Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Buddhist Monk Is Enduring Symbol of Cambodian Independence Movement

Preah Balat Ghosaneak Hem Cheav, a classmate of His Holiness Maha Ghosananda, students of His Holiness Jotannano Chuon Nath, Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism. ~Jendhamuni

Portrait of Hem Chieu at Wat Dambauk Mean Leak,
a pagoda in his native village of Dambauk Mean in
Ponhea Leu district in Kandal province
By Michelle Vachon, The Cambodia Daily
December 9, 2013

Seventy years ago this month, a Cambodian monk died in a French penal colony off the coast of Vietnam.

Had the monk lived, he might have been a major force in Cambodia’s independence movement.

As an enduring symbol of that struggle, Hem Chieu’s death in December 1943 of either dysentery or cholera on the penal colony island of Poulo Condore remains potent to this day.

The arrest of Hem Chieu on July 17, 1942, spurred the first large demonstration against French rule in Cambodia, and “was a watershed in the history of Cambodian resistance to France,” historian David Chandler said.

“To a large extent,” the demonstration “marked the passage of Cambodia into modernity,” French historian Henri Locard said.

Pach Chhoeun, who led the demonstration to free Hem Chieu, was then the editor of the pro-independence newspaper Nagara Vatta.

A French military tribunal in Saigon found both men guilty and condemned them to death. Their sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment. While Hem Chieu would never leave Poulo Condore, Pach Chhoeun would survive his incarceration and find freedom in 1945.

Born in 1898, Hem Chieu was the son of the Ponhea Leu district chief in Kandal province. Sent to Phnom Penh by his father to study with Buddhist patriarch Chuon Nath, he was ordained at 20 at Wat Langka and graduated from the School of Advanced Pali Studies in 1921.

In the 1930s, the French authorities—who were running the country under the 1863 Protectorate Treaty—had established the Buddhist Institute and were supporting the school of Pali as a means to move the clergy away from Thai influences and to inculcate a strong Indochinese religious identity.

Thailand had held many northern provinces of Cambodia for centuries, and the lingering Thai influence over its colonial possession was a natural source of irritation for France. Part of the French strategy involved sending monks to preach Buddhism to Cambodian soldiers, police officers and the public.

Hem Chieu, who had previously been involved in efforts to expand pagoda-based schools in the Kampot area, was one of the monks sent to preach.

Also at that time, a dispute was raging in the Buddhist clergy between traditionalists and modernists, Mr. Locard said.

The modernists believed that the King and political leaders should have no authority over religious institutions, whereas the traditionalists recognized the King as the leader of the church to the extent of having him select texts to be read at pagodas.

The French Vichy regime—which controlled the King and the Royal Palace—supported the traditionalists and their worldview.

Hem Chieu believed in the separation of religion and state, and in Cambodians’ right to run their own country.

“He was a reformist, a modernist in his approach to religious institutions, and a modern regarding politics. And he lumped this together,” Mr. Locard said.
A charismatic speaker who preached without using formulas, “He was the ideologist of the time, [telling people]: ‘Wake up, you are not children. Take charge of your destiny, fight, take initiative,” Mr. Locard said.

Asked how Cambodians could win against the French colonial power, Hem Chieu would turn to the teachings of the Buddha and say that, by joining together, they could win independence.

The “modernists” associated with the Buddhist Institute were also in contact with the high school Lycee Sisowath’s student association and with Pach Chhoeun and his Nagara Vatta newspaper, which included Son Ngoc Thanh.

An attorney who served as deputy director of the Buddhist Institute, Son Ngoc Thanh seemed to have been the only one who favored the use of violence against the French, willing to employ hired killers to deal with them, Mr. Locard said.
Hem Chieu strictly advocated nonviolence.

The independence movement had the misfortune of taking shape against the backdrop of World War II while France was led by the Vichy government, which supported Nazi Germany and its ally Japan. As the war raged in Europe, the Vichy regime put in place its own people in Indochina, naming Admiral Jean Decoux governor general.

