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Achar Hem Chieu and the first movement for Cambodian independence: 1941-1942


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Achar Hem Chieu and the first movement for Cambodian independence: 1941-1942.

5th in the lecture series on Cambodia in the 20th Century with Dr Henri Locard

Published in: Education
  • Thank you for such a very scientific document of Achar Hem Chieu. I find it hard to search for such document since most are written in more like folk tale form. It would be better if I can access to the cited archive used in this document. Anyway, thanks so much.
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Achar Hem Chieu and the first movement for Cambodian independence: 1941-1942

  1. 1. XII Haèm Chieu (1898-1943) & the ‘Monks’ Demonstration‘ of 20th July 1942 : (also derisively called by Sihanouk ―La Révolte des parapluies‖, ―the Umbrella War‖) The Twilight of the Colonial Age
  2. 2. I - On 31st May 1943, the Résident Supérieur wrote in his annual report: • ―The most significant event of that period was the 20th July demonstration whose immediate consequences were the elimination of the dubious elements that had organized or participated in this demonstration and, as a consequence, the reorganization of the Buddhist Institute. • That incident had no effect on the relations between the Protectorate and the Cambodian government that remained excellent‖.
  3. 3. Barely a grain of truth in this rosy picture • Sovereignty of the Khmers & Cambodia limited in 3 ways : • 1 - The Indochinese Federation, with Résident Supérieur having to follow directives from Gouverneur Général in Hanoi. Chinese & Vietnamese Congregations under the rule of French courts. Decoux‘s supreme rule • 2 – Japanese presence • 3 - Recent loss of Western & Northern Cambodia to imperialist Thailand. • Results: Growth of nationalist sentiments & fall in standard of living.
  4. 4. The popularity of bi-weekly Nagaravatta • Before the war this first Cambodian newspaper had been moderately nationalistic, deploring essentially the presence of Vietnamese in the Cambodian administration, but after France‘s defeat, the paper became more and more openly nationalistic and pro-independence. • The French had lost much of their prestige in the eyes of educated Cambodians having been defeated three times: — by the Nazis, by the Japanese troops, and thirdly by Thailand. • France had thus reneged on the 1863 Treaty of Protectorate twice: 1st by gradually transforming a Protectorate into a Colony and then by creating Indochina. Then a 2nd time when it had failed to protect Khmer territory in 1941.
  5. 5. « The Monireth Affair » • Monireth, the eldest son of King Monivong, who had been expected to become the next King, was banished from Phnom Penh after the 20th July 1942 demonstration and was enrolled in the Légion Etrangère in Tonkin by Admiral Jean Decoux. • He had been seen talking with Pach Chhœun in front of his house at 33 Boulevard Doudart de Lagrée, when the demonstrators were marching in front of the Prince‘s house. • The prevailing pro-independence feelings among the Khmers, both of common and princely birth, reflects what was happening in the rest of Asia, and explains the choice of a teenage Prince by the Vichy authorities. Sihanouk‘s loyalty to France was undoubted.
  6. 6. Vichy saw the climax of the colonialist ethos • The so-called ―civilizing mission‖ meant above all awakening the Khmers who, in French eyes, had been slumbering for far too long. • This is exactly what was happening around the readership of Nagaravatta : when the Khmers showed, after fifty years of silence that they, at long last, were waking up, the repression was fierce and sweeping, in complete contradiction to declared policies. The key notion was loyalty to the metropolis. • Nationalist leaders were treated like bloodthirsty revolutionaries and their followers like idiots. House arrests, prison, penal colony for life, even death penalties were doled out as examples for would-be independentists.
