The ‘Anne Frank’ of Cambodia?
For months ago I find it most of the time published in any visible page of The Cambodia Daily, full color and that strain comparison: The Cambodian Anne Frank.Watching the movie of Rithy Panh or reading the book of Elizabeth Becker, Bophana, A Cambodian Tragedy, you understand that it is the making of a character.
The story is moving, of course, but the intention of preserve the memory starts to mix with another shocking reality: commercialization of history. Tragedies like the one of the Khmer Rouge regime era come under the well established rules of the market.
You can notice many kind of groups in modern Cambodia and one of the most well known is a rising middle class made of former victims of the Khmer Rouge. It became like a title of nobility. If you say ‘I am a victim of the Khmer Rouge,’ then you get a free burger.
Easily, you can notice also that most of them use their past dramas in their benefit with the support of certain humanitarian international elements ready to sponsor their dreams of revenge with history. There was even one, Yasith Chhun, who used his old hate in order to take power in Cambodia…
But I find exaggerate this comparison of Bophana with Anne Franz. It is evidently the creation of a brand to sell at the hands of these wealthy victims of the Khmer Rouge. The friendship of Oliver Stone to institutions like Bophana Audiovisual Center is just meaningful: an American director whose career has been guided by abusive interpretations of history, putting them irresponsible on films, gives us a clue.
Now you find these victims of the Khmer Rouge writing books, making films, painting and giving interviews to the press… of course, those who completed their tragedy by being adopted by countries like France or United States. They have nothing to see anymore with that unprotected child that fled to the Thai refugee camps in the late 1970s. Now they return as well educated people in their sponsored rich societies and open their own tragedy market in Cambodia.
The Khmer Rouge victims’ market is well supported by organizations like Bophana Audiovisual Center with all its Cannes and, going further, by systems like the Documentary Center of Cambodia, DC-Cam. I do not mean that they are useless or their work have not merit. I just call for a kind of measure in their way they deal with history. For me, they are creating an idea that the Khmer Rouge regime time can be used as a way of living. If you want an interview with the survivors of S-21, you have to pay more than 100 US dollars for one hour! It was what I had to pay to most promoted painter Van Nath, who was expecting even more, or Bou Men, who makes crying performances inside the Tuol Sleng Museum before cameras. Even the former S-21 guard, Hen Huy, asks 100 US dollars for an interview! If you need any file from Bophana Audiovisual Center in order to preserve the memory, you have to pay for each file just as shopping in the mall. Nothing to say about the well sounded Tribunal for the Khmer Rouge leaders and their high expenses.
What about those unknown victims? Where are those who could not flee to United States and France? Those who are evicted every month from their lands, abused every moment of their human rights and silenced by ignorance and poverty? Those who remained in Cambodia and are really working in their re-construction?
Update 1, 10.06.10. Recently the Cambodia Documentary Center (DC-Cam), was supporting the claim of the ‘victims of the Khmer Rouge’ to ask their ‘rights’ to the International Tribunal. It is like this: the victims are satisfied that the survival Khmer Rouge leaders are being sentenced, but it is not enough. They would need attention (money), psychologists (money), medical services (money), attention to their families (money) and many other things to ‘help them’ in the overcoming of their traumas, of course, DC-Cam will see for it, to be ‘near the victims.’ The question is this one –> Who is a victim of the Khmer Rouge? For me, all Cambodians were victims of the Khmer Rouge. All Cambodians were enslaved in agrarian concentrations camps, all of them saw how their relatives and friends were shot in the forests, too many of them ran to refugee camps and, the same Khmer Rouge cadres, most of them children and teenagers, were victims of a brainwashing… Therefore, all Cambodians, the almost 15 million living now in this country, are victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. The funds for this too expensive tribunal could go into development and not for the creation of a well-off privileged group inside the Cambodian society.