As Mr. Locard learned while researching France’s military archives, the French military tribunal’s charges against Hem Chieu and Pach Chhoeun ranged from making anti-French remarks to planning an uprising to end France’s dominance over Cambodia. They were also accused of deploring the high cost of living, and using witchcraft to make Cambodian troops invisible.

Hem Chieu anticipated his arrest in 1942, Mr. Locard said, and had written down detailed plans for a demonstration that should take place as soon as a monk was arrested.

Hem Chieu’s guidelines stated: “If one of us is arrested, we must spread the news, with the utmost urgency, to all the pagodas to come and protest in front of the relevant authorities…. Let us show solidarity and declare we shall not let a monk be condemned. But while you demonstrate, it is absolutely forbidden to carry any kind of weapons.”

The French having heard rumors that the anti-colonial movement was planning action, Hem Chieu was apprehended at his pagoda by a French official and Tea San, who was then minister of the Interior and of Cults.

Hem Chieu was disrobed immediately and forced into layman’s clothes so that the procedure for the arrest of a monk would not apply to him.

The word spread and, using Hem Chieu’s blueprint for a demonstration, on July 20, 1942, about 500 monks and as many laypeople marched in the streets of Phnom Penh, heading for the residence of the leading French administrator near Wat Phnom. Their goal was to ask for the release of Hem Chieu.

Pach Chhoeun, who led the march, was let inside the gates of the residence, but then immediately arrested. A fight broke out between guards and demonstrators, and policemen used batons. Because the hundreds of monks who attended the demonstration carried parasols, the event is often referred to as the “Umbrella War.”

Pach Chhoeun and Nuon Duong, a former monk who ran a bicycle shop and was one of the demonstration’s organizers, were sent to the penal colony along with Hem Chieu. They would be released in 1945. Son Ngoc Thanh, who had helped set up the demonstration, did not take part. After hiding in the Japanese police compound, he fled the country.

In the eyes of the French authorities, Mr. Locard said, “Hem Chieu had committed the ultimate crime: to question France’s sovereignty and authority.”

“This absurd military trial of Khmer nationalists is a sorry epitaph for French colonialism in Cambodia,” but typical of the repressive Vichy government, he said.

As for Hem Chieu’s death, it gave the country a heroic figure but deprived it of a remarkable man who may have helped shape Cambodia’s future over the following decades.


Anonymous said...

Eventhough the French Autority was
cruel , they did not use GUNs to spill
Khmers blood such as Hanoi Slaves have done .
Today , hundred more Hem Chieu
reincarnatied to shake off Hanoi Colonial .Thanks to Buddhist monks who have
right minds and courage . Shame on the
Pro-Hanoi monks !

Anonymous said...

1:59 AM

Well expressed and accepted
Thank you

Concerned Khmer

Anonymous said...

amazed that monk's residence is close to my village in Khum ponheapon. This genius monk, Honorable ajah Hem jieu, is a son of the villagers. The villager has brain if they acquired formal education. My point is that do not negatively stereotype villagers as it has been the case.

Anonymous said...

A message to all monks,
Don't just eats & sleep on an expenses of poor Khmer's innocence that worship Buddhism! please do your parts to help find justice for your parents and your neighbors,your fellows Khmer people that giving food to eat and place to rest your head on at night,if there is no one worship Buddhism you all has nothing to eat and no place to rest,your associations or monkhoods are doomed.Please help Ncrp to protest against dictator Hun nonsense Sen,to find justice for voters that Hun nonsense Sen stolen from them,in the past election.

Please all monks; You have a duty to protects,preserves,prevents the thugs,thieves,killers from robbing your countrymen voices,votes.Please help us to protest against injustices that Cpp thugs opposes on all of Khmers people.Its your duty as a citizens to help each other to struggle against oppressors-Cpp's Yuon thugs-Hun nonsense Sen. Thank you!...


