women of his enemies became dwellers of caves full of serpents, where they found neither food nor pleasure; they bore their sorrows with difficulty, stripped of all coquetry…The widow of his enemy, burned by the fire of chagrin, stripped of her finery, old before her time, unrecognizable, was as a forest in high summer.” (p.72-73)

However, this point maybe go against the mentality of Cambodian people who believe that their kings are the great kings that left them with many marvelous things and pride such as Angkor Wat. Interestingly enough, while Trudy quoted Zhou Daguan who heard about women in Angkor that they loved to have adultery with other or they went to have bath publicly without any clothes as the way to attract any men; such thing really upset Cambodian people. According to them, there is no such uncivilized thing happened to Cambodian women. Some Cambodian people even claim that it could not be verified since Zhou Daguan just heard from other people. Furthermore, some Cambodian people even tried to find out some Apsara images on the Angkor Wat temple to show that at least those Apsara wear some clothes or thin clothes; they were not naked.

(PICTURE MISSING) These two lines show that she wears the shirt.

Another point that Trudy really upset Cambodian too is about the deflowering that Zhou Daguan heard from his Chinese fellows too. It was said that the parents of Cambodian girls would ask the priests to deflower their daughters who reached the age between seven to eleven. According to Zhou Daguan, it was the official ceremony that the state allowed. The parent of the girl had to ask for permission first before they received the candle which marked the time when the ceremony could be arranged. And the priest would use his hand or a very small stick to deflower. Zhou Daguan even said that sometime the priest slept with that girl. One priest could do only one ceremony per year. After the ceremony the parents had to buy their daughter back from the priest with many gifts; otherwise, she would belong to the priest and could not get married. It is believed that at Phnom Rung Temple (currently located in Thailand but it is believed as one of the ancient temple built by Cambodian kings) there is the image of such ceremony describing the one man probably was the priest, and another man was his assistant using the fake male sexual organ to deflower the girl in one room, while her parent were waiting in another room with the panic faces.

This sounds very wild or uncivilized for the present Cambodian people. They even argue that it is the hearsay, and there is no clear evidence about that on the walls of the temples in Angkor area. And the interpretation seemed to be unclear either since the temple usually depicted only about the myth of the glorious gods rather than the folk belief. And more interestingly they even argue that if there was such ceremony, why there was only in Phnom Rung, but not in the central Cambodia; and they even posed a question about Zhou Daguan’s journey if he came to Cambodia via the part of present Thailand or from the present Cambodia. If from the part of Thailand, who knew what he describes so far along his journey was the story of Cambodian women.

While Trudy wrote about the middle age of Cambodian history, she often mentioned about the Cbab which was influenced by Buddhism. To this point, her thesis looked a bit confused since there are many mixtures of ideas that one part supporting that women, to some extent, enjoyed as equal rights as their counterpart, but some idea criticizing such idea because Cbab made even the present Cambodian women inferior and submissive to the men even though serious violence happened to them. However, the contradict ideas in her thesis also reflect in many researches by others writers. For instance, Trudy, Andaya Barbara Watson, or even Guthrie Elizabeth gave some example that women enjoyed some special status in Buddhism. Buddhist monks even understand that their survival is because of the women’s support. Therefore, there is no much pressure on those women. And sometime, some preaching involve with the appreciation of women’s important role; such as the great mothers, the great wives, and the strong pillars of Buddhism. One of Buddha’s story saying that Buddha could receive enlightenment only because he received the first food from a woman after his three month fastening that nearly killed him. Moreover, the mother can accrue a lot of merit because of her child’s ordination which prove the great relationship between mother and the monk. Interestingly too, women can become the medium or the powerful spirit that people worship in the village. Below is the picture of Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Cham or Neang Chek Neang Chorm, Buddha-looked-like-female goddess or spirit. At the first glance, those who do not know about Cambodian belief, would think that it is the picture of the Buddha. Such a claim is probably right. However, for Cambodian people, this picture is Preach Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm who they believe that they have the great power to provide the happiness or harm to those that do not go to greet them. There is another similar example which the status of Jayavarman VII is transformed to Yay Tep (grandma Tep) and worshiped as a female. Interestingly, Preach Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm even enshrined on the equal stage as Buddha’s.

However, some researchers also supporting some negative points, especially about Cbab also raised in Trudy ‘s thesis. As Petre Santry cited Zimmerman and Sverous Pou [11], how Cbab put women in the male domination.

“always speak sweetly and accomplish your tasks with dexterity, weave and work with the iron and needle and finish each task forthwith… never turn your back to your husband when he sleeps and never touch his head without first bowing in his honour…you must take care of your parents and never contradict them…never tattle to your parents anything negative about your husband or this will cause the village to erupt…never go strolling to visit others…respect and fear the wishes of your husband and take his advice to hart…if your husband gives an order, do not hesitate a moment in responding…avoid posing yourself as an equal to your husband- and never above he who is your master, if he insults you, go to your room and reflect, never insult or talk back to him… have patience, prove your patience, never responding to his excessive anger…but using gentle language in response.”

