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20 February: The Vichy regime of Admiral Decoux & the Buddhist Institute 1941-1945


CKS Lecture Series on Cambodia in the 20th Century. Dr Henri Locard: 20 February: The Vichy regime of Admiral Decoux & the Buddhist Institute 1941-1945

CKS Lecture Series on Cambodia in the 20th Century. Dr Henri Locard: 20 February: The Vichy regime of Admiral Decoux & the Buddhist Institute 1941-1945

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  • 1. Lecture 11 The Vichy regime of Admiral Decoux & the Buddhist Institute 1940-1945 20 February 2014
  • 2. Sources • Tully, see chap. 18 & 19, Chandler, chap. 9, V.M. Reddi, chap. 2 & 3 • Milton Osborne, Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness, Silkworm Books, 1994, chap. 3 • History of Southeast Asia (1824-1965), Joginder Singh Jessy, Longman, 1985. • Une Colonisation éducatrice ? L’expérience indochinoise (1860-1945) Pascale Besançon, 3e Partie, chap. 3: ‘La Politique scolaire vichyste’, L’Harmattan, 2002 • Philip Short, Pol Pot, the History of a Nightmare, John Murray, 2004 • Nhiek Tioulong, Chroniques khmères, 1980s • & French military tribunal archives at Le Blanc, Indre.
  • 3. Prelude : Norodom Sihanouk: 1941-1945 • As David Chandler pointed out in his The Tragedy of Cambodian History (Yale University Press, 1991), “for the first four years of his reign, Sihanouk was a pliant monarch and a willing pupil” (15). • Milton Osborne, in his biography of the King wrote exactly the same thing: “The essential feature of Sihanouk’s life was his readiness to play the part the French planned for him. For more than three years he was subservient to the French in all the public issues that counted” (30). • In particular, at the time of the first demonstration for independence on 20th July 1942, he did not raise his eyebrows and allowed some 20 Cambodians (200 for Ben Kiernan! How Pol Pot Came to Power, 44) to be arrested and dragged to a military court in Saigon.
  • 4. Sihanouk, the consumate diplomat • This meant that he behaved exactly like his two predecessors, Sisowath and Monivong and was on very friendly terms with the French administrators and advisors. • Besides, he was an attentive pupil of his private tutors and perfected his wonderful French, as if he had lived many years in the metropolis. “AmédéePhilippe de Boysson, de famille noble, enseigne de vaisseau de 1ère classe” (Souvenirs doux & amères, p. 61). • Young Sihanouk learnt from the French upper class tutors and advisors his perfect manners and etiquette that later made him the consummate diplomat on the international scene.
  • 5. Sihanouk & diplomas • One must also be well aware that at the time, Sihanouk was only a schoolboy and then a very young man and he learnt certainly very quickly the business of government, but he had no diploma to show for this. Probably, that was later to give him a sort of inferiority complex in comparison to Cambodian students fresh from French Universities in the Sangkum period. • They were straightaway given ministerial responsibilities for which they had not much competence, the most notorious being Khieu Samphân. • Sihanouk was trained on the job – but trained nevertheless and it was quite normal for him to take four years to be in a position to act more independently from his French mentors.
  • 6. Sihanouk‟s in-house training • In other words Decoux‟s astute move to put aside Sisowath Monireth proved wise only for the next four year period. From a French viewpoint, Decoux‟s choice was to prove not so wise, at least in the longer run and at least since the Japanese coup de force on 8th March 1945. • Similarly, when the French advised the young King to tour the country, a habit Sihanouk maintained throughout the Fifties and Sixties – if not the Nineties – that contributed to the monarch‟s popularity and gave him that trump card during his Royal Crusade for Independence.
