Why do we study history? To remember all the dates of historical events or to take it as a lesson learned? What are the advantages of learning history? Is it necessary for everyone to study?
I love reading history books. I never get tired of reading it regardless of what country or regime it is. For me, the reason that I love to read history books, especially Cambodian history books is to figure out what Khmer ancestors did in the past that made us become who we are today. I am curious about what happened in the world. How did this and that happen? More than that, I want to know what lesson can I learn from them as a young generation. So, I can prevent or be aware of it when it is about to happen. On a side note, I wanted to be an archaeologist but this idea was rejected by my family because it is an undesirable profession in Cambodia so I decided to read and research on my own when I am free.
I can say that I have known quite enough of Cambodian history from the beginning up to now but I cannot say that what I have known is true. There are hundreds of books that were written and published for the readers and researchers. As a reader, we cannot rely on one book to believe or make an assumption. We need to read several books on the same topic and analyze whether they all were written from the same perspective and the differences from one writer to another. If you love reading history, you would have experienced what I have experienced. Sometimes, you might get confused with what was written in the book. Do not trust what you read. You need to do more research or read more thoroughly through the references that were given in the book.
What I am trying to say is that I have read quite a lot of sources and books before I finally come to the conclusion that I am about to explain in this post. I remember my professor once told me that you will never be able to find accurate information on the history of the regime when you are currently living or even 50 years later. Do you know why? Because the historical writer can be biased due to the political influence or the pressure from those in power. If you want to find out the truth, it does require a lot of effort. You need to do more research and use your critical/analytical skills to figure it out; otherwise, you will never be able to understand what exactly happens.
Let’s jump to what I want to say. Whether believe me or not, it is your choice. I am just writing from my opinion based on what I have read and analyzed. Plus, there is no offense in this post since I am talking about Cambodian history in general.
Khmer Empire was one of the greatest kingdoms in Asia during the pre and the Angkor era. Unfortunately, everything had turned upside down after the post-Angkor era. Khmer kings had started to fight with their kin because of the throne and power. From one regime to another, Khmer kings did everything just to protect their power even though they have to fight with their relatives such as brothers, son-in-law, uncles, or cousins. They always seek help from foreign countries to fight with their relatives. From time to time, Cambodia’s territory has been smaller and smaller as Khmer kings use it as a return of the favor of neighboring countries. Surprisingly, when good leaders took control of power, there were always overthrown by their relatives.
English Translation: The cause of the collapse of the Angkor Empire after the end of the Javavarman Regime in 1323: It was finished by Ney Chay “Mr. Chay” who Cambodian people named “Ney Trosok Pa’Em” or “Mr. Sweet Cucumber”. Cambodian history was made up which lead to the confusion of the Cambodian people because of the scandal of Ney Chey after he overthrew King Javavarman IX.
Source: Cambodia in between Thailand and Vietnam and the French Colony
Author: Professor Dr. In Sophal
Up to now, I have not seen any Cambodian leaders who are willing to give up anything just to protect this poor country/nation. I have not seen a leader who is strong enough to fight with other countries instead of their relatives/people for the sake of this country. The regime has changed from time to time due to globalization yet the characteristics of Cambodian leaders are still the same. There are more than 1000 years since the post-Angkor era.
Cambodia used to be the most powerful empire in the region but why have we become one of the weakest nations? Why do some people still choose to ignore the problems and care about their benefits? When will Cambodian leaders stop being so greedy and selfish and be more nationalistic? The only word that I want to emphasize here is that THE HISTORICAL MISTAKES HAVE STILL REPEATED even now. If we keep going on like this, I am afraid one day, in the future, there will be no Cambodia on the world map. Why can I say this? Well… we can take a look at the past, how big was our country? Why has it become smaller? What were the reasons behind that? Has this change stopped or does it continue? If it has already stopped, to what extent do you think it stops? And to what extent do you think it still continues? The history of failure has repeated for more than 1000 years. Yet, it still exists and I do not know when will this mistake end. Who we are today and what we have today is the result of what our ancestors did. Therefore, why do not we learn from it? Why cannot we avoid it? It does not mean that our ancestors always made mistakes but it means that their mistakes are a very good lesson learned for us as the young generation of Cambodian people to learn from.
Of course, this is a modern society. Another country cannot invade another country by using forces or weapons or a colony. However, according to science, ambition is human nature, which leads to the existence of selfishness and greediness. The regime has changed but humans’ ambition will never change. The invading form has just transformed itself into something else, from using forces/ weapons/colony to political/economic influence and benefit. That is why history is really important. We need to learn from history to avoid repeating the same mistake. If we ignore history, we do not know if that mistake had already happened in the past like Edmund Burke said, “Those who do not know the history are doomed to repeat it.”
Sadly, history is not an interesting subject for most Cambodian people including students. They barely know where they came from and what did their ancestors do. Some people or youths tend to believe easily what they were told. They have no idea whether what they were told is true or not. Some people said why do they have to care about history? This is not their major. This is not a skill that can help them to earn money like economics, business, trade, English, technology, science, and so on. However, we forget that history is what made us become who we are today. Economic, business, trade, language, technology, and science are parts of history.
This should be the time for Cambodian people especially youths start to learn about their history. Theodore Roosevelt said, “The more you know about the past, the better prepare you are for the future.”