  7. 7. A Renseignements généraux report, dated 9th December 1941 forewarned • There are many indications that the movement is unstoppable when we see the enthusiastic demonstrations of sympathy during the meetings and banquets. We believe it would be dangerous to rely too much on the shyness and the gentleness of the Cambodian temperament prone to sudden and violent reactions, and we may fear serious trouble in the near future if no change is brought to their social status by the administration. • Let us note that the renovation movement even affects the monks, and their going over to a group that operates within the traditional framework of Buddhism is of paramount importance. Let us not forget, that in case of an uprising or any kind of demonstration, the bonzes can muster the masses within a few hours.‖
  8. 8. Sihanouk noted in his Souvenirs doux et amers (75) • ―The very able Brocheton”, head of the French Sûreté came to see his youthful Majesty and warned him there were strange goings-on between Son Ngoc Thanh and certain Japanese officers and begged for the King‘s collaboration to put an end to what looked like anti-French plotting of the Thanhist group, along with Pach Chhœun, and Sim Var. • As they were friends of Sihanouk‘s parents, the young man asked his mother Sisowath Kossamak to see them. They swore to the King‘s mother that Brocheton was an arch liar and no anti-French plot was in the offing. Yet ―Brocheton had not lied”,
  9. 9. II - Haèm Chieu‘s education • ―He was a very learned monk […], a teacher at the Higher School of Pali, he wielded a great influence on his pupils, both the clergy and lay people‖ [Sihanouk, ibid. 74]. • Hem Chieu was born in 1898 at Tum Nop Thom Commune, Ponhea Leu District, Kandal Province. His father was the Chauvaisrok of Ponhea Leu District. • This, from the outset, put him in a special social position as he belonged to what could be termed the mandarin class. By birth, he must have felt in a position to speak up and voice his views more than the poor farmers‘ sons who traditionally joined the sangha.
  10. 10. Haèm Chieu‘s education & career • Chieu was ordained Samanera by Ven. Chuon Nath, who was his master and, in 1919, he was promoted Bhikkhu (monk) at Wat Langka when he was barely 20 years old. • In 1921 he got his Diplôme de l’Ecole Supérieure de Pali in Phnom Penh. • He spent six years, from 1924 to 1930, in Kampot province as he had been recruited by H.E Richomme, the Résident of Kampot Province to assist the French Protectorate in renovating pagoda schools in the Province. This was an idea of Louis Manipoud (18671977), the main reformer of the pagoda schools and a good speaker of Khmer. This was a pilot programme in which Achar Hem Chieu was essentially a teacher trainer.
  11. 11. Haèm Chieu‘s career • On 22nd Feb. 1932, Hem Chieu was appointed teacher at the Higher Pali School in Phnom Penh. This position was approved by Mr. Chom Mao, manager of the education service of the Royal Library, Mlle Suzanne Karpélès who was the Secrétaire Générale de L’Institut Bouddhique, and by the Résident Supérieur. • On 30th March 1932, he was appointed member of the Tripitaka Commission [NAC, 28 055] by royal decree N036, dated March, 26th, signed by King Sisowath Monivong and the Résident Supérieur .
  12. 12. III - Haèm Chieu, ―the prospective Gandhi of Cambodia‖ • He knew foreign languages such as Thai and French and liked reading newspapers, such as La Vérité, L’Opinion, l’Impartial, and La Dépêche de Saïgon so that he could learn about the world outside Cambodia. • From the late 1930s, the research and publications of the Buddhist Institute (BI) had given rise to fierce controversy between the so-called traditionalist monks and the modernists. • The latter were restricted to the Mohanikay sect which was divided between the ―traditionalists‖ and the ―modernists‖ clans. The first confined themselves to the traditional teachings, the second followed the teachings of the High School of Pali and the texts translated & published by the Royal Library.
  13. 13. The Modernists & Siamese influence • The modernist Mohanikay were sent to the exSiamese provinces of Battambang and Siemreap primarily to win over the monks and the laity, who were regarded as being too much influenced by the Thomayut sect that looked to Bangkok for spiritual guidance. • The necessity to counterbalance that influence was very much at the origin of the creation of the Buddhist Institute on the part of the colonizer. The purpose of sending preachers to these regions was to eradicate the Siamese influence represented by the Thomayut sect and to forbid monks from going to Siam, although, for instance in 1936, twelve monks were identified as having clandestinely gone over the border at Païlin.