  • 7. Elections & coronation • Monivong died at Bokor on 23rd April 1941 & Norodom Sihanouk was immediately chosen by Decoux who dispatched to the Res. Sup in PPenh that this was the French Government‟s choice because “the election of Prince Sihanouk will unite in the person of the new monarch the two branches of the Royal Family of Cambodia, that of the Norodoms, from his father’s side, and that of the Sisowaths, on his mother’s side.” Suramarit was the son of Prince Sutharot (1872-1945), himself a son of Norodom (1836-1904). • On 3rd may, it was it formal investiture and he received his royal titles. The day of the official grand coronation is fixed by astrologists on 28th October, before the young Monarch‟s 19th birthday on 31st October.
  • 8. Family tree of Norodom Sihanouk Le Palais du Roi du cambodge, Julio Jeldres, 2002
  • 9. Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness, Milton Osborne
  • 10. Prince Sisowath Monireth (1909-1975-76), eldest son of King Monivong (1876-1941) • « Sihanouk is the nephew that I cherish most, and the son of my loving sister. I cannot say anything. (Je n’ai rien à dire). But let no one come and tell me that he has been chosen solely because he unites the two branches in his own person . Because I myself too am directly born of the two branches. I am indeed called Sisowath and is not my mother (Kan Yuman-Kan Viman,-18761912) an authentic Princess, a daughter of King Norodom ?” (1836-1904)
  • 11. The Royal House of Cambodia, Jeldres, 2003
  • 12. I - The New Order in Southeast Asia & the Japanese occupation • In July 1940, Governor General Raoul Catroux slipped away into the maquis to join the Gaullists & was replaced by the « collaborationist » Admiral Jean Decoux that was to remain à la barre de l’Indochine until the 9th march 1945 Japanese coup. • September 1941, Decoux allowed the Japanese army to occupy Indochina. • In Europe, Hitler had launched the crazy “Operation Barbarossa” against the USSR on 22nd June 1941. It led to the combined German and Russian losses of 16,8500,00; while the losses of World War I had been around 8 million. Shortly before, Stalin had purged between 30 and 40,000 of his best and most experienced officers
  • 13. The Japanese in Southeast Asia • Plans for New Order in Southeast Asia were formulated by the Japanese government in the closing months of 1941 and early 1942. • Apart from Thailand and Indochina, which had signed treaties with Japan, the other countries of the region were to be brought under the complete military, political, economic and cultural domination of Japan. • Initially these countries were to be brought under military administration, which would gradually transfer its authority to local organs of selfgovernment.
  • 14. Japanese brand of liberation • For example in Malaysia, all the power throughout the country was held by the military and through it by the dreaded Kempeitai or military police. The Kempeitai, that came under the direct control of Tojo, the Prime Minister, was given powers unheard of in any imperial regime. These included the right to arrest, and investigate by torture or other vicious and inhuman methods. • Those methods soon alienated the admiration that the local people once lavished on the Japanese as their liberators from Western colonial rule. The atrocities of the Japanese army during the initial invasion of Malaysia and Singapore and the ferocity of the Kempeitai will always remain a painful memory for those people.
  • 15. The Co-Prosperity Sphere • This meant firstly that these regions would supply food and raw materials that were needed to feed the Japanese armies and supply industries (for Cambodia it was a lot of rice, for instance); and secondly act as markets for Japanese manufactured goods. • In Malaysia, the Japanese failed to keep the tin mines and rubber estates in operation, while the economic life of the people was brought to the brink of utter ruin by black-marketing, corruption and inflation. On top of that, the Allied Forces imposed a maritime blockade on the peninsula and the very idea of a “Co-Prosperity Sphere” became a big joke or a farce.
  • 16. The Pacific War • The Japanese had declared war on the Allies on 8th December 1941 with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. By mid-1942, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines had come under the direct control of the Japanese army. • Although there were 35,000 Japanese troops throughout Indochina and 8,000 in Cambodia, the French were very much left to themselves to manage the local administration, while the Japanese had taken the security in hand. The Japanese were stationed at a few strategic centres, so that there was almost no contact between them and the local population. In fact, Indochina was the only country in Southeast Asia which remained under colonial rule.
