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The flower of Chiang Mai: a romantic episode of Cambodia-Thailand

June 6, 2010 - Tharum Bun

Chiang Mai, Thailand–Cambodia’s legend singer and musician Sin Sisamouth could have been to the northern part of Thailand and sang a beautiful song, Bopha (flower/girl) Chiang Mai.

Below is a YouTube video of the song, not sung by him, but a 23-year-old Khmer-American whose music has been reaching the Khmer diaspora through the Internet. Artist Laura Mam, a graduate of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, weighs in on Cambodia-Thailand relations.

In an email interview in early April this year, Laura wrote:

Absolutely artists can play a role in healing this wound. I believe that the situation with Thailand is very difficult. Not only do you have a thousand year rivalry fueled by the wounds of war, but you also have a very recent nationalist rivalry that in some ways is very politicized. There is a story that my mother always talks about that clearly demonstrates for me the situation on the border. On the one hand, I think that the government of Thailand truly owes Cambodia and my family a very large apology for their actions after the fall of the Khmer Rouge; which included rounding up Cambodian refugees who made it across the border to refugee camps, putting them on a bus, and sending them off the cliffs of Preah Vihear to die in the heavily mined forests of Northern Cambodia just because they didn’t want to deal with us.

But on the other hand, when my family was being sent off to their death, it was Thai villagers on the border that wrapped up food and supplies for these refugees because they knew what was going to happen to these victims and did what they could to help. What this tells me is that the border that exists between Thailand and Cambodia is illusion and the problem lies with the Thai government, not the Thai people. Yes we have bad blood between us, however, we are brothers and sisters. We share Buddhism, Sanskrit, a monarchy, and are both still reeling from the effects of post-colonialism. And to put it in plain words, the border is a line that was drawn to split territory for the French and the English. People need to remember that pre-colonialism, there were no borders, just villages, and a King you paid patronage to. 

We should also realize that war, especially nationalist war, is the last thing Cambodia needs with Thailand. I just want Khmers to remember that extreme nationalism is one of the reasons the Khmer Rouge were even able to rise to power. I never want Cambodia to resort to violence again. I think that we have lost enough lives for one century. No matter how deeply our pride has been hurt by the Thais, we should remember that the issues between the two are more political then they are personal. As an artist I want to express this opinion so that people will know how to recognize the difference between these two things. Buddhism honors compassion above all things. Both Thais and Khmers respect and recognize the wisdom of Buddha’s words and through this unity and collective understanding, Cambodians and Thais can both heal and overcome the difficult lesson of forgiveness.

Agoda

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