Abandoning Multilateralism for Shackled Bilateralism

My dear Kacvey,

At the opening of the general debate at the United Nations 75th General Assembly on Tuesday 22 September 2020, the Phnom Penh Post reporter Niem Chheng penned an article: “Hun Sen says developing nations ‘targets of rivalry’

Your students and you can debate in the online class on various issues which are the subject of the United Nations General Assembly main agenda titled: “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism.”

This letter is intended to introduce some ideas into your discussions on the specific case of Cambodia under the regime of the ex-KR weak strongman.

1. Has the weak strongman forgotten that it was the multilateralism of the United Nations that ended the war among Khmer in which the weak strongman was first a warrior with the genocidal Khmer Rouge and then later a puppet of a foreign force?

2. Has he forgotten that he was part the Supreme National Council (SNC) that was a party tot the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements?

3. Has he forgotten that it is through the United Nations multilateralism implemented by United Nations Transit Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) that he has become what he has been since the completion of the elections in May 1993?

4. Why has he now totally abandoned the multilateralism and espoused instead the unconditional bilateralism with China in every aspect of Cambodia economy, politics, military, human rights and international affairs?

5. Where is he going to find the money to reimburse the $30-to-$40 billions of loans that China have so far made to Cambodia, where as his government not only in complete bankruptcy now but also incapable of paying the $250 millions loan to the US?

6. Why has he signed contracts for Dara Sakor and Ream, prostituted Kg Som with Chinese casinos and thugs, and made long-term concessions of lands, forests, and water to Chinese investors, private or state owned enterprises?

7. Are there projects in Cambodia of the same magnitude in 6. above under Western or non-Chinese financiers and investors?

8. Where have those $30-to-$40 billions gone, since 99% of the country still lives in poverty, unemployment and indebtedness to microfinance, while the 1% wears $millions insane luxury watches, owns private jets, and has residences in the US, UK, France, and Cyprus?

9. In the presence of current virus pandemic that originated in Wuhan, the political and trade conflict between the US and China, the closing of hundreds of garments factories, the withdrawal of special tariffs treatment by the European Union, the return of thousands and thousands of migrant workers from neighboring countries, and the complete paralysis of tourism industry, does he realize that all issues shown in this letter are no longer in his hand, no matter how loud and lonely he and his sycophants claim in local forum? Does he understands he can’t solve those problems anymore because they are way beyond his domestic and personal ability and they will be instead handled over his head? He who created his own quagmire that he can’t extract himself out of it: the law of centrifugal force.

10. The weak strongman is no longer the one that he showed himself to be like in the past; instead he’s now sick, isolated from the people he pretends to govern, but oppress instead, self-prisoner in his 4-wall palace protected by a corps of bodyguards, and no more confidence and trust from his peers inside the corrupt people party.

Kacvey, like everything on earth, autocracy also has an end.
Fasten your seat belt tightly!

Trilogy that Can Befall the ex-KR Autocracy

My dear Kacvey,

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “trilogy” as: “a series of three dramas or literary works or sometimes three musical compositions that are closely related and develop a single theme.”

Let use that definition as a model for a series of three dramas for your students to study in Cambodia contemporary politics that befall the weak strongman.

If the play is titled: Trilogy that Can Befall the Ex-KR Autocracy, the three “dramas” are:
1. The Sword of Damocles Has Dropped
2. The Blue Tent That Became a Permanent Wooden Structure or How New Cyclopic Chéy Chétha Drew the Map of the New Kampuchea Krom, and
3. Dara Sakor, a base or not a base?

The weak strongman is no longer in command of the three quagmires that he has built under his feet that stand on corrupt and autocratic power. It’s the European Union, the United States and China that will oversee and decide above his head on the denouement of the three saga. He is expendable and the next leader will have to deal with his excremental leftover. The weak strongman acting as main thespian is now less than a puppet and more like a one marble-glass-eye-scarecrow in the middle of the emptiness of a rice field.

If the weak strongman has become cockier with Khmer in domestic issues, it is – like a prisoner in his own palatial jail decorated with insane luxury watches and protected by thousands of bodyguards against his own intestinal enemies in the corrupt people party – that the gold bars on the cell windows that keep the bodyguards active for his cause until such a time that a storm blows that scarecrow away from its pole.

Like in all Greek trilogy, the end is never a happy one.

Dara Sakor, a base or not a base?

My dear Kacvey,

Let start this letter with 3 archival records that you certainly have remembered to refresh our memory:
1) Report by Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS): Harbored Ambitions, and
2) Report by Human Rights Watch (HRW): Cambodia’s Dirty Dozen – A Long History of Rights Abuses by Hun Sen’s Generals
3) Report by Asia Society Policy Institute: Weaponizing the Belt and Road Initiative

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has issued severe sanctions against some protagonists as indicated in 1), 2) and 3) above.  The sanctions are contained in a department press release titled: Treasury Sanctions Chinese Entity in Cambodia Under Global Magnitsky Authority.