  • 17. Admial Decoux‟s policies • Admiral Decoux tried his best to retain the goodwill of the people. He set up an “Indochinese Federation”. Its members were given a greater autonomy than in the old Indochinese Union, while the rulers of Annam, Cambodia and Luang Prabang were given greater prestige and a little more power. Public works were begun on a large scale and new schools were built, like the Norodom Sihanouk College in Kompong Cham. Indochinese administrators were appointed to higher posts in the government services. • Relations between the French troops, who kept law and order, and the units of the Japanese military remained cordial.
  • 18. Sore points • First, a small resistance movement was organized by Frenchmen who were against the acceptance of the agreement with the Japanese, like Georges Groslier. As the Japanese began to face difficulties in their war against the United States. From 1943 onwards, a few French officers were parachuted into Indochina by the Free French Mission in Calcutta. The Japanese secret police knew about this. • More worrying even for the Japanese ambitions were the activities of the clandestine Indochinese Communist Party (ICP). In May 1941, took place the conference organized by the ICP in the Chinese Kwangsi province in China where the decision was taken to form the League for the Independence of Vietnam that is more commonly known as the Viet Minh. Although the movement was said to include nationalists as
  • 19. The origins of the 1st Indochinese war • In March 1944, a second conference was held which resulted in the setting up of the Provisional government of Vietnam, with the aim of securing the independence of the country. A resistance movement was also formed with Vo Nguyen Giap who was also a hard-core communist. At the time, the movement was encouraged by Americans who promised to supply arms and other war materials that they needed. • That should have been a worrying development for the Cambodians for, according to Nhiek Tioulong, what he calls the “pan-annamitism” was to survive colonial days: the Vietnamese developed their idea of the “Great Viet” or “Dai Viet” represented by their two secret societies: the Dai Viet Quoc Dang Dan (DVQDD) and the Viet Doc Lap Dong Minh (Viet Minh).
  • 20. Cambodia squeezed between 2 imperialisms • The nationalist and the communist, both shared an imperialist ambition for the creation of a “Grand Vietnam” in Indochina, just as Pibun Songkhram in what became Thailand wished to take advantage of WW II and Japanese presence to build a larger and grander Thailand too. Defenseless Cambodia was squeezed between the two ambitious neighbours and defeated Vichy France was not really in a position to protect it. • Taking advantage of the war situation, the Vietnamese infiltrated into the Japanese military organizations mainly in the positions of intelligence officers and interpreters of the Japanese.
  • 21. The loss of Western territories • In late 1940, the Thais opened hostilities after intense propaganda campaign in the West for soldiers and officials to join the Thai cause of Greater Thailand. The Thais used infantry raids, aviation attacks and ranks to wage what Tully calls “a skirmish war”. The Franco-Khmer army can only line some 14,000 troops along a 240 km border. There were numerous casualties on both sides, but no decisive victory. • But in January 1941, the French navy achieved a decisive victory around Koh Chang where almost the entire Thai navy was destroyed, 860 marines were killed and only 82 survived, while the French suffered few, if any, casualties. • But the then triumphant Japanese in the Pacific forced the French to sign the Treaty of Tokyo on 11th March 1941 that delineated a new border, thus annulling the 1904 & 1907 Treaties. Indochina has to cede the whole of Battambang, plus parts of Pursat, Siemreap (except Angkor) & Stung Treng.
  • 22. The Japanese attempt at enrolling Khmer spies too • They started being contacted by the Japanese secret services. Their agency had settled since a long time in Phnom Penh under the form of a trading company Dainan Koosi Khaisha Limited that had opened in the capital an unassuming China (porcelain) and Japanese wares. • Officially, the Japanese consul Takashima had already established a whole network of friends among the locals and also among the French population, including persons in high positions. Public opinion in Cambodia was very badly informed of what was going on and this is why rumors created a quite tense atmosphere.