Such idea supported by Guthrie Elizabeth[12]. She described that women indeed played the most important role to make Buddhism survive such as providing clothes, money, alms, services such as cooking, boiling water, donation to building the pagoda, and even allow their children to ordain as the monks while their male counterparts do not care much. However, for them, they could not enjoy the same status. They could not ordain as the monks and reach the highest goal and happiness of Buddhist with their female bodies. It was believed that they should be born as a man in their last life before they could get enlightenment and enjoy such highest happiness. (In Buddhism, it is believed that one life bears the suffering; however, after it undertakes such suffering and makes merit enough they could reach the highest goal or happiness that will guarantee that they will not suffer anymore or they will not be born anymore; otherwise, such life will continue in the cycle of the rebirth and suffers again and again). Those women, in some area, could not touch the monks or Buddha’s statues and could not go to some sacred places which is believed that the menstrual of the women can impurify them.

Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)[13] also found out that Cambodian Culture and Cbab is really block the women from seeking the legal protection but keep them as the inferior.

Like many other Cambodian women, Srey Mom suffered domestic violence for years without telling her extended family or friends or trying to seek assistance. Often the shame of exposing marital problems to outsiders is enough to make many women keep silent. In addition, Cambodian culture promotes a culture of female inferiority. Women who experience domestic violence will often blame themselves for their partner’s violence. Cambodia maintains a traditional moral code of behavior, the Chbab Srey, that states that women must serve and respect their husbands at all times. Advice includes ‘never tattle anything to your parents about your husband or this will cause the village to erupt’; ‘never turn your back to your husband when he sleeps and never touch his head without first bowing in honour’; and ‘have patience, prove your patience, never respond to his excessive anger.’ Culture and tradition dictates that women striving to attain this behavior will be rewarded. (P. 12)


From the colonial period until the present day, Trudy may come to agreement with many researchers. She did describe the negative aspect that the French did to Cambodian women, even though they did introduce and encourage the women to go and study. For the French, Cambodian women seemed to be less moral and just would like to be their mistresses. During the independence under the then prince Sihanouk, women may enjoy more rights. According to Trudy From 1957 to 1964, in the primary school, number of the girls increased from 25.4% to 32%.8, from 16.1% to 21.7% in the secondary schools, and 7% to 10.8% in the university. Surprisingly, from 1957 to 64, the number of women increased from 2.4% to 21.1% in the technical and vocational training. However, Trudy explained, “policies for increased literacy and education were implemented. Yet women were impeded from exercising greater social and political power due to deeply ingrained male attitudes and ‘traditional’ social constructs that maintained the idea that men were superior to women. These constructs were assimilated through the non-critical study of ‘tradition’ Cambodian literature that dated, in most cases, only from the nineteenth century, and embodied the morality of Buddhist Scholars and an elite that turned to a more conservative form of Buddhism” (P.213) However, May Ebihara, Anday Watson Barbara or other probably found out something different from Trudy statement even though they saw men or monks considered as more knowledgeable in the village. For May Ebihara, as mentioned before, women still enjoy some special status in the village. And more interestingly Trudy’s statement maybe is opposed by former king Sihanouk himself (recently king Sihanouk is no longer the king since he selected one of his sons to be the king. His title is recently called the former king) who may claim that he was the first person who encouraged the women to be well educated and to even use their right to vote for their own leader while his opponents did not. The king may give himself the credit that to fight for the independence, he even mobilized many women to be his force which became the national heroines.

According to Trudy, the then prince Sihanouk and his mother even had some hard time when talking about the throne. However, the king would claim that he did not have any bad time with his mother. They still could have good times with each other for many years before the queen died.
Therefore, the different ideas among the foreign or local researchers can be seen in the idea that while some people think that, to some extent, culture or religion provides a special place for women, other just could not believe in that idea but propose and ask to eliminate such unfair culture which gives more privilege to the male. And interestingly, even the information is not clearly sure if true or not, there is the tendency of Cambodian people to give up what will be seen as uncivilized but record or accept only the civilized part.


It is very difficult to locate women in Cambodian history since there is no any unique method that the researchers develop. Most of the time, those research depend on their own background to study on the same subject. As stated so far, while there is the problem of writing Cambodian history, there is another problem of how to record women in Cambodian history. It still has a debate about the time frame and the size in order to record into what they called the history of Cambodian nation-state. To record from the pre history until nowadays does not mean it is wrong, but how much such history can represent Cambodian women may be put into question. Moreover, the results produced by different approaches seem to provide the idea that maybe some place or some time can not be used to represent all the history of Cambodian women. And regarding to the idea of rejecting what it looked uncivilized but accept what civilized should be tested by evidence and rational argument not by emotion or nationalism. Therefore, to record the more correct and effective tool to deal with the history of Cambodian women need all the researchers to collaborate, discuss, and develop the well organized approach that can lead to the clear cut idea of how to write the history of Cambodia. Otherwise, some who supported the idea that to some extent culture provide some special status to the women will not accept the idea of those who think culture really institutes the barriers to the development of women and would like to get rid of it. And such contradict ideas can result in the passive action in empowering or upgrading women into the society.