  14. 14. Haèm Chieu & the Tripitaka Commission • The translated Buddhist texts as edited by the Buddhist Institute, were used as a springboard for modernist propaganda. Their supporters prided themselves in possessing a text that was faithful to the original and more accurate than the Siamese translation of the Thomayut sect. • Hem Chieu was among the decidedly modernist monks. He was also a social critic of Cambodian tradition. He advised the people to give up bad habits associated with some aspects of Cambodian culture. He called for the participation of Cambodian people in social development. He integrated Cambodia‘s independence, solidarity and development into his modernizing worldview in his preaching of Buddhist dharma.[ Kuy Lôt, 7-18]
  15. 15. Nº 71 Kret from 1918 was sanctioned again on 17th September 1929 by King Monivong • It forbade all modification of religious rules. • As to Buddhist sutras, Buddhist teachers would have to submit the texts they taught to the approval of the Ministry of Interior. Only after the approval of the Council of Ministers, and then of the monarch, could new texts be used. This seemed to mean not only that the political powers interfered closely with religious affairs – a tradition in Cambodia – but that any change was very difficult, if not impossible. • In the eyes of convinced Modernist monks like Haèm Chieu, this must have been anathema.
  16. 16. Haém Chieu‘s 16 recommendations found in his cell • Among exhibits that were seized by the French police in his cot, there was a manuscript document in three different versions signed by Haèm Chieu. • This is a surprising document in two ways: first it details what could be a non-violent action on the part of the Buddhist sangha in and around Phnom Penh, not as a political demonstration or in the event of political rebellion, but in the purely religious context of the quarrel between the modernists and traditionalists. • Secondly, Hem Chieu had stuck his neck out so much for the nationalist cause that he had anticipated his own arrest and given precise directives about what to do in such a case. He was prepared to become a martyr for what he saw as a great cause: the revival of the Khmer nation and Buddhism which were one and the same thing to him.
  17. 17. The monks‘ forms of protestations according to HC • What we must do to protest as strongly as we can is summarized as follows: • 1 – On the day when the head monk (Athikar) in the monastery (Vihear) convenes all the monks to read out the new regulations that concern us, we must all be present. After the reading we must state all together that we shall refuse to comply with those rules, as we are only guided by the regulations described in the Tripitaka. They alone are able to render men devoted and loyal to their country. We shall demand the immediate withdrawal of Kret 71. • 2 – The most important thing is that each of us must sign [a petition]. We [thereby] protest as strongly as we can to demand that we behave according to Buddhist precepts.
  18. 18. • 3 – If we refuse to comply with those new decisions, it is likely one of the monks will be arrested, defrocked and condemned. • 4 – If one of us is arrested, we must spread the news, with the utmost urgency, to all the pagodas, to come and protest in front of the relevant authorities. Those who do not come must be punished. • 5 – In that case, let us show solidarity and declare we shall not let a monk be condemned. But while you demonstrate it is absolutely forbidden to carry any kind of weapon. • 6 – Under such circumstances, it is likely the militiamen will block our way. We shall then show them our bare hands and say that we are not waging war, but simply protest.
  19. 19. • 7 – If we are asked the name of the leader of this demonstration, we shall all put up our arms, claiming that it is all of us. We shall explain too that the ringleaders are the Buddhist precepts that are the fundamental basis for our action. • 8 – If we are asked the purpose of our protest, we must reply that we ask for the withdrawal of the Royal Ordinances [Nº 71] that have undermined the prestige and the smooth running of our canonical rules. • 9 – If people claim we want to institute a new set of religious beliefs, different from the Mohanikay and the Thomayut sects, they must understand once for all that the monks who strive to study the Buddhist precepts are the purest monks, but not the advocates of any new religion.
