What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

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giblet
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What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

Post by giblet » Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:51 am

I've generally ignored the comments on sites like Khmerization and KI Media, but just read through the comments on the Koh Tral article and I gotta ask, what is the deal with overseas Khmers?

First, I understand that not all overseas Khmers are rabid nationalists and xenophobes. I recognize there are Khmers abroad that are normal, sane folk (I know quite a few). For the sake of this conversation, let's limit it to the commenters on these sites and their ilk. Who are they? Are they Cambodians that moved abroad or are they Americans of Khmer descent? Have they spend a substantial amount of time in Cambodia? Are they just a vocal minority of overseas Khmers? And finally, what are they so angry about?
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Re: What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

Post by OrangeDragon » Sat Jun 21, 2014 11:59 am

From what I can gather they're the latter of your options. A vocal minority. And as for what they're so angry about... my guess would be they're all about 13-14 years old and just out trolling on the internet. Just like the horrid racist shit you hear on video game chats/etc pretty much constantly from about that age demographic just trying to get a rise/attention out of someone. They may not even be Khmer, but know a few, and so chime in for the "fun of it".
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Re: What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

Post by Bitte_Kein_Lexus » Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:19 pm

Good question. I come from one of the western cities with the most overseas Khmers, but I didn't actually know or notice it until I came to Cambodia. I've since made some friends over there. Many are young and have come to work/get married. Many others came from Thai camps in the 80s and a whole lot are their children who are now in their 20s. Anyways, I honestly think it's one of those things which are transmitted from generation to generation: Viets cooked soup with the pot over the heads of Khmers buried in the sand, Viets stole our land. We've had everything stolen from us. We've had to start back from zero etc.

So despite them being given an education where critical thinking is encouraged, many come with a set of pre-conceived ideas/truths which are almost impossible to shake off. They'll hide behind the "well you're not Cambodian so you can't understand/you don't know our history" excuse really often. This despite the fact that most have never read a proper Cambodian history book. It either comes from oral tradition or from some shitty Khmer school book.

I've been to house parties (no, not a keg party, just like a major gathering) at Khmer friend's houses and it's always fun and interesting. I still remember when a friend's husband (now ex) once told me over a glass of wine: "You know Bitte, the government of Cambodia is controlled by Vietnam. Saigon tells them what to do and they must follow their orders".
Now this is coming from a guy who showed up after Pol Pot at the age of 14, struggled though all the adversity this implies, learned a foreign language, struggled through high school, got a higher education and established several successful businesses. He's only been back once or twice (one time to get married to a model, the girl I know). Anyways, this guy is like 50 but says stuff like that. He's intelligent, articulate and fairly level-headed. But what can you answer to that? I tried to tell him that things had changed, China is a big player and so forth, but I knew it would be akin to talking to a brick wall. Several have highly unreliable news sources and have told me stories which I've flatly denied (since I live here...). One friend sometimes asks me for news because she wants to confirms what she heard on some Khmer abroad bullshit media outlets which are not only biased, but also exaggerate everything. Most adult Khmers abroad I know still think Cambodia is a highly dangerous place.

Recently, a guy with Khmer parents (born abroad) posted this:
One day, I've asked the driver of a motodup: why it is so hot in Cambodia? He answered me in khmer: before it wasn't so hot because there was a lot a trees, but now we're all cutting them all down and it affect the climate of Cambodia. (then I thought: oh Cambodians are so knowledgeable. They are not ignorant at all). Then he answered me in khmer: But I prefer Vietnam, here I became so black. In my home, I was so white.

That's it.
A bunch of friends then commented on how "All hope if lost" and so on. It wasn't too clear to me so I asked if he was disappointed because the guy was Viet or because of the white/black thing. He said that since the guy was Viet, he clearly had no vested interest in Cambodia's future as he was there only for economic reasons, so once they'd been depleted, he could leave. I replied that it was ridiculous because he's not the one physically chopping down trees or selling them, Cambodians are the ones doing that. We had a nice exchange though and it was all pleasant (we do know each other). Anyways, it's possible to have civil conversations with most, but you do have a core with heads harder than reinforced concrete. The internet obviously tends to attract these types.
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giblet
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Re: What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

Post by giblet » Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:43 pm

Sometimes it seems that Asians who are the angriest and most vocal about appropriation/encroachment/nationalism often turn out to be Americans or Australians. I was recently witness to a debate where an Australian-Chinese woman argued that "white people" should not open Asian restaurants because it's appropriating their heritage. I think that the children of immigrants often struggle with identity issues; they feel that they aren't accepted into American/Australian society because they look different, and the way they deal with this is to embrace their heritage. The result is behavior that is often an amplified version of, or even at odds with what the residents of their country of origin might feel.

For example, an overseas Khmer might find it offensive if a Westerner came to Cambodia to study traditional Khmer music, because they would feel that the Westerner is co-opting their culture. But a Cambodian living in Cambodia wouldn't find it offensive and in fact might find it endearing or amusing.

I'm struggling to articulate what I mean (I may not be sure what I mean) but I wonder if this amplified nationalism on the part of overseas Khmers is due to struggles with issues of identity.
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Re: What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

Post by Satiated Parrot » Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:31 pm

giblet wrote:Sometimes it seems that Asians who are the angriest and most vocal about appropriation/encroachment/nationalism often turn out to be Americans or Australians. I was recently witness to a debate where an Australian-Chinese woman argued that "white people" should not open Asian restaurants because it's appropriating their heritage. I think that the children of immigrants often struggle with identity issues; they feel that they aren't accepted into American/Australian society because they look different, and the way they deal with this is to embrace their heritage. The result is behavior that is often an amplified version of, or even at odds with what the residents of their country of origin might feel.

For example, an overseas Khmer might find it offensive if a Westerner came to Cambodia to study traditional Khmer music, because they would feel that the Westerner is co-opting their culture. But a Cambodian living in Cambodia wouldn't find it offensive and in fact might find it endearing or amusing.

I'm struggling to articulate what I mean (I may not be sure what I mean) but I wonder if this amplified nationalism on the part of overseas Khmers is due to struggles with issues of identity.
Bingo (the first paragraph). They're mama-huhu; they're neither Chinese/Korean etc, nor are they American/Australian. I can understand that being in that position would make someone frustrated and angry. A lot of the males suffer more, because inside the home they're often mollycoddled and treated preferentially, growing a sense of entitlement, yet find that the outside world (in this case, the Western country where they live) affords them no favours for simply being male.

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Re: What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

Post by Username Taken » Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:32 pm

giblet wrote:I was recently witness to a debate where an Australian-Chinese woman argued that "white people" should not open Asian restaurants because it's appropriating their heritage.
Interesting considering that someone of Asian heritage won the Great Australian Bake Off.

Nancy Ho, 22 yo, and pretty doable. :o

http://nancyhobakes.com/about-me/

https://www.facebook.com/NancyHoBakes

Sorry, off topic.
... give 'em a quick, short, sharp shock ...

https://BooksAboutCambodia.com
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Re: What's the deal with overseas Khmers?

Post by giblet » Sat Jun 21, 2014 2:07 pm

Username Taken wrote:Interesting considering that someone of Asian heritage won the Great Australian Bake Off.
I think the argument is that it's wrong for the dominant culture to co-opt minority cultures, but there is nothing wrong with minorities assimilating (or learning to bake). Personally, I find this argument about food pretty out there. This is a good example: Craving the Other: One woman's beef with cultural appropriation and food
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