  • 23. The French population … • … was to a large extent unaware of the evolution of the native population of Indochina. The colonizers were nevertheless divided into two clans, as in France itself, the Pétinistes and the clandestine Gaullists. • The latter group was growing more and more confident with the nomination of General Mordant as head of the resistance by the Alger Committee. But he remained underground because of the massive Japanese presence. On the other hand, the Japanese themselves were perfectly well informed and they knew all the names and addresses of the France Libre partisans.
  • 24. Emergence of the Cambodian nationalist movement • … was emerging around essentially the Nagarawatta newspaper that every Khmer civil servant was avidly reading, a Khmer newspaper to which many had subscribed when it was first launched in 1936. • The paper had been created by Pach Chhœun (1896-1971) by subscription. It was first moderately nationalist, mainly in regard to the Siamese, Vietnamese and Chinese, but not really anti-colonial until France‟s two defeats in Europe and in Cambodia. The most active in the group who were producing the paper were Son Ngoc Thanh (1908-1977), Sim Var (1906-1989), Bun Chan Mol (1914- ) and Haèm Chieu (1898-1943).
  • 25. The nationalists & Japan • From 1941, they agreed that it was time for France to restore Cambodia‟s independence. What they disagreed about was their position in regards to the Japanese occupiers. • Son Ngoc Thanh was wholly in favour of gaining independence with Japanese aid and seeing Cambodia a pillar of the Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere. • Others thought exactly the opposite as they feared the Japanese would simply be worse and more cruel colonizers than the French. • Besides, they disagreed about the use of violence and the kind of government they wanted for independent Cambodia: a constitutional monarchy or a Republic. • As to Sihanouk himself, he was to envisage neither.
  • 26. The Japanese secret police tries to enlist Cambodian spies Pach Chhœun (1896-1971) seemed to have been one of the most politically mature of the group (along with Achar Haèm Chieu), just hoping for Japanese neutrality and was not very keen to see them too much involved into the political affairs of Cambodia. • When he was in the Saigon prison, on 15th September 1942, he told the French police how he had been approached at his paper by the Japanese and what were his reactions. His main fear in the early months of 1942 was that the Thais would not stop at Battambang, Siemreap and Northern Cambodia, but would wish to swallow the entire country to the Mekong river. That fear was also expressed in French quarters and was not completely unrealistic.
  • 27. « The Thais are planning to swallow the entire Cambodian territory » • On 15th April 1942, Pach Chhœun received a visit of a Japanese civilian at his news paper to inform him that many soldiers were massed at Aranyaprathet in Thailand, ready to invade Cambodia. He was asked by his visitor if, as a Cambodian, he would be happy to become part of a greater Thailand. He replied he strenuously rejected the idea of Cambodia being under Siamese domination. “But you accept the French who are nonAsian. They are your brothers racially”, he replied. • Chhœun told the Japanese that he had voluntarily fought during WW I in France and acted as a sublieutenant. The Japanese offered to help him to find paper for his publication.
  • 28. • • • • Gendarmerie (Kempeitai), came under the pretext of asking Pach Chhœung about various economic statistics. The latter replied he should ask the Chamber of Commerce. He retuned a few days later to ask him to work for the Japanese intelligence services and asked him to provide information: 1 - Gouvernement Général or Résidence Supérieure notices advising the civil servants not to communicate with the Japanese authorities. 2 – Information about the new Cambodian Ministers: their training, their family origin, their political affiliation, their weaknesses, their private lives, … 3 – information about the French people surrounding the King and their influence on the Monarch. 4 – Information about Poc Hell, a brother of Poc Khun, founder of the Khmer Issarak on 18/12/1940, and a son of Poc (1833- ) a high official of Norodom court, and Prince Sanphanouvong and to try and find out about the relationships between the Japanese officers and the Cambodians.