[1] Trudy Anne Jacobsen. 2003. Threads in a Sampot: A History of Women and Power in Cambodia. Ph.D Thesis. University of Queensland: School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics.
[2] UNIFEM, WB, ADB, and DFID/UK. 2004. A Fair Share for Women: Cambodia Gender Assessment. UNIFEM, WB, ADB, and DFID/UK. Phnom Penh, ISBN: 1-932827-00-5.
[3] Petre Santry. 2005. When Apsara Smile: Women and Development in Cambodia 1990-2000: Cultural Barriers to Change. PH.D Theses. Victoria University: Faculty of Human Development, School of Education.

[4] Andaya, Barbara Watson (2002) “Localizing the Universal: Women, Motherhood and the Appeal of Early Theravada Buddhism.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 33 (1), pp 1-30 February. Singapore: the National University of Singapore. And please see, Andaya, Barbara Watson (2000) “Introduction” in Barbara Watson Andaya (Ed.) Other Pasts: Women, Gender and History in Early Modern Southeast Asia (Honolulu: University of Hawai’I at Minoa) pp.1-26.
[5] Edwards, Penny “womanizing Indochina: Fiction, Nation, and Cohabitation in Colonial Cambodia” in Clancy-Smith, Julia and Gouda, Frances (Ed.) Domesticating the Empire: Race, Gender and Family Life in French and Dutch Colonialism ( Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998). pp.108-130. And please see, Edwards, Penny “Restyling Colonial Cambodia (1860-1954): French Dressing, Indigenous Custom and National Costume Fashion Theory: Journal of Dress, Body and Culture Vol. 5, Issue 4 (November 20001) pp. 119-128
[6] Ebihara, May .1968. Svay, A Khmer Village in Cambodia. Ph.D. dissertation, Anthropology Department, Columbia University.
[7] Ledgerwood, Judy “Gender Symbolism and Culture Change: Viewing the Virtuous Women in the Khmer Story “Mea Yoeng” in May Ebihara, Carol Mortland and Judy Ledgerwood (Ed.). Cambodian Culture Since 1975: Homeland and Exile (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994) pp-119-128. And see also, Ledgerwoow, Judy. 1990. Changing Khmer Conceptions of Gender: Women, Stories, and the Social order. Ph.D Thesis. Cornell University.
[8] According to the study of Annuska Derk (Khmer Women on the Move: Migration and Urban Experiences in Cambodia. Ph.D thesis. Amsterdam: Dutch University Press, 2005), Cbab Srey ” is part of a whole series of Cbab: moral codes or normative poems. The Cbab, which were, except for a few works, composed between the fourtheenth and eighteenth Centuries, serve as guides to appropreciate forms of behavior. They were written according to a rhythm, or special melodic line, and were memorized and past down from generation to generation…”
[9] Annuska Derk. 2005. Khmer Women on the Move: Migration and Urban Experiences in Cambodia. Ph.D thesis. Amsterdam: Dutch University Press, 2005.
[10] Please see Zhou Daguan. 1992. The Customs of Cambodia, trans. J. Gilman d’Arey Paul. Bangkok: Siam Society.
[11] Please see, Petre Santry. 2005. When Apsara Smile: Women and Development in Cambodia 1990-2000: Cultural Barriers to Change. PH.D Theses. Victoria University: Faculty of Human Development, School of Education.
[12] Guthrie, Elizabeth. 2001. Outside the Sima. Udaya: Journal of Khmer Studies 2 pp. 7-18.
[13] Please see LICADHO. Violence Against Women in Cambodia Report 2006. Retrieved from
[14] Ibit.
[15] Ibit.
[16] Please see LICADHO. 2006. Violence Against Women in Cambodia. Cambodia: Phnom Penh.






























June 15, 2010


The scholars of Southeast Asian history come to the agreement that there are two political systems in the pre-colonial period– the Mandala and Confucianism[1]. Mandala system refers to the political system that a leader of a state has indirect sovereignty on the other leaders of the other states or we can call in other way as king of the kings. Such a control is made by the contract that each leader of each state will not interfere into each state’s internal affairs if there is no any call for. In order to keep this contract work, the less powerful state leader or we can call the tributary state leader will send the tribute to the more powerful state leader or the suzerain according to the set time and amount. Additionally, if there was any call even due to the internal or external warfare, the suzerain has to send the troop to fight for them. However, this political system is seen as the very fragile system that could not last for long time. Very often, when the less powerful state can restore their power (forces), they would abandon the contract and declare their state as the independent or self-sovereign state.

The Confucianism system, in contrast, is the political system that has a direct rule; there is no political system as king of the kings. All the officials are integrated into the only one administration under the only one emperor.

Even though the aforementioned systems were discovered and deemed as the vital study tool for the Southeast Asian scholars, the problem still exists, especially to judge which country should be categorized as the Mandala or the Confucianism state since history is not the linear line or static. It keeps changing all the time. For instance, if the eco-political situation (especially the human forces and resources) changed, the policies also altered.