Let reproduce the full text of the press release for easing reading:

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated one Chinese state-owned entity, Union Development Group Co., Ltd. (UDG), for seizure and demolition of local Cambodians’ land for the construction of the Dara Sakor development project. OFAC designated this People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-owned entity pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption, and their supporters. UDG conducted some of these activities through Kun Kim (Kim), a senior Cambodian general previously designated by OFAC on December 9, 2019 pursuant to E.O. 13818, for his involvement in corruption.After falsely registering as a Cambodian-owned entity in order to receive land for the Dara Sakor development project, UDG reverted to its true ownership and continued to operate without repercussions,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States is committed to using the full range of its authorities to target these practices wherever they occur.”“In addition, the land provided to UDG extends into Botum Sakor National Park, a protected natural area that can only be handed over by royal decree. In order to receive the land, UDG registered itself as a Cambodian-owned company, headed by a Cambodian national, but nevertheless within three years of receiving the land, UDG switched back to being a Chinese-owned and operated company without repercussion.

MALIGN CHINESE INVESTMENT IN CAMBODIA

The PRC has used UDG’s projects in Cambodia to advance ambitions to project power globally. UDG-funded activities have forced Cambodians from their land and devastated the environment, hurting the livelihoods of local communities, all under the guise of converting Cambodia into a regional logistics hub and tourist destination. As is too often the case with Beijing’s One Belt One Road initiative, these activities have disproportionately benefited the PRC, at the expense of the Cambodian people.

Of additional concern are media reports that the Cambodian government spokesperson, Phay Siphan, said that Dara Sakor could be converted to host military assets. A permanent PRC military presence in Cambodia could threaten regional stability and undermine the prospects for the peaceful settlement of disputes, the promotion of maritime safety and security, and the freedom of navigation and overflight.

Today’s action builds upon recent steps taken by the United States to demonstrate our support for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the sovereignty of the Cambodian people. The United States is actively taking steps to deter the PRC’s exploitative investments and to stand with our partners and allies in Southeast Asia.

UNION DEVELOPMENT GROUP

“UDG is a PRC state-owned entity acting for or on behalf of a PRC official that, on May 9, 2008, was granted a 99-year lease with the Cambodian government for 36,000 hectares (approximately 90,000 acres) of land in the Koh Kong province of Cambodia. Following the approved lease, UDG began to develop the $3.8 billion Dara Sakor project, ostensibly to be used as a tourism development. The size of the development is in violation of Cambodian law, which limits land concessions to 10,000 hectares.

Additionally, UDG, through Kim, used Cambodian military forces to intimidate local villagers and to clear out land necessary for UDG to build the Dara Sakor project. Kim was instrumental in the UDG development and reaped significant financial benefit from his relationships with UDG. Specifically, with the assistance of Cambodian military forces provided through Kim, UDG prevented local villagers from planting rice paddy fields on the disputed land and was also accused of burning down the houses of villagers with whom it had conflicts, and of using private security and Cambodian military forces to control the movements of local villagers. Both the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Cambodia’s Council of Ministers asked UDG to stop using Cambodian military forces to take land from the Cambodian people. Cambodia’s Council of Ministers issued a directive ordering UDG to stop destroying villagers’ property; however, UDG ignored the directive and continued the destruction.

UDG is designated for being a person acting for or on behalf of a current or former government official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the entity above, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by it, individually, or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods or services from any such person.

GLOBAL MAGNITSKY

Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the President signed E.O. 13818 on December 20, 2017, in which the President found that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity that it threatens the stability of international political and economic systems. Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.

Could this U.S. sanction be the second Sword of Damocles after the one gifted by the European Union to the weak strongman? There is reason not to suggest otherwise: the weak strongman has not been seen in public for quite some time. What is he pondering in the darkness of the four walls of his palace ornated with so many insane luxury watches and protected by thousands of bodyguards … from his own enemies inside?

=====
Update with articles of interests:
– 23 September 2020 – Global Reporting Center: Rough Seas: Malaysia, Cambodia & Thailand
– 28 September 2020 – The World: Opening the door to Chinese investment comes with risks for Southeast Asian nations
https://www.pri.org/stories/2020-09-28/opening-door-chinese-investment-comes-risks-southeast-asian-nations

The Blue Tent That Became a Permanent Wooden Structure or How New Cyclopic Chéy Chétha Drew the Map of the New Kampuchea Krom

My dear Kacvey,

This letter is intended to be a compilation of news for your students to be aware of the situation on Srok Khmer’s territorial dis-integrity that the ex-KR weak strong man has manipulated to serve his own personal interests and for him to pay the debt that he had contacted on 7 January 1979 for his sustenance in the grip of corrupt and autocratic power.

The letter will be updated as news come in.

