What happened in the years leading up the French colonisation of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam? How did Cambodian rulers become so dependent on either Siam or Vietnam for protection? Time period covered: 1789 - 1887. In this episode, Lachlan bridges the gap between Cambodia’s ‘middle period’ and the dawn of French colonisation of Indochina. Beginning with the French revolution and its links with the eventual Khmer Rouge revolution, we then explore the imposition of Vietnamese control on Cambodia in the 19th century, as well as the story of a French naturalist who visited the region. The episode ends with the different ways in which the French conquered Cambodia and Vietnam. The story of Cambodia’s ‘years of calamity’ and the influence of this period on the psyche of a country dominated by the ascendant Siam and Vietnam is explored. We even have an introduction to the early years of Saloth Sar, otherwise known as Pol Pot. Please visit www.shadowsofutopia.com for more information and sources.
Professor David Chandler is perhaps the most widely recognised and respected scholar of Cambodian history. Author of books such as A History of Cambodia, Brother Number One, Voices from S-21 and The Tragedy of Cambodian History, David has also testified as an expert witness on two occasions during the trial of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge. I sat down with David in his home in Melbourne to discuss his ideas about the current state of the history of the Khmer Rouge, his thoughts on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, whether the crimes of the revolution can be considered 'genocide', and his experience visiting the country so soon after it 're-opened' in 1981. David was until recently a Professor Emeritus at Monash University, where I first met him in 2012. Please visit www.shadowsofutopia.com for more information and sources.
How will the forces of Imperialism and Colonialism come to the region of Indochina? What role will Europeans play in shaping what will eventually become the state of Cambodia? Time period covered: 1500 - 1825 Cambodia’s transitionary period will also see the start of European influence in the region. What did these early encounters look like? The ridiculous story of Ruiz and Veloso, two ‘adventurers’ from Spain and Portugal who attempt to take over the country is relayed. Lachlan also spends some time introducing what the larger forces of colonialism looked like around the globe at this time. The attention then shifts to France as we look to foreshadow the coming imposition of control from Europe that will culminate in ‘French Indochina’ being eventually established. The story of Pierre De Behaine, a French missionary stationed in Vietnam, is told as we look to set up the long and tangential relationship between Vietnam and France. The period of conflict within Vietnam and the eventual unification of that kingdom by Emperor Gia Long – with help from the aforementioned missionary – is also related to Cambodian history, particularly the infamous Cambodian folktale of ‘the master’s tea’; a story about Vietnamese cruelty to the Khmer that can still be heard today. Visit www.shadowsofutopia.com for more information and sources
How did the Khmer go from a civilisation which dominated most of mainland Southeast Asia, to a reduced vassal state of either the Siamese or the Vietnamese? Why is Phnom Penh the capital rather than Siem Reap? Why are the Vietnamese the ‘hereditary enemy’ of the Khmer? Time period covered: 1431 - 1800 The next part of the series is hugely important for establishing the context of Cambodia in the 20th century, and therefore the factors leading to the Khmer Rouge revolution. The transition of Angkor to Phnom Penh, as well as the relationship that develops between the Khmer and their neighbours in Siam and Vietnam are important aspects of Cambodian history in its ‘dark ages’ or ‘middle period’. In this episode, Lachlan introduces a brief history of Vietnam, as this eastern neighbour will play a vital role in the story of the region in the 20th century. Visit www.shadowsofutopia.com for more information and sources.
Tom Chandler is a senior lecturer at Monash University. His research has focused upon the design and development of immersive simulations of the past, particularly the medieval Cambodian capital of Angkor. In what is the first interview of the series Lachlan speaks with Tom about how immersive virtual recreations can transform our imagination of the 'skeletal remains' of Angkor. The uses of this research for historians as well as the resources that Tom and his team at the Virtual Angkor Project are using to simulate the past. Visit www.virtualangkor.com for more information.
How did the largest city in the pre-industrial world function? What was Khmer society like during the ‘golden age’ of Angkor? How did this civilisation falter and fade? Time period covered: 1100 - 1431 Lachlan begins this episode with a discussion of one of the most impressive and famous examples of Khmer architecture; Angkor Wat. The details of this building, and what it meant for the civilisation that could build it. We also learn about the life and times of Jayavarman VII, widely recognised as the ‘greatest’ of the Devaraja who lead the Khmer to conquer the greatest extent of territory and build some of its most iconic temples. Zhou Daguan, a Chinese diplomat who visited the region, is discussed as he gives a rare insight into the lives and culture of the Khmer at Angkor. Following this, the different factors and theories which are believed to have led the city into disrepair and disfunction are also relayed – as are the fascinating methods by which these theories are based on. The peak of the Khmer civilisation can easily be related to some aspects of the Khmer Rouge revolution, and the ideas about the country’s past for some leaders of that movement are discussed. Visit www.shadowsofutopia.com for more information and sources.
How did the Khmer civilisation begin? How were they able to prosper to the point of building the megacity of Angkor? Time period covered: 2000 BC – 900 AD In this episode, Lachlan seeks to explain the early processes that developed amongst the Khmer civilisation in and around the region that would eventually become Cambodia. An explanation of the different cultural influences from India and China that would see a kind of hybridised people come to prominence on the Indochinese mainland. The story of early Funan and Chenla, as well as the development of the ‘Devaraja cult’; a system where a universal monarch is regarded as a kind of incarnation of a deity. The establishment of the early cities which will become the seat of the vast Khmer Empire, as well as the ingenious methods by which that powerful civilisation will control the water and land. The episode ends at the point of Suryavarman and the construction of Phnom Bakheng and the vast baray, in the era just before the ‘peak’ of the civilisation. Please visit www.shadowsofutopia.com for more information and sources.
What happened to Cambodia in the three years, eight months and twenty-one days between April 17th, 1975 and January 7th, 1979? Why was a city once known as the ‘pearl of Southeast Asia’, with a population of more than two million people, ushered – at gunpoint – into an unknown fate in the nation’s countryside? The story of the Khmer Rouge revolution and the devastating human catastrophe that this group brought to an already war torn and fragile land is one that is usually known simply by a few words; ‘the killing fields’, ‘Pol Pot’, ‘the Cambodian Genocide’ or by it’s association with the other massive human death tolls in the 20th century. The story of how and why more than two million people died in one of the world’s most radical social experiments is the focus of the first podcast to deal exclusively in this topic. Join Lachlan Peters; graduate, long-time student of Cambodian history with experience working with the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, as he explores Khmer Rouge revolution within the context of Cambodian history. From the time before the glory days of Angkor Wat, to the rusty gates of Tuol Sleng – and everything in between. The introduction to the series places the listener in the shoes of those who were forced out of their homes as the Khmer Rouge on that fateful day in April 1975. A very brief overview of what the situation looked like leading up to the Khmer Rouge revolution; Cold War politics, the Vietnam War and some of the circumstances that will be explored in far more detail throughout the series. This is in the Shadows of Utopia, the Cambodian Nightmare. Please visit www.shadowsofutopia.com for more information and sources.