  20. 20. • 10 – We must wait for the repeated ring of the alarm bells (tocsin) that will sound the beginning of the demonstration. In this way we shall be able to communicate the news to all the monks in all the pagodas, even during the night. • 11 – Monks must say their prayers while overturning their bowls, instead of going to beg for food. Those who continue to beg round people’s homes are not monks who abide by the Buddhist regulations. • 12 - Novices must, on that occasion, put on their robes like the monks. • 13 – This King is not Buddhist. • 14 – We shall refuse to take part in the “kathen” ceremony organized by the King at the end of lent [vossa, the rainy season].
  21. 21. Haèm Chieu‘s recommendations (end) • 15 – We must consider the King unreasonable. We must have nothing to do with him. • 16 – We shall beg the Administration not to quarrel with the Higher School of Pali or the Royal Library. • • [signed] Haèm Chieu • • [Sous-Dossier B of the Le Blanc Archives, France]
  22. 22. Haèm Chieu‘s involvement in the nationalist movement. • After the loss of Western Cambodia to the Thais, the editorial Board of Nagaravatta, Haèm Chieu, Son Ngoc Thanh & Pach Chhœun, decided to create a political organization that would recruit secretly among soldiers, students, government officials and traders, and, with Japanese tacit support or at least neutrality, take the few French administrators by surprise and proclaim independence at the right time. • The plot or conspiracy, or what could better be called the first coordinated attempt on the part of Cambodia‘s thinking and educated minority to free their country from the French yoke, was only just at its beginning.
  23. 23. How did the movement recruit new followers ? • As the publication of Nagaravatta was under observation by the French, Son Ngoc Thanh suggested another means to communicate directly with the population: by taking advantage of the preaching of the teaching monks from the High Pali School to the military and the laity in the provinces. • At that time Son Ngoc Thanh, as Suzanne Kapélès‘s close associate, was in a position to decide who could preach the dharma to the public. He often chose Haèm Chieu to communicate with the population since he was a monk who was loved by the public, a good talker and skilled at explaining and convincing the soldiers, using Buddhist teachings, to love their country, and to prepare for what they called ‗the struggle‘. Laymen like Bunchan Mol (the author of Kuk Noyobay) and Chum Muong would also disseminate nationalist ideas to the people. The latter was at the time the Secretary to Tea San, the Minister of Interior and of Cults and Religions
  24. 24. • After every lecture, each monk had to write a report to the general Secretary of the Buddhist Institute about the results of his preaching, but also a secret report to Son Ngoc Thanh about the outcome of the close contact he had made with the soldiers following the lecture. When there were soldiers who, they hoped, would participate in the ‗revolutionary struggle‘ to chase out the French, Thanh would assign Chum Muong to contact them to give them further details of the plan. Thanh told those who called themselves ‗revolutionaries‘ to work very carefully, so that there would be no leaks, because the French would make arrests if they found out. • As for Bunchan Mol and Nuon Duong, they were assigned not only to make contact with and win over the people, but also to spy on and investigate the exact number of soldiers and weapons in, and the locations of, the French army barracks.
  25. 25. Pierre Dupont‘s policies • He was proud to point out, there had been no interruption in the regular activities of the Institute. • Apart from the completion of the Khmer dictionary and the continuation of translation of the Tripitaka, • other activities included preserving pagoda manuscripts by copying them out (literary texts, chronicle, judicial texts, collections of traditional moral codes, Buddhist legends), • eliminating Siamese texts from the Royal Library, • organizing Buddhist lectures in native infantrymen‘s clubs and running the provincial rounds of the circulating bookstore.