Radio Free Asia
លោក ហ៊ុន សែន ​ប្រាប់​ឱ្យ​លោក វ៉ា គឹមហុង ជួប​ពលរដ្ឋ​បាត់​ដី​នៅ​ខេត្ត​ត្បូង​ឃ្មុំ
https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/politics/Hun-Sen-orders-Border-Committee-Chairman-Mr-Var-Kim-Hong-to-visit-people-living-a-long-border-in-Tbong-Kmum-province-08252020225836.html

Voice of America
អាជ្ញាធរខេត្តកណ្តាលថា យោធាវៀតណាមសង់ជម្រករឹងមាំថ្មីនៅព្រំដែន
https://khmer.voanews.com/a/kandal-provincial-police-reports-vietnamese-military-building-new-firm-shelter-on-border/5560193.html

Cambodianess
Vietnam Is Building Permanent Military Structures along the Cambodian Border in Kandal Provincehttps://cambodianess.com/article/vietnam-is-building-permanent-military-structures-along-the-cambodian-border-in-kandal-province

Radio Free Asia
រដ្ឋាភិបាល ប្រគល់​ផែនទី​ថ្មី ខ្នាត ១/២៥ ០០០ ឲ្យ​អាជ្ញាធរ​យក​ទៅ​ប្រើប្រាស់​ជា​ឯកសារ​ព្រំដែន​ផ្លូវ​ការ​ជាមួយ​ប្រទេស​វៀតណាម
https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/politics/Government-provides-new-topographic-maps-to-35-public-institutions-for-official-use-08272020145739.html

Phnom Penh Post
VN ‘violates’ border with concrete shelter
https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/vn-violates-border-concrete-shelter

Vietnam+
Vietnam-Cambodia border topographic maps to be sent to UN
https://en.vietnamplus.vn/vietnamcambodia-border-topographic-maps-to-be-sent-to-un/182009.vnp

Radio Free Asia
Cambodia Distributes New Map of Border With Vietnam Despite Claims it Cedes Land to Hanoi
https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/border-08272020172606.html

Cambodia Daily
ប្រមុខការពារជាតិ ថាបញ្ហាព្រំដែន ត្រូវបានក្រុមប្រឆាំងយកធ្វើជាអាជីវកម្មនយោបាយ
https://www.cambodiadaily.com/2020/08/28/16/45/49628/

Radio Free Asia
“ទីតាំង​វៀតណាម​បោះតង់​ជា​កន្លែង​លោក រ៉ុង ឈុន គ្រោង​ទៅ​ពិនិត្យ​កាល​ពី​លោក​នៅ​មាន​សេរីភាព”
https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/politics/RongChhun-wished-to-witness-hundred-tents-set-up-by-Vietnamese-08272020121539.html

Phnom Penh Post
Minister lashes out at critics of VN border map
https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/minister-lashes-out-critics-vn-border-map

Cambodia Daily
លោក វ៉ា គឹមហុងថា ត្រូវរឹងចាំរបាយការណ៍ពីអាជ្ញាធរមូលដ្ឋានខេត្តត្បូងឃ្មុំ មុននឹងចុះទៅពិនិត្យបញ្ហាបង្គោលព្រំដែន
https://www.cambodiadaily.com/2020/08/28/16/44/49629/

Radio France Internationale
លោកបណ្ឌិតសុខ ទូច៖ បើនិយាយមិនស្តាប់គ្នា កម្ពុជាអាចសង់ប៉ុស្តិ៍មួយដែរនៅទល់មុខនឹងប៉ុស្តិ៍របស់ទាហានវៀតណាម
https://www.rfi.fr/km/%E1%9E%80%E1%9E%98%E1%9F%92%E1%9E%96%E1%9E%BB%E1%9E%87%E1%9E%B6/20200828-%E1%9E%80%E1%9E%98%E1%9F%92%E1%9E%96%E1%9E%BB%E1%9E%87%E1%9E%B6-%E1%9E%9C%E1%9F%80%E1%9E%8F%E1%9E%8E%E1%9E%B6%E1%9E%98-%E1%9E%9F%E1%9E%84%E1%9F%92%E1%9E%82%E1%9E%98-%E1%9E%96%E1%9F%92%E1%9E%9A%E1%9F%86%E1%9E%8A%E1%9F%82%E1%9E%93

Voice of America
អាជា្ញធរ​កម្ពុជា​រុញ​ដាក់​គ្នារឿង​របាយការណ៍​ទាហាន​វៀតណាម​សង់​សំណង់​រឹងមាំ​នៅ​ព្រំដែន​ខេត្ត​កណ្តាល
https://khmer.voanews.com/a/cambodian-authorities-have-no-answer-to-vietnamese-construction-in-controversial-border-area/5561615.html?

