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Khmer Surin: Will They Survive The Language And Cultural Genocide?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chey Mongkol on a journey to buy books in Cambodia to set up a Khmer library in Surin to teach Khmer children there.

"Culturally and linguistically the Khmer and the Thai are very similar...........These similarities are the recipes for easy, natural and stealth assimilation and integration into the Thai society. And hence the speedy death of the Khmer culture and language. As I call it: culture and language genocide by stealth."

Editorial by Khmerization:- Upon reading Chey Mongkol’s noble quest to revive Khmer culture and language in the Thai-occupied former provinces of Cambodia, one cannot help but feel proud. Also one must fell nostalgic and sad to see the Khmer culture and language in Surin in such a sorry state (read the article below).
Culturally and linguistically the Khmer people living in the Thai-occupied provinces such as Surin, Sisaket, Buriram etc. are in danger of losing their Khmer ethnic identity in more phenomenal pace than the people of Kampuchea Krom. My analogy is based on the simple fact of the present reality. Culturally and linguistically the Khmer and the Thai are very similar. We are both Buddhists, dress and eat very similar food. The Thai and the Khmer borrowed many of our terminologies and vocabularies from the old Indian languages of Pali and Sanskrit. These similarities are the recipes for easy, natural and stealth assimilation and integration into the Thai society. And hence the speedy death of the Khmer culture and language. As I call it: culture and language genocide by stealth.
On the other hand, the Khmer and the Vietnamese are culturally and linguistically ways apart. Also past deep animosities and mistrusts between the two people due, in large part, to the Vietnamese atrocious treatments of the Khmer people, have made many Khmers living in Kampuchea Krom refused and consciously resisted the temptation of assimilation and integration into the Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese atrocious treatments of the Khmers have given rise to Khmer nationalism. This nationalistic sentiment was and is an instrumental factor which motivated the Khmer Krom to preserve Khmer culture and language on a grand scale. I said on a grand scale because after many centuries of Vietnamese occupation and oppression the Khmer Krom had managed to preserve Khmer culture and language very impressively. Almost every Khmer Krom knows Khmer culture and can speak Khmer very well, although with a Vietnamese accent. And this I say: the culture and language genocide by force did not work.
On the contrary, the Khmer Surin and the Khmers living in other Thai-occupied Khmer territories have, up until now, almost lost all of their Khmer identity. Many of them cannot speak Khmer because they were forced or voluntarily chose to speak Thai. They practised Thai culture and practised a Thai form of Buddhism, chanting in Thai, I mean. Many of them don’t know Khmer culture because they can’t tell the difference between the Khmer and Thai cultures because both are very similar.
Coming back to Mr. Chey Mongkol, one cannot help but laud him with praises. His quest to help revive the almost extinct, if I can use this word to describe the state of the Khmer culture and language in Surin, Khmer identity is a noble act coming out of a conscience of a true Khmer son who has only one aim: to see the Khmer culture and language survive. He cannot do it by himself alone. It is essential that the Khmer government and the well-to-do Khmers as well as overseas Khmers provide him with financial, material and moral supports, if he is to have any chance of success at all.//END//
Below is an article from The Koh Santepheap newspaper………
Khmer teacher from Surin came to look for Khmer language books in Cambodia

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chey Mongkol gave an interview to Kok Santepheap (Photo: Chamnab, Koh Santepheap newspaper).
Friday, 15 February 2008
Koh Santepheap newspaper
Translated from Khmer by KI-Media

Phnom Penh city – Chey Mongkol, a native Khmer from Surin province (Thailand) and a Khmer language teacher from Sisaket province (Thailand), declared on 13 February 2008 that the majority of Khmer people living in Surin no longer know how to speak Khmer anymore because they are not using their own language. However, now, Chey Mongkol has set up his small elementary school which is attended by about 60 children. The goal of his teaching is so that the younger generations know the Khmer language, otherwise, in the future, Khmer Surin will no longer know Khmer language at all, and they will only know Thai and Lao instead.In an interview with Koh Santepheap at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) in Phnom Penh, Chey Mongkol indicated that his presence in Phnom Penh is to purchase books used to teach young Khmer children in Surin. He said that book merchants in Phnom Penh had given him 250 books also, and most of these books are for first grade level.Chey mongkol indicated that only about 1-2% of Khmer people in Surin know their native Khmer language and still speak Khmer in Surin currently, but most of them are already very old. He added that the younger Khmer people no longer speak Khmer, they only know Thai: “I spend a lot of time teaching them, I want to preserve our Khmer language, otherwise, our Khmer language will disappear.”Nevertheless, Chey Mongkol said that his teaching to young Khmer children did not meet with any opposition from the Thai authority. He added that, in the past, about 40-years ago, Khmer people were afraid to use their own language because they were forced to speak Thai at school and in public places, later on, Khmer people lost the habit of speaking their own language, and some say they are ashamed, and they stop speaking Khmer altogether.Chey Mongkol claimed that, in spite of all this, the preservation of old Khmer customs in Surin still remains somewhat even if there is an influx of foreign culture or modern culture which seriously affect the preservation of Khmer Surin original culture. He added, currently, only old Khmer people still speak Khmer at home, whereas the younger generations no longer speak Khmer anymore.Chey Mongkol said that he started a library for the students to read Khmer because he believes that Khmer teaching is not sufficient yet, therefore the additional book reading could complete part of the education. He added: “We want Khmer in Surin to preserve Khmer language so that it would be easier for them to communicate with Cambodians inside Cambodia.”From Phnom Penh, Chey Mongkol will take back to Surin documents in Khmer language. He indicated also that he is giving a lecture to RUFA students where he showed slides about the situation of Khmer students in Surin, about dances performed by Khmer people in Surin, so that RUFA students understand about the current issues faced by Khmer people in Surin.History students who listened to Chey Mongkol’s lecture said that they are interested about the history of Khmer people in Surin who has the same customs, and same origin as other Khmer people, and they want to preserve our Khmer language also in order to facilitate the communication between themselves and Khmer people in Cambodia. The RUFA students added: “Even though we are separated because of past history, but we are still one single people, we must connect with each others.”Chey Mongkol indicated also: “In my family, they do not talk Khmer that much, some speak Thai, others speak Lao. Only I persevere to speak Khmer, even at the market, they don’t want to speak Khmer, but they speak Thai and Lao instead.” He added: “I am calling for the generosity of people who want to help expand Khmer language to help provide their support to me.” He added that he is working hard to help educate young generations of Khmer children to know their Khmer language, and to preserve their Khmer language.
For those who wish to support Chey Mongkol and Khmer Schools in Surin, please contact Chey Mongkol at the following email address: KhmerSurin@gmail.com.



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