In Mainland Southeast Asia, so far, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Lao are believed to be the Mandala System countries, while only Vietnam, the Confucianism system state. Some scholars give a suggestion that Vietnam should be put as the country which used the Confucianism system because this country used to be influenced by the Chinese Confucianism during the 1000 year-Chinese colonial yoke[2]. Many evidences are provided such as the law, the official examination to choose the officials, the land expansion and the administration reform implemented into all their invaded states, so on and so forth. However, recently, the joint or comparative studies of some scholars, especially among the local sources provide the new evidence that claims that even though most of Vietnamese administration is riddled with the Confucianism system, in the reign of Gia Long[3] (1802-20) and earlier part of his son, Ming Mang (1820-41), the Mandala system was seen being used. Therefore, this study will be done to prove the present of the Mandala system in the reigns of the two key kings of Vietnam.

This paper will show that the long internal and external conflicts and the movement of Tyson are the main reason that Gia Long lacked the armed forces to protect his kingdom and forced himself to seek for the help from Siam (present Thailand) to fight back for his own kingdom which was token by the Tyson brothers. In the exchange with the help, in the Gia Long’s reign and the earlier part of his son’s reign, Vietnam had to send the tributes to Siam. However, after Ming Mang strengthened and consolidated his kingdom, he refused to send any tributes to Siam.

Honestly, even though this paper mostly uses the local sources, the writer does not neglect the other sources either. The writer, and Hong Lysa (1996)[4], is aware that historiographers still have different approaches to write the history of Southeast Asia. Some of them deem the western sources (the European travelers and colonial archives) as the trusted ones, while others tried to dig out the indigenous sources (chronicles and folk histories) as being reviewed to reflect some sorts of history. However, this paper will try the best to have a critical analysis, depended on both foreign and indigenous sources, on the argument if Vietnam is the Mandala system state under the reign of Emperor Gia Long and the earlier reign of Ming Mang.

Last but not least, this paper could not be done if there are no comments and guides from all Professors and friends. Therefore, I am so grateful to their helps. My thanks also go further to the indigenous scholars that tried their best to dig out the local sources, which can shed more light on Southeast Asian studies


For the students of Vietnamese history, Vietnam is the fascinating country that is full of war history, and it is more surprising when this country still exists with a big land in the present map of Southeast Asia. Wars started since the earlier historical era. Around 1000 years, the Vietnamese fought against the Chinese colonizer and freed themselves in 939. However, war could not be stopped yet. The internal conflicts very often drove Vietnam into many wars and country division. With a brief highlight of Vietnamese history from the 16th century onward, Ralp Smith (1978: 127) gave a very detailed description which is full of war waging, “in the early sixteenth century the kingdom began to break up under the stress of conflict between rival clans, one of which established the Mac dynasty (1527-92) but failed to keep control of the whole country. Later the Le were restored to the throne, but not the power. After the intermittent civil war of the sixteenth century, the seventeenth saw a more lasting division of Vietnam between two powerful clans: the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the south (i.e. Central Vietnam). The latter resided a series of Trinh attempts to conquer them (1627-77)”

These aforementioned wars exhausted all the Vietnamese resources as well as human forces. More, the anarchy happened into Vietnamese society. Corruption was widespread in Vietnam. Even though the strict Confucian system was said being used, corrupt officials still took the opportunity to build up their own benefit, especially when the central government faced the crisis. For example, their sons would be selected as the officials; and even there was the official examination, it is evident that the government itself, for example in 1750, on the purpose of gaining the wealth, allowed the rich family to pay other people to write the exam for their children. Nguyen Du (1765-1820), with his poem, criticized the corrupt system in his own way, “the more prosperous you were, the more hatred you accumulated…carrying such a weight of hatred, do you really think you should seek a way to reincarnate yourselves?” (David Joel Steinberg, 1985: 38).Such a corrupt practice was still seen even in the reign of Emperor Gia Long. With the big concern that corruption could drive his kingdom into more anarchic situation, Gia Long created many policies as witnessed in one of his policies in 1811, “he who loves his ox first drives away its flies; he who loves his people first punishes the sub-bureaucrats” (ibid, 1985).

Furthermore, with the burden taxes to pay for the wars as well as the happy lives of the officials and the emperors, the quality of villagers’ lives even became worst. Apparently, peasant revolts occurred several times in Vietnam because of such miserable lives and the big gap between the rich and the poor. As Alexander Woodside (1982: 104) wrote,
“In the north, by the end of the 1700’s, the numbers of villages whose landless inhabitants had “dispersed” into uncontrolled vagabondage had evidently reached 1488, out of a total of 11767 villages in the Red River delta and in Thanh Hoa and Nghe An. Vagabondage and desertion had probably been even greater in the stormiest middle years of the century. In central and southern Vietnam, a thin flow of peasant migrants from Tonkin had begun to push back the forests and practice and arduous frontier agriculture. But the callow southern political order’s patronage of a new class of large landlords, whom it needed as a social foundation for its own power, led to the conversion of such free peasants into tenant farmers or agrarian serfs; to the proliferation of local taxes and exactions, which outstripped the efforts at standardization of a civil service which lacked the classical education of its northern counterpart; and to an epidemic of peasant revolts, in such areas as Qui Nhon”

Additionally, Of the biggest revolts is the Tyson led by the three brothers from Tyson hamlet. This revolt began in 1771 by spreading the idea of creating the equal Vietnamese society for both the rich and the poor. The revolt received a lot of supports from the people, and could defeat all the three rival Vietnamese clans, the Trinh, the Nguyen, and the Le. But, even though the Tyson brothers could win the throne, it did not mean that war was going to finish. China, the Suzerain of the Three Vietnamese clans, fought against the Tyson; however, the Tyson, with the supports of the peasants and some Chinese, defeated the Chinese armies. Seeing the Chinese defeat and without other alternative, pushed Gia Long to escape to Siam and ask for the military aid. (I will talk later about Gia Long’s journey to Siam in the next section.)