Cambodia Daily
គណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ ដែលនៅតែឈ្មោះផ្ញើលិខិតចំហជូន លោក ហ៊ុន សែន ឲ្យចាត់ការយោធាយួនចូលឈ្លានពានបូរណភាពទឹកដីកម្ពុជា
https://www.cambodiadaily.com/2020/08/29/17/56/49650/
ប្រធានរាជបណ្ឌិតសភាកម្ពុជាថា ជម្រើសចុងក្រោយ កម្ពុជានឹងសង់សំណង់រឹង តទល់ជាមួយវៀតណាមតែម្តង
https://www.cambodiadaily.com/2020/08/29/17/56/49651/
យុវជននាំគ្នាធ្វើយុទ្ធនាការលើបណ្តាញសង្គមឲ្យមានការដោះលែង លោក រ៉ុង ឈុន
https://www.cambodiadaily.com/2020/08/29/17/56/49652/

អាជ្ញាធរ​ខេត្ត​កណ្ដាល​ថា វៀតណាម​បន្ត​សង់​សំណង់​រឹង ២ទៀត តាម​តំបន់​ព្រំដែន​មិនទាន់​ឯកភាព​គ្នា
https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/politics/Vietnam-built-10-more-posts-in-undecided-border-area-09232020165824.html

Stay tuned!

The Sword of Damocles Has Dropped

My dear Kacvey,

On this very Wednesday 12 August 2020, history will record a major decision that the European Commission has taken on trade with Cambodia, as per this Press Release, pending the issuance of the full text of the decision.

The Press Release reads:
“Cambodia loses duty-free access to the EU market over human rights concerns

“As of today, 12 August, some of Cambodia’s typical export products such as garments, footwear and travel goods are subject to the European Union’s customs duties. The EU’s decision to partially withdraw Cambodia’s duty-free quota-free access to the EU market is now effective. The preferential treatment enjoyed by Cambodia under “Everything But Arms” (EBA) – the EU’s trade arrangement for Least Developed Countries – is now temporarily lifted due to serious and systematic concerns related to human rights ascertained in the country. The EU enforces this measure while staying open to engage with Cambodia on the necessary reforms.

“Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “We have provided Cambodia with trade opportunities that let the country develop an export-oriented industry and gave jobs to thousands of Cambodians. We stand by their side also now in the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic. Nonetheless, our continued support does not diminish the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labour rights. I stand ready to continue our engagement and to restore fully free access to the EU market for products from Cambodia provided we see substantial improvement in that respect.”

“The withdrawal of preferential access to the EU market concerns approximately 20% of Cambodia’s exports to the EU. Cambodia may still export those products to the EU but they will be subject to general tariffs applicable to any other member of the World Trade Organization. The remaining 80% of Cambodia’s exports continue to enjoy preferential (duty-free, quota-free) access to the EU market.

“The Commission, together with the European External Action Service (EEAS), will continue its enhanced engagement with Cambodia. The EU will keep on monitoring the situation in the country, with a particular focus on current restrictions in the areas of freedom of expression and civil and political rights, as well as land disputes and labour rights in the context of the ongoing reforms.

“The EU is aware of the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Cambodia’s economy and employment and stands ready to support the country in its fight against the coronavirus crisis and towards economic recovery. This, however, does not waive the urgent need to ensure respect for human rights and labour rights in Cambodia.

“Since February 2020, when the EU’s decision on partial withdrawal was taken, the Cambodian Government could at any time have taken the necessary steps to fulfill the conditions allowing the European Union to fully restore EBA preferential access to the EU market. This remains the case.

“The Cambodian authorities should take action to restore political freedoms in the country, to re-establish the necessary conditions for a credible, democratic opposition and to initiate a process of national reconciliation through genuine and inclusive dialogue. The Commission and the EEAS have outlined the necessary actions to the Cambodian authorities on numerous occasions, as well as in the Commission’s Delegated Regulation. Actions include the reinstatement of the political rights of opposition members and the repeal or revision of laws, such as the Law on Political Parties and the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations. If the government of Cambodia shows significant progress, particularly on civil and political rights, the Commission may review its decision and reinstate tariff preferences under the “Everything But Arms” arrangement, in line with the provisions of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

“Background

“The “Everything But Arms” (EBA) arrangement is part of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). The GSP allows vulnerable developing countries to benefit from lower duties or duty-free exports to the EU, and hence stimulate their economic growth. It is a one-way arrangement: it does not require reciprocity vis-a-vis EU exports. Through the EBA arrangement, the EU grants duty-free and quota-free access to its market for all products – except arms and ammunition – from Least Developed Countries (as defined by the United Nations). Under the GSP Regulation, tariff preferences may be suspended in the case of “serious and systematic violation of principles” laid down in the international human rights and labour rights conventions listed in an annex to the GSP Regulation.