Anonymous said...

With courageous,role model,revered monk/Buddist and the causes of the productive human being because of the sake of independent on our mother land, the venerable Hem Chieuv had demonstrated and struggled for the true color an independent against to the colonial French with his self-determined tirelessly.
Accordance to his action, we, citizens, should have learned it and kept spreading words as always to our new future generation to come. His self-discipline It was great honorable and his named staying alive though out the world forever.
Especially, to the current patriarch of the CPP's such as "Tep Vong, Nun Nget and the rest of Buddhist-Pro-Ho-Chi-Monk or even to whom they favoure to as Yiek Congist.

Reas Khmer

Anonymous said...

sad history! it seemed like everytime there are intelligent, smart, enlightened khmer noblemen, someone or something always happened to them that took their lives away so soon. imagine, if they were still living, cambodia would have going a different route for better society, etc. i hope people stop infringing and killing smart, clever, educated, wise and enlightened khmer people, so these khmer statesmen can help make a real, lasting difference once and for all in cambodia. let's learn from history and avoid the same tragic ending!

Anonymous said...

why foreigners don't want khmer and cambodia to be strong and smart like them? why?

Anonymous said...

there ought to be law to protect the status of khmer noblemen, khmer wisemen, khmer educated, smart, learned, intelligent and experienced men and women from abuse and exploitation by others, so they can in turn help cambodia to become better in the future to come. not right to keep killing smart people of cambodia like this!

Anonymous said...

Only Yiekcong didn't wanted Khmer to be smarted like them but it is changed now,more and more,Khmers were teaching one another to know who is our real enemy and obstructors were Yuans Yiekcong.Smarter Khmers exposed Yiekcong tricks to destroy and eliminate Khmers by using its
dogs like Sihanouk,pol pot and now Hun sen and Sdach ktuey (Se'Hunmoni) and punch of its thugs,thieves,killers,robbers to work for Hanoi,to stop khmers from being smart by cut off the resources and select only a few dump and idiot to its provxy-puppet to benefits Hanoi.Hun sen regime reminding us why yuan doesn't wants Khmers to be smart like them.Hun sen is working for yuan and destroy our nation stop khmers from being smart by using all kind of tricks to seeks and destroys our Khmer's intellectuals as you have witness in Cpp yuan puppet regime had killed many Khmers intellectuals.Please help kick Hun sen out of PM office,dissolve his illegal govt as soon as possible for the sake our of nation's survival.Hun sen must go...!


Jendhamuni said...



Anonymous said...

I like this article so much, but the author, please do offer your citations if possible. I would like to know more about this historical event if the author has access to those hidden histories of Cambodia. Please speak more about the 1863 Agreement between the Kingdom of Cambodia and France. As I recall, Cambodia was first placed under French Protectorate and later was forced by Napoleon II to put Cambodia under a complete control of France; and instead of placing the French Governor right in Phnom Penh, France decided to put its enormous power right in Corchinchina or Kampuchea Krom. After WW II, according to the US records, it was President Rosevelt of the United States who advised at the Conference to place the entire Indochina under the International Trusteeship, but France went behind the back door and made a deal with Britain so that France can still remain in power in Indochina after Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers on September 2, 1945. Either way, it was in the past that men of different races cannot rule the world. It was the Big Three and they are the United States, the Great Britain and the Soviet Union or Harry S. Truman of the United States, Churchill of the Great Britain and Stalin of the Soviet Union known as the 1945 Potsdam Conference.

Vietnam was also divided between the North and the South right at the 16th Parallel and later changed into the 17th Parallel. Beginning at the Demilitarize Zone to the North will be controlled by the Soviet Union and China while to the South will be controlled by the United States and the Great Britain.