The internal conflict is one of the main causes that drove Vietnam into the series of wars. However, the external conflict could not be neglected either. With several internal wars and peasant revolts, Vietnam lost not only the human forces but the resources too. However, without any good solution, the policy of land expansion was introduced in order to allow their people to find the resources from other places. But such policy sometime created trouble more than the solution. Wars were created when the Vietnamese people drawn into the conflict with other nations that were doing business in the land that they extended.

Champa was the first Kingdom in mainland Southeast Asia that Vietnam had to wage the wars against. Historically, the war between Vietnam and Champa started from 979 to 1832 when all the remained territory of Champa was completely absorbed. (Pierre-Bernard Lafont, no date). Even Po Dhamma (no date) proved that Cham prince helped Gia Long to fight against the Tyson brothers, according to David Joel Steinberg (1985), some Chams also supported the Tyson. Their grieves were seen clearer when the Cham king collaborated with Le Van Du Yet[5] to oppose Ming Mang’s strong centralization policies.

Cambodia and Lao were the second threat to Vietnam. History of these three countries was full of wars. To prevent the danger possibly created by the Siam, Vietnam very often tried to invade Cambodia and Lao as its buffer zone. Even though, some of the princes or kings of these two countries sometime seeked the supports from Vietnam to fight against the Siam, Vietnam still saw them as the threat when they were not completely controlled, and because they very often influenced by Siam more than Vietnam.

Therefore, as a conclusion, with the internal and external wars and the socio-economic inequality and corruption in Vietnamese society gave a space for the Tyson brothers to mobilize the people and fought against the three Vietnamese clans. Without the human forces as well as the resources, the three clans could not stop the massive movement of the people led by the Tyson brothers. As the result, the Tyson brothers could get rid of those clans. And with this reason, Gia Long had to find out the outside help to fight against the Tyson brothers.


According to the critical review on many documents, indeed, Gia Long did not only ask for help from the Siam, but the French, the Champa, the Lao so on and so forth. Before going to the case of Gia Long to ask for the assistance from Siam, it would be better talking a bit about the assistance from other sources too; so that the reader can have the holistic view in this case, not least how much Gia long needed the military aids.

In case of asking for help from France, Pigneau de Behaine was the important person to build up the relationship between Gia Long and the French court of Louis XVI. Even though the relationship and the agreement between the French court and Gia Long were blocked, Pigneau de Behaine convinced 300 French volunteer armies in India to come and help Gia Long[6]. For the Champa, Gialong also made a deal with Po Sau Nuncan for the self-autonomous state if he could win his kingdom back. As Po Dharma drawn an important event from the combination of the source of Champa Chronicle, Vietnamese Annals, and the European travelers:
” Nguyuen Anh, becoming Emperor Gia-Long, reconstituted Champa in 1802 and placed at the head of its government Po Sau Nun Can, one of his companions at-arms and a prince of the Panduranga royal family. Champa (Panduranga) then regained its own life. But, although reconstituted as a real state, with its own army and administrative organization different from Vietnam’s, it was no longer an independent state as it was before, but rather an autonomous territory the existence of which depends on the Vietnamese emperor’s good will.”

The case of Loa is not different from the Champa. Even though Vietnam and Loa used to have many bitter conflicts, during the war between Tyson and Gia Long, Loa king joined with Gia Long to fight against the Tyson. As Mayoury and Pheuiphanh Ngaosrivathana (2001: 4) wrote: “Ithavong…eagerly co-operating with the ascending Vietnamese Nguyen Dynasty to thwart the Tayson in their own capital of Nghe-an, and again to block Tayson escape to the west during the final Nguyen campaign against Hanoi.”

However, even though there were the aforementioned assistants from the French, Champa, the Lao, so on and so forth, the Siam is the main force that helped Gia Long to fight for his throne back. And even the aforementioned forces of Lao or even Cambodia that joined with Gia Long to fight against the Tyson, they were under the guidance of the Siam too. With such a vital help from Siam, Gia Long could win his kingdom but also had to send the tributes to Siam.

Indeed, there was no clear source to show when the relationship between Gia Long and the Thai leaders had exactly started. However, it was believed that since the reign of King Taksin, Gia Long sent his two officials, Tham and Tranh to visit Thonburi. But these two officials and some other Vietnamese were killed without any clear reason. Only in the reign of Rama I, the relationship became clear, especially when Gia Long was defeated repeatedly by the Tyson. For example, in 1783, while the Tyson fought into Gia Long ‘s military base in Siagon, Gia Long’s brother, Nguyen Manh was killed, and Gia Long himself and his troops had to escape to many places before arriving in Siam[7]. And how Gia Long reached Siam, Nghiem Dinh Vy (215), in his comparative analysis of the Thai and Vietnamese sources, wrote in his own word:

“By 1782, Nguyen Anh was once more obliged to flee and wandered around through various islands in the Gulf of Siam. One of Rama I ‘s official sought him out on Ko Chang Island, where he had taken refuge with a group of his followers. When the official informed Rama I of the situation, the king allowed Nguyen Anh to come to Siam, though the Nguyen annals do not mention this incidence, merely noting that in 1784 he “went to ask for aid from Siam” having received the promise of assistance from Rama I, Nguyen Anh made good use of this relationship to try and restore his family to power after their overthrow by the Tayson.”