“Based on serious concerns about the deterioration of political, human, land and labour rights in Cambodia, in February 2019, the Commission opened a procedure for a withdrawal of the EBA preferences granted to Cambodia. On 12 November 2019, the Commission submitted to Cambodia a report demonstrating serious and systematic violations of key principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) linked to political participation, freedom of expression and freedom of association in Cambodia. At the same time, despite remaining serious concerns, the report underlined tangible progress in solving land disputes in the sugar sector and with respect to labour rights. Following a period for comments, on 12 February 2020, the Commission adopted a Delegated Regulation on a temporary and partial withdrawal of tariff preferences granted to Cambodia under the EBA. The Regulation entered into force on 25 April 2020 and takes effect as of 12 August 2020.”

The Sword of Damocles has finally dropped on the weak strongman universally known as the former Khmer Rouge that becomes the most corrupt autocrat the world has ever known.

To paraphrase Andrei A. Gromyko, we will soon know how the weak strongman would “end up under a Sword of Damocles on a tightrope over the abyss.”

=====
Update:

VOA, 8 September 2020: លោក​ហ៊ុន សែន​ថា​ សំណុំ​រឿង​លោក​កឹម សុខា​អាច​ពន្យារ​ពេល​ដល់​២០២៤​ ខណៈ​មេធាវី​ជំរុញ​ឲ្យ​ពន្លឿន​សវនាការ
https://khmer.voanews.com/a/hun-sen-says-kem-sokha-trial-can-be-up-to-2024/5575087.html

Old Roguery – 老猾俏皮

My dear Kacvey,

You may wish to share this view with your students by of course respecting social distancing during the Wuhan virus pandemic, officially known as Covid-19.

It is about a particular character trait, among many others, written by Lin Yutang 林语堂 in his book “My Country and My People – 吾国与吾民”

In Chapter 2(4), Lin Yutang identified “old roguery – 老猾俏皮” as that particular character trait. Here are some extracts of what he wrote:

“… An old rogue is a man who has seen a lot of life, and who is materialistic, nonchalant, and skeptical of progress. At its best, this old roguery gives us mellowness and good temper, which in old men make many girls prefer them for husbands. For if life is worth anything, it is that it teaches a lesson of kindliness. The Chinese people have arrived at this point of view, not by having found any religious sanction for it, but from a profound observation and a knowledge of the vicissitudes of life. Typical of this extremely shrewd philosophy is the following famous dialogue of two poet-monks of the Tang Dynasty: “Once Hanshan asked Shihteh: “If one slanders me, sneers at me, despises me, injures me, hates me, and deceives me, what should I do?” Shihteh replied: “Only bear with him, yield to him, let him, avoid him, endure him, respect him, and ignore him. And after a few years, you just look at him.
寒山曾问拾得:”世间谤我,欺我,辱我,笑我,轻我,贱我,厌我,骗我, 如何处治乎?拾得云: “只是忍他,让他,由他,避他,耐他,不要理他,再待几年,你且看他。”

Lin Yutang continued:

“… At its worst, this old roguery, which is the highest product of Chinese intelligence, works against idealism and action. It shatters all desire for reform., laughs at the futility of of human effort. and renders the Chinese people incapable of idealism and action. It has a strange way of reducing all human activities to the level of the alimentary canal and other simple biological needs. Mencius 孟子 was a great rogue when he declared the chief desires of mankind to be food and women, or alimentation and reproduction. The late President Li Yunhong 黎云洪 was also a great rogue when he pronounced the healthily accepted dictum of Chinese political philosophy and formula for solving all Chinese party differences by saying “When there is rice, let everybody share it – 有饭大家吃.” President Li was a grim realist without knowing it , and he spoke wiser than he knew when he was thus giving an economic interpretation of current Chinese history…

Li Yutang went on:
… This nonchalant and materialistic attitude is based on the very shrewd view of life to which only old people and old nations can attain. It would be futile for young men under thirty to understand it , as it is futile for young nations of the West to try to appreciate it. Perhaps it was no mere accident that “Laozi, 老子” the very name of the author of Dao De Jing 道德经, the Bible of Taoism, means “the old boy.”

“… Taoism, in theory and practice … is a philosophy which counteracts the positivism of Confucius, and serves as a safety-valve for the imperfections of a Confucian society. For the Confucian outlook on life is positive, while the Taoistic outlook is negative, and out of the alchemy of these two strange elements emerges the immortal thing we called the Chinese character.

Hence all Chinese are Confucianists when successful, and Taoists when they are failures. The Confucianist in us builds and strives, while the Taoist in us watches and smiles. Therefore when a Chinese scholar is in office he moralizes, and when he is out of office he versifies, and usually it is good Taoist poetry. That explains why almost all Chinese scholars write poetry, and why in almost all collected works of Chinese writers, poetry occupies the better and greater half.