During the division of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh did not like the outcomes of what was happening to his country and at this time, Ho Chi Minh created a rebel group known as Viet Cong under Ho Chi Minh and assigned the duty to Vo Nguyen Giap. At this time that the gathering of former Khmer Issarak members and the Khmer Student Association members from France to unite under the Indochina Communist Party led by Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. I think without Ho Chi Minh direct involvement in Indochina’s affairs, Cambodia would have been saved from a Civil War, but nonetheless, the former Khmer Issarak members, Khmer Student Association members and King Norodom Sihanouk played into the hand of Ho Chi Minh.

If King Norodom Sihanouk would just stand with the Free World like what Thailand has done, Cambodia would also have done well. The coup against King Sihanouk would not be made possible if a certain foreign agency was not involved, the outcome would have been different. We cannot change the past, but certainly we can change the future. We must learn from our bad experience with our neighbors. We must not walk in the same footprints that left with plenty of guilty conscience and regrets. We must not let another hatred cloud our judgement. We must critically think and find ways to secure peace over war. There’s still time left for us all and we are obliged to do just that.
Thank You


Anonymous said...

XMEN, i like your perspective. I believe we Khmer are educated enough to understand the history from the past into the future. The problems with the Khmer now, is that many of CPP are Vietnamese brain. Even though they can see that more and more Youn are coming into Khmer and more and more forest are being chopped and exported to Youn they still support CPP and still ignore the past.

Many of them CPP supporters still say that Hun Sen is the smartest person in the Cambodia.


Anonymous said...

9:18am, you mean vietnamese trained the khmer, not khmer with vietnamese brain because that's physiologically impossible. please say it correctly that those khmer vietminh are just overseas khmer students association like mentioned by xmen above, they are correctly khmer students overseas association who were afiliated and trained or indoctrinated by ho chi minh's leadership to fight again foreign colonizers of that time. so stop calling it khmer with yuon brain or whatever. instead, say it correctly yuon trained khmer students of that time, unless you can explain what you meant khmer with yuon brain? what is yuon brain to you? i heard that all the time from diehard khmer nationalistic, but they don't realize that's a wrong term to use. think about it, physiologically, it is impossible for khmer to have yuon brain. just say what you mean by that! don't be afraid! use your freedom and rights!

Anonymous said...

I have some words to say here.
First, I'm taking my hat off to the above commenters.
Second, I'm glad that Kmenhwatt and Jendhamuni are able to forgive each other coz we have our common goal to achieve.
And third, may the spirit and wisdom of our Khmer hero Ahjar Hem Chieu come and conceive in the hearts and souls of Cambodian people inside Cambodia and all over the world in order to provide us courage, strength and determination to liberate our motherland from Hanoi's ambition.

Teuk Phnek Khmers.

Anonymous said...

I meant "I'm taking my hat off to all the above commenters".


Anonymous said...

monk hem chieu shows us that there are a lot of ordinary khmer nationalists who help make a real, lasting difference for cambodia and its people, not just kings, queens, primem ministers, ministers and other vip out there. so, cambodia from on now should honor everyone who contributed and help to make a difference for all. there shouldn't be any forms of social discrimination, etc. recognize and honor the individuals, not just the vip or higher social status people, etc. that's how it should be in the new and changing cambodia. no looking down on mediocre or ordinary people of cambodia. even the disabled can help make a difference in cambodia, so stop the social class discrimination, etc! that is not right!

Jendhamuni said...

Dear Teuk Phnek Khmers,

Thank you for your thoughtful message. As for me, I do not take anything personally. I do not live my life with hatred and revenge. Otherwise, I would go fly a kite, rather than posting news on KI ;)

With Respect,

Anonymous said...

9:30 AM. What i mean is Khmer with Youn brain. The Khmer Vietminh were recruited to Ho CHi Minh's dream while overseas. But there were also many other Khmer with Youn brain, such as Hai Phuc.