  26. 26. The Buddhidt Institute was made to spread Vichy propaganda • On 13th June 1942, Haem Chieu went to Soctrang in Cochinchina with books for the ―Association pour l’Amélioration Morale, Intellectuelle & Physique des Cambodgiens de Cochinchine‖. • On 15th June 1942, the Buddhist Institute bought 28 copies of the of the 3rd volume of the Paroles du Maréchal at 0.30 piastre a copy. Haèm Chieu bought one, together with Chuon Nath and Huot That. [NAC, 22.343]. • On the same day, the Buddhist Institute made a request to print 300 to 500 copies of Ce que doit être l’esprit d’un gouverneur de province from Oum Chheang Nguon, with annotations from the Résident Supérieur.[ NAC, 22.346]
  27. 27. Haèm Chieu‘s miltancy • Haèm Chieu was a keen traveller around the country preaching the dhamma to the people. He became well known to the population [Kuy Llôt, 1-6]. His preaching was not only about Buddhist thought but also included ideas associated with ‗being active people‘, showing ‗independence‘ ‗solidarity‘ etc. • When preaching the dhamma to soldiers he tried to encourage red boot soldiers [tea hean chœng krâhâm] ‗tirailleurs cambodgiens‘ and black boot soldiers [tea hean chœng khmau] garde indigène to collaborate with each other.[ibid.21-22]. Bunchan Mol specifies that, in every province he went, ―he always attempted to teach and convince the people to become nationalists, to be courageous in the revolutionary struggle for independence from the French. He did this with great
  28. 28. IV – The arrest of Haèm Chieu • It was through a certain Nhem Phuong that the so far secret independence movement was unwittingly denounced to the French authorities. Nhem Phuong was a simple soldier from the army transport corps, aged 28. • In his barracks, he overheard a conversation between other soldiers and a declaration from a Srey Tum that almost all the soldiers of his corps were about to rebel against the French, with the connivance of the Japanese and that Prince Sisowath Monireth was at the head of the planned uprising. This was on 12th July 1942. • The same evening he reported the conversation to his neighbour, in the Catholic village where he lived, a certain Prince Norodom Rassapong. Obviously the Prince was pro-French and he reported the details of the movement to the French authorities the very next day, 13th July 1942. This is what started the whole police investigation that led to Achar Haèm Chieu‘s and Achar Nuon Duong‘s arrest four days later, on the 17th.
  29. 29. Enters the French police • Alfred Semprez, head of the French police in Phnom Penh had made an investigation with the Cambodian military and handed his report to the Résident Supérieur. The latter immediately entered into contact with the Cambodian Minister of Interior and Cults, Tea San, and they decided to arrest, on the very same day, Achar Haèm Chieu and Nuong Duong, who were presented as the main propagandists for the movement. • On 17 July 1942, H.E Tea San ordered Chum Muong, who was his secretary, to bring Achar Haèm Chieu to him. Chum Muong panicked for he was one of the same group of nationalists. He went to Wat Unalom and asked Haèm Chieu to come with him. It has been claimed that Hem Chieu had fallen into a trap when arrested and that his defrocking was illegal, that is, not according to Buddhist rules. This was quite not so, for if he had really felt guilty of misconduct, he might have escaped like Son Ngoc Thanh. He had a great faith in his mission and instead chose to confront his accusers.
  30. 30. The defrocking of Haèm Chieu • Once inside the Ministry of Interior, in the presence of the Minister himself and the Athikar of Wat Unalom, Haèm Chieu was disrobed. He had to put on a shirt and a pair of trousers that had just been bought from the market that very day by his friend and ―accomplice‖ Chum Muong. • If the regular procedure had been followed, Hem Chieu should have been brought first in front of his pagoda‘s disciplinary committee, in this case at Wat Unalom, consisting of four to six senior monks, under the chairmanship of the Chau Athikar. Normally if the problem could not be solved at the local pagoda level, the case would be referred to a provincial and then to a national one. The whole procedure would take weeks, as there had to be negotiations between the parties involved. • The political or police authorities were not supposed to get involved – except in the case of a crime where a monk was caught red-handed. Obviously the French authorities were alarmed by what they regarded as a dangerous plot to overturn their regime.
  31. 31. Nuon Duong • On the same day, Nuon Duong, an ex-monk and friend of Haèm Chieu, was also arrested at his wife‘s bicycle shop, at the sign of Cheang Duong, at 145 Rue Ohier (now St. 13).He was born in 1908 and became a librarian at the Royal Library. • When he was first interrogated on 17th July 1942, he was less naïve and more prudent than his mentor. He never confessed to anti-French remarks in front of Cambodian soldiers; he only admitted to regret for the loss of Battambang and the high cost of living because of the war. He denied having heard Haèm Chieu plan an uprising in league with the Japanese and having attended secret meetings. He only heard Haèm Chieu speak of the union of all the Cambodian military.