In spite of the aforementioned evidence shows that Gia Long really asked for a refuge and helps from the Siam, many Vietnamese researchers tried to prove that Gia Long ‘s travel to Siam to ask for assistants does not mean that he submitted himself as the subordinated of the Siam. They provide many evidences to support their idea. For example, they noticed that only one time that Gia Long received the military aids from the Siam. It was in 1784 when King Rama I sent 5000 troops and 300 ships with Gia Long to fight against the Tyson. However, the troop was defeated seriously. One of the reason is that Siam troops were harmful not to the Tyson armies, but to the ordinary people. So rather than support them, the people decided to support the Tyson.

Since that time onward, the Vietnamese researchers claimed, even the Siam wanted to provide the help to Gia Long, he always rejected. Moreover, during his stay in Siam, Gia Long helped the Siam to defeat the Burmese as the way to pay his debt already. However, it should be stressed clearly that there were some evidences that also go against the Vietnamese researchers. For instance, if we looked at the amount and the value of the exchange presents between Gia Long and the Siam King, the presents that Gia Long sent seemed to be more valuable. For example, in 1790, Gia Long sent a pair of Crystal lantern and two large mirrors and a tree made of gold and one of silver (in the Thai (Siam) tradition, the subordinate king or kingdom has to send the gold and silver tree as the tribut to the king of the kings), and a boat; but when the Siam king sent back the presents in 1791, they were only two horses, ten embroiled robes, four bronze bells, and some flags and drums that the Siam captured from Tyson in Lao. And then Gia Long had to send back in the same year for Rama I thirty palanquins and for the Second King two pairs of gold and silver flowers

And when we talk about the flags and drums that the Siam captured from the Tyson in Lao can it mean that Siam also sent the troop to help Gia Long to fight against the Tyson from Lao. Without doubt, As Mayoury and Pheuiphanh Ngaosrivathana (2001: 4) made a critical analysis on the Vietnamese as well as other sources about Lao, they came up with the conclusion, “co-operating with the ascending Vietnamese Nguyen Dynasty to thwart the Tayson in their own capital of Nghe-an, and again to block Tayson escape to the west during the final Nguyen campaign against Hanoi, spanning over four years (1798-1802), this Lao-Vietnamese joint operation had been acquiesced to by the thai king, Rama I, in respondse to a request forwarded by the Vietnamese Gia Long, who after his victory over the Tayson moved Vietnam’s capital to Hue in June 1802.”

Furthermore, Nghiem Dinh Vy made one note in his article that created the doubt in the interpretation of Vietnamese history. He wrote, “from the Siamese point of view, then, once he (Gia Long) took the throne, he was no longer subordinate to Siam” and his footnote to explain the word subordinate (maybe in the annals) he wrote, “Vietnamese Than Phuc, which refers to either to an individual’s submission to a superior or master or else a ruler’s submission as the vassal of a suzerain power”. Even the statement and the note are not clear, a question can raised up if the author would like to express that before Gialong became the king, he was the subordinate to Siam. Additinally, while the first doubt is not solved yet, Trinh Dieu Thin also provided another doubt saying, “following the recovery of his kingdom, Nguyen Anh, now reigning as emperor Gia Long, remembered with gratitude his benefactor and on his order, an envoy traveled to Siam and presented to King Rama I a precious sword. The Siamese monarch in turn called the sword as “the Viet Hao sword” which means, the sword of gratitude from his Vietnamese counterpart…” But, even though we do not know what exactly Gia Long meant when he sent the sword to Siam king, sword was culturally important for both Vietnam and Siam. One of the royal regalia is sword. So, did Gia Long mean that he was Siam’s subordinated king? Without doubt, with the unequal value of the gifts and the unclear symbol of the gifts such as the gold tree and flower, and precious sword, one probably just has a doubt in his/her mind if he/she can conclude that the relationship between the Siam and Vietnam as the Suzerain and the subordinated.

However, if one read more information in the reign of Ming Mang, it is clear that Vietnam was the tributary state but want to break it after he restored his power already. In 1820, King Rama II sent the envoy to present the gift for the funeral ceremony of Gia Long and also for Emperor Ming Mang. However, the gifts were rejected because Ming Mang thought that those gifts were not proper. They usually were provided by the Siam king to his own noble only. Moreover, as Nghiem Dinh Vy (224) quoted Alexander Woodside (1988: 260) that reportedly the letter sent by Rama II elevated himself in the superior position to Ming Mang. There are more evidences to prove that Ming Mang really felt very annoyed with the Siam envoy. They always came as the order of Siam king to announce about the royal deaths including the second king and king ‘s grandmother’s death. Such announcement was considered as not proprieties by Min Mang because he had to send the gifts back to the Siam. However, after compared his power he did not took any actions against the Siam, but sent back the gifts.