“… The Chinese are by nature greater Taoists than they are by culture Confucianists. As a people, we are great enough to draw up an imperial code, based on the conception of essential justice, but we are also great enough to distrust lawyers and law courts. Ninety-five per cent of legal troubles are settled out of court. We are great enough to make elaborate rules on ceremony, but we are also great enough to treat them as part of the great joke of life, which explains the great feasting and merry-making at Chinese funerals. We are great enough to denounce vice, but we are also great enough not to be surprised or disturbed by it. We are great enough to start successive waves of revolutions, but we are also great enough to compromise and to go back to the previous patterns of government. We are great enough to elaborate a perfect system of official impeachment and civil service and traffic regulations and library reading-rooms rules, but we are also great enough to break to break all systems, to ignore them, circumvent them, play with them, and become superior to them. We do not teach our young in the colleges a course of political political science, showing how a government is supposed to be run, but we teach them by daily example how our municipal, provincial and central governments are actually run. We have no use of impracticable idealism, as we have no patience for doctrinaire theology. We do not teach our young to become like the sons of God, but we teach them to behave like sane, normal human beings. That is why I believe that the Chinese are essentially humanists and Christianity must fail in China, or it must be altered beyond recognition before it can be accepted. The only part of Christian teachings which will be truly accepted by the Chinese people is Christ’s injunction to be “harmless as doves – 慈和如鸽” but “wise as serpents – 极敏如蛇.” For these two virtues, dove-like gentleness and serpent-like wisdom, are attributes of the old rogue.

In one word, we recognize the necessity of human effort but we also admit the futility of it. This general attitude of mind has a tendency to develop passive defense tactics. “Great things can be reduced into small things, and small things can be reduced to nothing – 大事化小事,小事化无事.” On this general principle, all Chinese disputes are patched up, all Chinese schemes are readjusted, and all reform programs are discounted until there are peace and rice for everybody. “One bid is not as as good as one pass – 多一事不如省一事,” so runs another of our proverbs, which means the same thing as “Let well enough alone – 勿生事,” and “Let sleeping dogs lie – 莫惹睡狗.”

In Chapter 3(3), “Lack of Science 缺乏科学精神,” Lin YuTang wrote:
Sufficient discussion of the characteristics of Chinese thinking has been made to enable us to appreciate the cause of their failure to develop natural science. The Greeks laid the foundation of natural science because the Greek mind was essentially an analytical mind, a fact which is proved by the striking modernity of Aristotle. The Egyptians developed geometry and astronomy, sciences which required an analytical mind; and the Hindus developed a grammar of their own. The Chinese, with all their native intelligence, never developed a science of grammar, and their mathematics and astronomical knowledge have largely been imported. For the Chinese mind delights only in moral platitude, and their abstract terms like “benevolence, ” “kindliness,” “propriety, ” and “loyalty ” are so general that in such discussions they are naturally lost in vague generalities…

It is easy to see why the Chinese mind cannot develop a scientific method, for the scientific method, besides being analytical, always involves an amount of stupid drudgery, while the Chinese believe in flashes of common sense and insight. And inductive reasoning, carried over to human relationships (in which the Chinese are primarily interested) often results in a form of stupidity not so rare in American universities …

This letter will be updated when and if other info are revealed in the book.

The Creation of Flowers?

My dear Kacvey,

Your students and you have certainly read about mythological tales how God created animals, but all of you have never heard or read about how God created flowers. Yes, FLOWERS, that beautiful and colorful thing that adorn planet earth!

Well, in Chapter: “Weimar in Early Spring” from his literary masterpiece: “An Empty Room”, Mu Xin let his imagination go way beyond the beyond.

Mu Xin wrote: “I imagine a mythology of flowers, flowers created during a grand competition among the gods. One god invented the lily, another god the tulip. Here appeared peonies and there water lilies …”

Kacvey, your students and you will not be disappointed with Mu Xin’s imagination when you reach the end of “Weimar in Early Spring” chapter!

“On the Uniformity of All Things”

My dear Kacvey,

Let us retreat for a moment to a quiet corner and reflect on what Zhuangzi 庄子 had said in his “On the Uniformity of All Things 齐物论

This is how the story goes:

Long, long ago, King Yao asked his minister Shun , “I’d like to attack the three tribes of Zong , Kuai and Xu’ao 胥敖. But whenever I come to court, I feel ill at ease about them. What do you think about it?”
Shun answered: Three states lie in the remote regions over grown with weeds and bushes. Why should you feel ill at ease about them? Once upon a time, when ten suns shone in the sky, everything under Heaven was bathed in the sunshine. And how your virtue out-shined those suns!

