Hundreds Killed in Cambodia

I know it’s not about Tibet or Burma, but several hundred young Cambodians have recently died in a stampede during holiday festivities in Phnom Penh. According to the BBC:

At least 339 people [have] been killed in a stampede during festival celebrations in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen has said.

Huge crowds had gathered on a small island for the final day of the Water Festival, one of the main events of the year in Cambodia.

The stampede took place on a bridge, which eyewitnesses said had become overcrowded.

Hundreds more people were injured in the crush.

This is a huge tragedy, and I am honestly too overwhelmed to say much else.

Poetry of the Killing Fields

Contra Costa Times writes about Buddhist monk Ly Van, who left behind two works of poetry noted for their stunning “lyricism, poignancy and richness” which have since been formatted for broad distribution.

In an immaculate Khmer calligraphy, the 90-year-old monk transcribed two long narrative poems he had written, one called “The Khmer Rouge Regime: A Personal Nightmare” and the other titled “The Unfortunate Love of Sophoan Chea,” a tragic tale also set in the time of the Khmer Rouge.

Feeling the Khmer-language poetry deserved a larger audience, educator Samkhann Khoeun meticulously translated the work and created a book and a Khmer-language CD titled “O! Maha Mount Dangrek: Poetry of Cambodian Refugee Experiences.” The title refers to the treacherous mountain many Cambodians had to traverse to escape their homeland and cross the border into Thailand and the refugee camps.

A national tour is giving public readings, and they’re now in Southern California. Check out the presentation tomorrow at the Mark Twain Library in Long Beach.

Ready for the End

H.M. King Father Preah Norodom Sihanouk announces that he has little wish to live longer, but is not about to take his own life. (Translation below.)

Beijing, PRC, October 2, 2009.

My father, H.M. King Preah Suramarit, died at the age of 64 (diabetes). 1960.

His father-in-law, H.M. King Preah Monivong, had died at the age of 64 (died of grief in 1941—the grief of having lost Battambang, etc…—unjustly annexed by Thailand with the help of Japan).

My maternal great-grandfather, H.M. Preah Sisowath had the reputation of having lived a very long life; he died at the age of 83 (died of “old age”).

But I, who sincerely want to die as near in the future as possible, have “lived too long”: on October 31, 2009, I will be 87 years old.

This overly long longevity weighs on me like an unbearable weight.

Unaware of my mentality, an incalculable number of compatriots are wishing for me to live beyond 100 years. Some of these well-loved compatriots have gone so far as to wish me to live 300 years!!!

More out of courtesy and affection than out of hypocrisy, I thank these compatriots. But to be frank and stripped of hypocrisy, I would like to for all to know (Khmers and foreigners) that they bring me no pleasure when they wish me a long life. What I want is to die as soon as possible, without infringing on the teaching of the Noble Buddha which forbids suicide.


This story also appeared last week in Cambodge Soir and in the Straits Times.

Supreme Hypocrisy

In a UPI piece, Chak Sopheap speaks frankly about Grand Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong and his apparent attitudes towards morality in the Khmer sangha.

Several reports of monks having sex, watching pornographic materials and other social misconduct have largely gone unnoticed by the supreme patriarch. Recently a chief monk reportedly got drunk and beat some of his followers, who did not file a complaint out of fear for their safety.

Unlike the case of Tim Sakhorn – a monk who was charged with misconduct and defrocked in 2007 for allegedly destabilizing relations between Cambodia and Vietnam – the supreme patriarch has not reacted to the recent issue involving the drunken monk. This shows that the decision to defrock Sakhorn was politically motivated, and that the Buddhist leader is unconcerned about the decline of morality among the monks under his charge.

Behind this article are complex stories of epic proportions, such as what does it mean to be a supreme patriarch of Cambodia? (There are three!) Or where in the world is Tim Sakhorn?