It should be noticed that even though Gia Long could become the emperor, the country was not stable yet, especially when the court could not guarantee the standard of living for its subjects. David Joel Steinberg (1985: 129) referred the unstable Vietnamese society during Gia Long ‘s period to the observation of the two Vietnamese Marxist historian that there were , “105 large and small peasant uprisings against the court in the period 1802-1820 alone… (Because) Hue bureaucracy … had failed to create an adequate standard of living or security for its villagers.” Moreover, Vietnam was not consolidated yet. The south was controlled by Le Van Du Yet, and Champa was controlled by Pa Sau Nun Can, and Cambodia and Lao were ready to fight with the support or on behalf of the Siam if Gia Long wished to do something affected their interest. Therefore, Gia Long preferred to make good relationship and send the tributes to Siam when he could not restore his power yet.

Furthermore, even during Ming Mang’s earlier reign, his power was not strong either. He still could not control the whole country. The southern part was still controlled by Le Van Du Yet until 1832. Moreover, Le Van Du Yet, indeed, was the one that tried to prohibit Ming Mang from succeeding Gia Long because he was just the son of Gia Long’s concubine. Le Van Du Yet even had more power and had a good relationship with the French missionaries who could help him to access to the western modern weapons (David Joel Steinberg, 1985). His power was shown clearly when Ming Mang did not like the Christian Missionaries and wanted to persecute them, Le Van Du Yet banned him from doing that. As recoded in Britannica[8], “when Ming Mang ordered the persecution of Roman Catholic missionaries, Duyet refused to apply the orders in the provinces he governed. In defense of the Christians, he wrote to the emperor, “we still have between our teeth the rice which the missionaries gave us when we were starving.” David Joel Steinberg (1985) provided another interesting point which shows that Ming Mang dare not to affect Le Van Du Yet before his death. In his book he proved that even Ming Mang asked his officials to do survey on the land-holding patterns, the southern parts were not done until 1836. So, only after Le Van Du Yet died in 1932, Ming Mang started his persecution on the Christians and conducted the survey. In addition, at that time, the Champa kingdom still waged the wars against Ming Mang (Po Dharma, no date). And Cambodia and Lao were under more influence of Siam than Vietnam.

Ming Mang’s reluctance to fight against the Siam openly can be proved in 1823, when the Burmese envoy arrived in Vietnam and reported that their king would like to make a cooperation to fight against Siam; however, after compared his power with Siam, Ming Mang decided not to join with the Burmese plan. Even though between 1828 and 1830, Ming Mang tried to interfere into Lao’s affair and tried to negotiate with the Siam on behalf of the Lao king, Chao Anou, who fought against the Siam for their independence, Ming Mang’s request was refused. Vietnamese military assistant, then, was provided to Chao Anou; however he could not defeat the Siam. Seeing that it would bring about the danger into his kingdom, he stopped supporting Chao Anou. However, Ming Mang ‘s interference into Lao ‘s affairs brought some problems to his country too. In 1834, to give a lesson to Ming Mang, the Siam supported Le Van Koi who was the fostered son of Le Van Du Yet and was imprisoned by Ming Mang after his father died. However, only this time when Ming Mang defeated le Van Koi’s revolt and decided to jointly place Cambodian King, Ang Daung, on the throne, and jointly used his kingdom as the buffer state, Ming Mang stopped sending the tributes[9].


Even though many scholars tried to prove how far and deep Vietnam have adopted the Chinese Confucianism system, it also could not neglected that in the reign of Gia Long and in the earlier reign of Ming Mang, there were some evidences of Mandala system being used. The only reason that pushed these two kings adopt the system is because the shortage of human forces to fight for their throne as well as to guarantee the stability of their kingdom. As shown already, the internal and external wars, the peasant revolts, and corrupt officials are still the key concern for the two kings. If their policies were not well prepared, they would easily fall into the uncontrolled situation, and then their country would be torn apart not only by the internal enemies, but the neighboring countries who wished to claim back the lands that they lost. Therefore, Gia Long and Ming Mang decided to be Siam’s tributary state for a short period in order to have time to consolidate as well as solve the internal affairs. And since the Siam was involved with the Burmese wars, they had a willing to accept these tributes rather than invade Vietnam during the Tyson’s period. Even in the early reign, Ming Mang supported some enemies of Siam, Only after he united the country, especially after the death of Le Van Du Yet and his fostered son in the early 1930s, he decided to stop sending the tributes to Siam.


Alexander Woodside. 1998. “Freedom and Elite Political Theory in Vietnam Before the French.” in David Kelly and Anthony Reid (ed.) “Asian Freedoms: the Idea of Freedom in East and Southeast Asia.” Cambridge University Press.

Bobbins Burling.1965. “Hill Farms and Paddy Field: Life in Mainland Southeast Asia”. Prentice-Hall, Inc

Craig J. Raynold. “Seditious Histories: Contesting Thai and Southeast Asian Pasts”

David Joel Steinberg.1985 “In search of southeast Asia.” USA: University of Hawai’i Press.