  • 29. Son Ngoc Thanh (1908-1977) • A few days later, Son Ngoc Thanh confessed to Pach Chhœun that he was in close negotiations with a certain Lieutenant Ochi, the commandant of the Japanese Gendarmerie in Phnom Penh. • Son Ngoc Thanh thought the time had come for the Cambodian people to rebel against France, provided the Japanese army accepted to help them. Ochi had promised to send a report to Saigon to ask for the Japanese general‟s approval.
  • 30. Son Ngoc Thanh‟s schemings • Later, at the end of April 1942, Son Ngoc Thanh came to fetch Pach Chœun at his house at about 8 p.m. saying that Ochi had given them an appointment in his car behind the Sisowath High School. He made them get into the car and he drove round the city to inform them that the Saigon General had given his answer: he approved of the uprising, but thought that the time had not yet come to drive the French away. Certain conditions must first be fulfilled by the Japanese army in the Far East. • In the meantime, the Cambodians must continue to recruit supporters, provoke incidents to show the French are not in a position to maintain order and the Japanese can then intervene. On the other hand, Achar Haèm Chieu was not at all convinced that Japanese intervention was in the least to be desired – as we shall see later.
  • 31. II - Elements of the Vichy ideology • • • • • John Tully, chap 19 In the meantime in Indochina, the Japanese had struck a deal with the Vichy regime and the “Révolution Nationale” was to be in harmony with their objectives of the “Co-prosperity Sphere”. The motto of the Pétain regime was “Travail, Famille, Patrie” to be spread among the young population and the love of the Fatherland (in this case Vichy, France of course) and personality cult of the Great Leader, Marshal Pétain whose portraits were distributed all over the Federation. Cambodian schoolchildren were not yet made to sing Japanese songs, but French to the glory of the great Marshal: Marshal, here we are ! Maréchal, nous voilà ! Saviour of France, before you, Sauveur de la France, devant vous, Your children swear to serve you, Vos enfants jurent de vous servir, And follow along your path. Et de suivre votre chemin.
  • 32. The enrolment & brain washing of youth • Sihanouk confessed in his memoirs that after hearing the song being sung every day, he had of course learnt this patriotic song by heart. • It was probably the first time in Cambodia‟s history that the youth was made to sing patriotic songs. That could have given the future leaders of Democratic Kampuchea, who were schoolchildren at the time, to do the same later, but on a grand scale, and compel the entire society – the young in particular – to learn scores of revolutionary songs.
  • 33. Order, unity, work & blind obedience to the supreme guide … • … that was the ideology that was taught to Saloth Sar, Khieu Samphan, Hou Yuon, Hu Nim at the newly created Sihanouk College in Kompong Cham they all attended. “The peasantry were romanticized as the incarnation of the nation; the city was decried as inherently depraved” (Philip Short). • All school children were recruited in a militarized youth movement that can be seen as a forerunner of Sihanouk‟s Yuvan movement, the Khmer Rouge or the Youth Movement of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). Among the intriguing relationships between Petainism and PolPotism, one must emphasize the blind obedience to and worship of the Great Leader – the invisible
  • 34. Le Jeunesse de France • The previous Khmer Scout movement led by Prince Sisowath Monireth, was transformed into a new youth movement, the Yuvan. Sihanouk had been a boy scout himself. Yuvan was the Khmer section of the “Jeunesse de France” of the Pétain regime. The Grand master of the similar youth movements in all the Indochinese countries was Commandant Ducoroy from the French navy. He was General Commissar for Sports and Youth in Indochina. As soon as it was created the movement was a sweeping success (100,000 members) as it was constituted from the earlier scout movement. The Yuvan cadres were recruited among the high and middle-rank Khmer civil servants in two special schools at Nhatran in Annam: • l’Ecole Supérieure des Cadres de la Jeunesse, de l’Indochine (E.S.C.J.IC) • l’Ecole Supérieure des Sports & d’Éducation Physique de l’Indochine (E.S.E.P.I.C.)