Hai Phuc was born in Cambodia, but his brain was a full of Youn maggots when he killed many Khmer. During the purge when Pol Pot realized that the Vietminhs were killing many Khmer, Hai Phuc and other Vietminh left Cambodia.


Anonymous said...

10:05am, you are very stubborn and very sarcastic. can you explain more what you mean by khmer with yuon brain? is this something you coined up or you heard it from someone else? can you kindly explain? nothing personally, really. i just want to understand more what i cannot understand in the first place. thanks for your kind response!

Anonymous said...

Please come to take a devil and evil Hun Sen with you today and put him in hell forever.

Anonymous said...

Khmer's tears=Tuek phnek khmers,
We all were in the boat, that sailing into the stom togethers if our boat sink,we'll die togethers, if we surviving we'll surviving togethers,I loved all khmers,I was borned as Khmer,I'll die proudly as Khmer.As for Jenda and me,all about confusion due to " Sabotuer" who sabotaged her and she falls for that,Remember Yuon will do anything to breaks khmer's UNITY,and Kemenhwatt never used profanity or swear at lady it doesn't matter what circumstances,especially,she is Khmer's lady.In this generation [satrey]Khmer's lady ;Jenda is one of the kind,one special's breed,unique,a person like her is hard to find,Cambodia is proudly to have a daughter like her.She did her parts to bring news to all of us, despite her critics was trying to sabotages her works,she won't quit or deter to quit,for that reason my hat off from a distance with greatly respect from the button of my heart for Jenda.May god bless you,May god gives you his peace. You're a woman with grace!...


Jendhamuni said...

Dear Kmenhwatt,

You are so kind to me today. You sound just like the real Kmenhwatt right now.

FYI: I am down from 8 cups of coffee to 4 cups now, but I double the coffee each cup. So, the amount of coffee remains just the same ;)

Anonymous said...

No need to explain if you don't do research into the Khmer Vietminhs and Hai Phuc. Many Khmer children were kidnapped and killed by the Vietnamese. But for other Youn brain and hai Phuc, they volunteered to be recruited by the Vietnamese camp. Research the education camp.

Anonymous said...

2:06pm, stop infatuate with vietnam or yuon too much. cambodia is never all about yuon all the time, you know! why continue to promote them as if your life depends on that! stop it already, nobody in cambodia cares, ok!

Anonymous said...

In my generation!
I am very proud of these women:-)
1) Mam Kalyanee,the author and director of River changes courses; She was earning my respected as a Khmer woman and contributor to her Cambodia society on some say.
2) Theary Seng,a lawyer,a daughter of killingfield survivor,an author and a dot-game protester against Nixon and Henry kissinger,Pol pot killingfield, Khmer democrat and advocate of liberty and justice for victims of Khmer rouge,also Christian's religion solicitator in K.I and Khmerization website,with ambition to spreads her religion at any cost.
3) A privilege borned with Silver spoon in her mouth Soma Sihunuok,the journalist,radio broadcasting,grew up and educated at the west,and advocated against deportation of Khmers-American's thugs that broke American's laws deported back to Nambodia.
4) The disgraced scambage Mam Somaly,victimized by human traffickers,author and advacated against humantrafficking,falling from grace after fabricated un-true story about SEX-SLAVE of Khmer's girl.
5) Land rights activist Yorm Bopha, and Tep Vanny,working against Cpp thugs,struggling will go on...
6) Save the best for last,the one and only, woman with GRACE,educated abroad and advocated to bring all sensitive News to all Khmers all over the globe to read despite ere opposition to blocks and sabotages in anyway they knew how,she won't quit or give in,she is one Unique individuals in my generation deserve to be recognized and admired by millions Khmers in K.I website;SoS Jendahmoni,the moderator with loves for all....! If I missed some one please 4give me,for those critics whose disagree with me,I would careless about their opinion.


Anonymous said...

and since then caused the resistant of Khmer Vietminh against foreign aggressor?