  32. 32. Haèm Chieu and Nuon Duong were accused of 8 crimes by the Vichy regime: • • • • • • • 1 - making anti-French remarks; 2 - regretting the loss of Battambang and Siemreap; 3 - lamenting the rise in the cost of living due to the war and Japanese occupation; 4 - planning an uprising to put a end to the tutelage of France and the Vichy regime; 5 - secretly negotiating with the Japanese occupation forces; 6 - plotting a rebellion with the Cambodian military; organizing secret meetings to promote that rebellion; 7 - using witchcraft to make Cambodian troops invincible.
  33. 33. Haèm Chieu‘s attitude to France • ―Personally, I detest the French and I would like to see my country independent. I do not like the French because they neglect Cambodia for the benefit of the Annamite countries. The high schools, the factories, they are all in the Annamite countries, the Cambodians having neither the opportunity to learn nor to work.[…] • Still I must confess France has done much for the benefit of Cambodians from the religious point of view: they have respected religion, created the Buddhist Institute and the Higher School of Pali.‖ (27 July 1942, 3 p.m., Le Blanc archives).
  34. 34. V - The demonstration - 1 • Son Ngoc Thanh had already taken refuge in the Japanese police headquarters to avoid being arrested. He continued to have contact with Bunchan Mol through a boy who brought food to him. [Bunchan Mol 119]. • The news of Haèm Chieu‘s arrest spread to monks who were his friends in other pagodas and caused a shock among student monks at the Higher School of Pali and nationalist groups. The nationalists (they called themselves ―revolutionaries‖), with the help of the monks, spread the news to every pagoda in the city and then to the provinces.
  35. 35. The demonstration: Son Ngoc Thanh -2 • Son Ngoc Thanh claimed that the Japanese would provide them with assistance. The order came from Thanh to organize a demonstration on 20th July 1942 in front of the office of the Resident Superior, calling for the release of Achar Haèm Chieu and Nuon Duong. Although inside the Japanese police headquarters, Son Ngoc Thanh continued to organize a demonstration he hoped would lead to a coup de force with Japanese aid, as in some other Asian countries controlled by the Japanese military. • Bunchan Mol, on his bicycle, acted as messenger between Thanh and the conspirators. He had received assurances from the Japanese General Staff in Saigon that their army and police in Phnom Penh would be present at the demonstration and would help the Cambodians.
  36. 36. Thanh & the Japanese - 3 • Thanh gave the Japanese copies of demands to be submitted to the French: • 1. release of detainees, • 2. reorganization in all fields of public life, • 3. close collaboration with Japan to aid the war effort, • 4. tax reduction and • 5. a constitution providing for a ‗National Socialist Monarchy‘, according to Ben Kiernan in How Pol Pot came to Power. [43]
  37. 37. Pre-arranged details of the demonstration -4 • Tomorrow morning all demonstrators, monks and lay people, must eat before 6 a.m., then walk to meet all on Boulevard Doudart de Lagrée [now Norodom] right behind the western entrance to the Palace. • After meeting one another they must parade peacefully, i. e. empty-handed and with no weapons, in an orderly, quiet fashion, without talking, with a banner up at the front saying “We are calling for the release of Achar Haèm Chieu and Nuon Duong”. • The parade should then stop in front of the office of the Resident-Superior. If the police chase or hit them, they must resist passively, not fight back or do anything; they must stay calm. • But if they wait till 12 midday and the French still have not fulfilled what is asked for, then the demonstration must parade back and stop right in front of the office of the Japanese police. They must then read the proclamation to the Japanese police relating the events, and ask the Japanese to intervene with the French government to release the two persons whom they had arrested. The Japanese can intervene or contact the French government, only if the demonstrators follow these steps as ordered.