  • 35. The repression at the Buddhist Institute • Pascal Bourdeaux (Siksāckr 89-101) „The Turning point o 1942‟ rightly points out to « the simultaneousness of religious reform independence through non-violence », but fails to grasp the fu brutality of the Vichy-ist repression of the Buddhist Institut and Higher School of Pali lashed out by Res. Sup. Gautier. A few examples of litany of fierce measures : • In 8th March 1941, Suzanne Karpélès (1890-1930-1968) wa sent to early retirement because she was accused of being o Jewish origin. Replaced by Pierre Dupont (1908-1965) who remained at the head of the Institute till late 1946 • A Kret (decree) of 21st July1942 says “The 2nd class magistrat Son Ngoc Thanh, Assistant-Librarian of the Royal Library, is hande back to the Ministry of Justice.”
  • 36. • Yoeurn Choeum was appointed to his post. On 27th July 1942, Yoeurn Choeum also replaced Son Ngoc Thanh as “in charge of minor expenses and AssistantSecretary-Interpreter at the Buddhist Institute”. Ngo Hong, assistant accountant at the Buddhist Institute was laid off from his post from 1st October 1942 and also replaced by Yoeurn Choeum. • On 21st July also, an internal memorandum at the Institute indicated that the Achar Hy Heng, Chan Khan, Ouk Chea, and Penn Sok, teachers at the Higher School of Pali, were relieved of their duties for an indeterminate time. They were banned from gaining access to the Higher School of Pali. Only four teachers retained their positions.
  • 37. The repression at the Buddhist Institute - 3 • Another Kret dated 12th August 1942 closed the Higher School of Pali. It was to reopen on 1st December of the same year. The Buddhist lectures organized by the Buddhist Institute were phased out. So was the mobile library. • Repression was not limited to the Institute and its annexes. On 4th August 1942, de Lens sent a curt letter to the President of the Buddhist Society enjoining the association to stop all activities sine die as soon as the letter was received: • “Recent incidents to which influential members of the Buddhist society were accessory have revealed a regrettable state of mind and have created a malaise susceptible not only of bringing discredit to your activities, leading people to believe you are following self-interested goals, but also of sowing confusion where order and discipline have always prevailed.”
  • 38. Repression - 4 • On December 18th, Pierre Dupont wrote to the Résident Supérieur that all publications had been stopped by censorship and lack of paper, except for the periodicals (Kambujasuriya & the “Bulletin religieux”). [ANC, 22.345]. • Georges Gautier, the new Résident Supérieur, answered dryly on the same day: • “I have the honour to detail to you the principles according to which you must regulate your relationships with the services of Censorship of Information Propaganda and Press (IPP). I must point out first that all quarrels and polemics must be banished, each department working in its own field within a common enterprise that must be pursued in a spirit of whole-hearted collaboration.”
  • 39. Repression - 5 • “In the past the Pali School, the inspirer of the Buddhist Institute, possessed a de facto monopoly in Cambodian publication. Now from a higher point of view, it has been unable to reach the masses, and so has hardly helped to shape the Cambodian spirit. Besides, religious text commentators have not restricted themselves to refine their theology, but have shown too much sympathy for certain political tendencies. The events of last July have proved this.
  • 40. Conclusion • On 22nd June 1943, Gautier still another report containing this contradictory demands to Pierre Dupont : “policy directives will have to take into account the constraints today in Cambodia : the need to stir up the creative activity of the Khmers and maintain a perfect political stability. At a time when the whole of Indochina is alive with a sustained effort, Cambodia – favoured in various ways – cannot remain slumbering in the contemplation of its past and its traditions. It must take part in the activities of the day … The Protectorate is resolved to pursue with ever-increasing energy the general awakening that is indispensable. A web of contradictions. But at the same time remain “collaborationits” • In response, Pierre Dupont pointed out that “Its political action consists principally in offsetting Siamese influence”.