Nie Que 啮缺 asked Wang Ni 王倪, “Do you know, Sir, whether all things make judgments in the same way?”
Wang answered, “How can I know?”
Nie asked again, “Do you know, Sir, what you do not know?”
Wang answered, “How can I know?”
Nie said, “Then, is it that nothing can be known about anything?”
Wang said, “How can I know? Still, let me try to explain. How do you know that what I say I know is not what I do not know? How do you know that what I say I do not know is not what I know? Now I’d like to ask you a few questions. If a man sleeping in the damp is liable to get a back ache or half-paralysis, will the same thing happen to an eel? If a man sitting in a tree is liable to tremble with fear, will the same thing happen to an ape? Of the man, the eel and the ape who knows their proper place to live in? Men eat meat; deer feed on grass; centipedes are fond of snake; owls like rats. Of the man, the deer, the centipede and the owl, who knows the right taste? An ape mates with a gibbon; a buck seeks after a doe; an eel plays with a fish. At the sight of Maoqiang 毛嬙 and Xishi 西施, beauties admired by men, the fish will dive into the deep water, the birds will soar high in the sky, and the deer will take to their heels. Of the man, the fish, the bird and the deer, who knows the real beauty? As I see it, the principles of righteousness and humaneness, the standards of right and wrong, all these things are so complicated that I can hardly tell which is which.
Nie Que said, “If you cannot tell benefit from harm, can’t the perfect man tell benefit from harm?”
Wang Ni said, “The perfect man is divine. Even though the great swamp were set on fire, he would not feel the heat; even though the rivers were frozen, he would not feel the cold; even though the thunder hit the mountain and the whirlwind shook the sea, he would not feel the shock. Such a man can ride the clouds and mists, mount the sun and the moon, and travel beyond the four seas. How can a man unaffected by life bother about benefit and harm?

Ququezi 瞿鹊子 asked Changwuzi, “I have heard from Confucius that the sage is not involved in worldly affairs. He does not try to seek after benefits or avoid harms; he does not take delight in seeking after or blindly clinging to Dao . He says something by saying nothing; he does not say anything by saying something. By so doing he can travel beyond the dust of the world. Confucius 孔子 thought that these words were ambiguous, but I think this is how the wondrous Dao works. What do you about it?”
Changwuzi 长梧子 said, “Even the Yellow Emperor 皇帝 would have been puzzled by those words; how could Confucius understand them? And you, too, are jumping to conclusions – you see an egg and expect the cock to crow before it is hatched; you see a crossbow pellet and expect to roast the owl before it is shot down. I’ll give you some random remarks for you to listen at random.
“Why don’t you lean against the sun and the moon and embrace the universe? In this way, you will merge yourself in everything in the world so that you can ignore the confusion of distinction and treat the inferiors as supporters. The rank and file hustle and bustle while the sage seems to be stupid and ignorant , blending ten thousand years into one uniformity. He looks upon everything in the same way and accept them all.
“How do I know that love of life is not a delusion? How do I know that one who fears death is not like a waif who does not want to go back home? Lady Li 丽姬 was the daughter of a border guard of Ai . When she was first taken captive and brought to the state of Jin , she wept till her robe was drenched with tears. But when she was brought to the palace, slept with the prince on his comfortable bed, and ate delicious meal on his table, she began to regret her tears. How do I know that the dead do not regret that they ever long for life?
“A man may dream of a great feast but weep at daybreak; a man may dream of weeping but go hunting at daybreak. When he dreams he does not know that he is dreaming. In his dream, he may even try to interpret the dream; but when he awakes, he knows that he has been dreaming. Only after he is totally awakened does he realize that all was a grand dream. All the while, the fool thinks that he himself is awake, seemingly aware of everything; who is the lord, who is the shepherd, how stupid! Confucius and you are both dreaming, and I too am dreaming when I say that you are dreaming. These words to be a paradox, but after ten thousand generations there might appear a sage who knows how to explain them – it will seem as if we met within the day.
“Suppose that you and I argue over something . If you win and I lose, are you indeed right, and am I indeed wrong? If I win and you lose, am I indeed right and are you indeed wrong? Is one of us right and the other wrong? Are both of us right or both of us wrong? If neither you nor I can know, other people will be even more in the dark. Whom shall I ask to decide for us? Shall I ask someone who agrees with you to decide? If he already agrees with you, how can he decide it? Shall I ask some one who agrees with me to decide? If he already agrees with, how can he decide it? Shall I ask someone who disagrees with both of us to decide? If he already disagrees with both of us, how can he decide it? Shall I ask some who agrees with both of us to decide? If he already agrees with both of us , how can he decide it? If neither you nor I can know, who else shall we wait for?
“The different voices in an argument are in opposition to each other. To smooth out the opposition is to conform to the natural division of things as it is till the very end. What if meant by conforming to the natural division of things? My answer would be that “right” may be not “right” and “so” may be not “so”. If “right’ is really right, then “right ” is so different from “not right” that there is no need for argument; if “so” is really so, then “so” is so different from “not so” that there is again no need for argument. Forget about the time, forget about the distinctions, and you will be able to travel in the realm of the infinite. Therefore the sage lives in the realm of the infinite.”