David K. Wyatt. 1982. “The Subtle Revolution” of King Rama I of Siam.” in David K.Wyatt and Alexander Woodside (ed.) “Moral Order and the Question of Change: Essays on Southeast Asian Thoughts.” Yale Univeristy: Southeast Asian Studies.

Dennis J. Duncanson. 1968. “Government and Revolution in Vietnam” Oxford University Press.

D.R. Sardesai. 1998. ” Vietnam: Past and Present.” USA: West View Press.

Hong Lysa (1996). “History”, in Mohammed Halib abd Tim Huxley (ed.). An Introduction to Southeast Asian Studies. London: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, P. 46-69

Jasmin H. Cheung-Gertler. “The Moral Imperative and the Politics of Confucianism in French Indochina: Vietnamese Strategies of Resistance, Appropriation and Tranformation” a monograph.

Mayoury and Pheuiphanh Ngaosrivathana. 2001. “Vietnamese Source Materials Concerning the 1827 Conflict between the Court of Siam and the Lao Principalities.” Japan: The Center for East Asian Cultural Studies for UNESCO, vol. 1 and 2.

Nghiem Dinh Vy. (no date) “Relations Between the Chakri Dynasty and the Nguyen Rulers from the Late 18th to the Mid-19th Centuries” a Monograph (no publish house)
Pierre-Bernard Lafont. (no date). “On the Relations Between Champa and Southeast Asia.” (no Published House)

Po Dharma. (no date). “Status of the Latest Research on the Date of the Absorptiion of Champa by Vietnam” (no published place)

Ralph Smith. 1978. “Southeast Asia: An Introduction ” Europa Publications Limited.

R.B Smith. 1973. “The Cycle of Confucianization In Vietnam”, in Walter F. Vella (ed.) Aspects of Vietnamese History”. The Univeristy Press of Hawaii.

Trinh Dieu Thin. (no date) Process of Formation of the Vietnamese Community in Thailand.” a Monograph (no publish house)

Troung Buu Lam. 1984. Resistance, Rebellion, Revolution: Popular Movement in Vietnamese History.” Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asia.
[1] The concept of Mandala is believed to be firstly coined by O. W. Wolters; however, according to many literature reviews, there are some invented words used by other scholars also applied to the same meaning. For instance “Galactic Polity” by Tambia, “Contest State” by Adas, “Net work State” by Nagtegaal, so on and so forth. Please see Craig J. Raynold. “Seditious Histories: Contesting Thai and Southeast Asian Pasts”. However, even though the concept of Confucianism is very difficult to find out the inventor, it is believed that this concept is coined based on the deep influence of the Chinese way of ruling in Vietnam.

[2] Please see more in Bobbins Burling.1965. “Hill Farms and Paddy Field: Life in Mainland Southeast Asia”. Prentice-Hall, Inc; R.B Smith. 1973. “The Cycle of Confucianization In Vietnam”, in Walter F. Vella (ed.) Aspects of Vietnamese History”. The Univeristy Press of Hawaii; Jasmin H. Cheung-Gertler. “The Moral Imperative and the Politics of Confucianism in French Indochina: Vietnamese Strategies of Resistance, Appropriation and Tranformation” a monograph.

[3] Gia Long is the royal name that Nguyen Anh received when he became the Vietnamese emperor *1802-1820). Indeed, Nguyen Anh was not the l
egitimate heir to the throne, but was the nephew of the heir, Hue Vuong who died in the 1766 civil war. However, since he was the only senior family member survived, he mobilized as well as asked for help from his people and the external military aids to fight for his Kingdom back. Therefore, in this paper will use both names interchangeable.
[4] Hong Lysa (1996). “History”, in Mohammed Halib abd Tim Huxley (ed.). An Introduction to Southeast Asian Studies. London: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, P. 46-69

[5] Le Van Du Yet used to help Gia Long to defeat the Tyson and was recognized by Gia Long as the semi-independent regional overlord of Southern Vietnam.

[6] All his important action was recorded in, “In July 1786, Pigneau was allowed to travel back to France to ask the royal court directly for assistance. Arriving in February 1787 at the court of louis XVI in Versiales, Pigneau had difficulty in gathering support for a French expedition to install Nguyen Anh on the throne. This was due to the poor financial state of the country prior to the French Revolution. Pigneau was helped by Pierre Poivre who had been involved previously in French interests in Vietnam. In November 1787, a treaty of alliance was concluded between France and Cochin China in Nguyen Anh’s name. Four frigates, 1650 fully equipped French soldiers and 250 Indian sepoys were promised in return for Pulo Condore and harbour access at Tourane ( Da Nang), as well as tree trade to the exclusion of all other countries….however, Pigneau found the governor of Pondichery unwilling to fulfil the agreement, and he was forced to use funds raised in France and enlist French Volunteers”; please see also David Joel Steinberg.1985. “In search of southeast Asia” USA: University of Hawai’i Press.
[7] Please see
[8] Please see article-9047486/ Le -Van-Duyet
[9] Please see more in Nghiem Dinh Vy. (no date). “Relations Between the Chakri Dynasty and the Nguyen Rulers from the Late 18th to the Mid-19th Centuries” a Monograph (no publish house)


















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