  38. 38. The demonstration - 5 • That message was delivered to every wat in Phnom Penh and to Pach Chhœun. [Bunchan Mol, 120]. • Things started as agreed. Monks from Wat Langka, Unalom, and others gathered behind the Royal Palace from 6 a.m. • Then, with Pach Chhœun as leader, courageously striding in front, some five hundred monks and about the same number of lay people joined the march as it went along Doudart de Lagrée. • The crowd arrived in front of the offices of the Résidence Supérieure, now the Ministry of Finance, West of Wat Phnom and East of Hotel Le Royal. The Boulevard was filled with people from the Wat Phnom to the Hotel Le Royal. • The marchers knew full well they were being followed by French, Khmer and Vietnamese spies. A French spy called Sambraige, was more discreet.
  39. 39. The demonstration - 6 • So far, the ‗rebellion‘ was a success: the totally unexpected and unusual march of so many monks in their saffron robes carrying their umbrellas, joined by at least as many civilians as they progressed along the wide boulevard, was a real revolution in this slumbering colonial city. • But once in front of the colonial offices, things did not quite go as planned: first the demonstrators were not as peaceful and well behaved after the arrest of their leader Pach Chhœun. • The second reason was that the Japanese were not ready to intervene on the side of the demonstrators. Had the demonstration taken place one year later, that is by mid-1943, the Japanese military leadership might have been convinced, as General Matsui was to declare to the Domei press agency on 3rd July 1943, that ―the French Government must come to peacefully free Indochina from the yoke of colonialism, or else Japan will have to make its own decision‖ [AOM, Indo/nf/1199s]
  40. 40. The demonstration turns anarchic - 7 • So Pach Chhœun came forward to talk with some French officials on the steps. He asked to see Jean de Lens, the Résident Supérieur, but only three or four representatives would be be received by the Résident Supérieur. • Demonstrators shouted back they would not send a small number for fear they would be arrested. The pushing crowd then drove Pach Chhœun into the building. The French immediately shut the front door and arrested him. He was packed into a car at the back of the building. • As the police prevented the demonstrators from going inside, a fight broke out and chaos ensued. Some demonstrators were wounded by police batons, while some policemen were bruised by monks‘ umbrellas. A bald French security commander was hit by a kaun tang (a large rivet tied to a long elastic lead), which made his head bleed and ruined his shirt. Some demonstrators who struck security officers were arrested on the spot and taken away in cars. • On 25th July, Bunchan Mol was arrested at his noodle soup and coffee shop. ―Without thinking‖, he had been photographed hurling a bicycle at the
  41. 41. Arrests during the demonstration - 8 • When the confusion was at its height, the Japanese army sent two truckloads of soldiers who stopped nearby. But since the demonstration had not been as peaceful as planned, the Japanese military would not intervene. In truth, at that stage, they were not yet prepared to confront the French authorities. This took almost three more years, until 9th March 1945, when they arrested and imprisoned all the colonial administrators throughout Indochina. • Ben Kiernan based much of his description on Bunchan Mol‘s narrative, adding a few details culled from French archives: ―part of the crowd dispersed when King Sihanouk’s father, Prince Suramarit, and a leading monk assured them that the detainees would be released and that the authorities would examine the question of independence. But others attempted to break into the building, and a riot ensued. Over the next few days, the number of arrests reached approximately two hundred.‖
  42. 42. Arrests after the demonstration - 9 • I very much doubt the magnitude of the figure given by Ben Kiernan, unless most of the people arrested on that day were soon released or given short sentences in local courts. The exact number of seriously accused persons after the demonstration was thirty-five, among whom twenty-five were arrested and eight escaped, Son Ngoc Thanh and Chum Muong being the most famous. One among the twenty-five was acquitted, Duong Kim, a 39 year old hairdresser who simply denied any wrong doing at all. • Nevertheless, 20th July 1942 marked the beginning of ―the strain of Cambodian nationalism” which led to the deposing of Sihanouk nearly thirty years later, as Milton Osborne has pointed out. Bunchan Mol quite rightly called the demonstration “The First Demonstration to Awaken the Khmer Conscience.‖