The penumbra asked the shadow, “A little while ago you were moving when the man walked, and now you are standing still when the man stops; a little while ago you were sitting when the man sat, and now you are standing up when the man rises. How is it that you lack independent actions?”
The shadow answered, “Don’t I have to depend on the man to be what I am? Doesn’t the man have to depend on something else in turn to be what he is? Do I have to depend on the snake’s scale, or the cicada’s wings? How can I know why I do this? How can I know why I don’t do that?

I, by the name of Zhuang Zhou 庄周, once dreamed that I was a butterfly, a butterfly fluttering happily here and there. I was so pleased that I forgot that I was Zhuang Zhou. When I suddenly woke up, I was astonished to find that I was as a matter of fact Zhuang Zhou. Did Zhuang Zhou dream of the butterfly or did the butterfly dream of Zhuang Zhou? Between Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinctions. This is called “the transformation of things.

Kacvey, do have a nice dream of colorful and beautiful butterflies!

According to “History Today”: The Angkor Empire’s National Health Service

My dear Kacvey,

On 14 May 2020, History Today published an article titled “The Angkor Empire’s National Health Service” under the signature of Joanna Wolfarth, a cultural historian, lecturer and writer.

The article mentioned two major quotes, both attributed to King Jayavarman VII, and translated from the historical inscriptions sculpted in various temples in the Bayon complex; they are so powerful in meaning that your students should reflect upon for their intellectual development and perspective:

1. “He suffered the illnesses of his subjects more than his own; because it is the pain of the public that is the pain of kings rather than their own pain.

2. “Filled with a deep sympathy for the good of the world, the king swore this oath: ‘All beings who are plunged in the ocean of existence, may I draw out by virtue of this good work. And may the kings of Cambodia who come after me, attached to goodness … attain with their wives, dignitaries and friends the place of deliverance where there is no more illness.

The power of history is so heavy that it breaks the bones and skull of the present.

The Year of the Rat

My dear Kacvey,

As we are saying good bye to the Year of the Pig, the Year of the Rat is knocking at the door. What would the Pig have had written in the handover parchment: achievements and still outstanding matters?

You can argue upfront why burdening the mythological and symbolic Pig with the troubles that MEN created? Well, if this is your thinking, why did people refer to angels and goddesses Pig on Chaul Chnam Kor, and now angels and goddesses Rat on Chaul Chnam Jhoot?

Well, whatever we argue, the truth is, after these 3 days, NOBODY will talk or think about angels and goddesses Rat anymore … until next April 2021 when the subject of angels and goddesses Cow will come up again.

Be it as it may, how in good human conscience can we formulate or mutually wish each other a “Happy Chaul Chnam” when all of us are living in a state of stay-in-place, confinement, lock-down, WFH, ghost towns, closed frontiers, airports and harbors, closed schools, universities and libraries, closed shops and stores, empty stadiums and sports arena, closed museums, movie houses, theaters and TV studios etc…, as consequences of the pandemic of a virus that originated in Wuhan?

How can we even think about a “Joyful Chaul Chnam” when millions women and men are infected with that virus, epicenters sprouted in every continent, death overflow hospitals and morgues, relatives and friends can’t even attend funerals of their loved ones?

How can we possibly do the “Roam Vong” when millions are out of jobs, factories are closed, sellers sitting behind their merchandises without buyers, parents have to social-distance with their children, grand-parents with their grand-children etc …?

How can we gaily beat the traditional drum (tèass skôr) when pagodas, churches, temples and mosques are no longer places of worship where worshipers can pray without being afraid of contamination?

How can you and your students enjoy the game of “ang kougn” or “bôss chhoung,” when the weak strongman imposed the state of emergency with pretense to fight against the invisible Wuhan virus whereas its ex-KR autocratic regime is at the end of the rope? It has no plan not only on how to fight the virus but also on how to address the current social-economic crisis and the post-lockdown period. Its coffer is empty although it continues to promise financial relief to garment workers.

When the whole world fights the Wuhan virus with more doctors, nurses and medical equipment, strengthening of health and hygiene methods and facilities, doubling or even quadrupling budgets for medicine and pharmaceutical researches, formulating stimulus and relief economic plan to help the population, the weak strongman of Cambodia, fearing its own imminent collapse, doubles down on oppression and dictatorship to hide its inability to steer the ship out of the Wuhan virus storm aftermath. Bankruptcy is written on the wall, and history has repeated again and again that autocracy, no matter how long and strong it is  and given that no domestic force can topple it, will always end up in implosion or suicide.

On the day known as the 1st day of the Khmer New Year, we wish you and your students the happy coziness within the respective stay-in-place quarters, the continuing patience and courage to challenge the boredom, and the determination to stay safe and healthy and to look forward to the deconfinement when life will resume its normalcy. On va s’en sortir sans sortir!