Pach Chheun, Ven. Hem Cheav, Son Ngoc Thanh – Nationalist movement in Cambodia in the 40s
Excerpt from The History of Cambodia by Justin G. Corfield (2009) Courtesy KI Media
The Umbrella Protest and the French Reaction
In July 1942, some nationalists in Phnom Penh decided to plan a march against the French. The ringleader was a monk called Venerable Ghosanaga Hem Cheav (pronounce Haim Jeav) who taught monks at the Pali School in the Cambodian capital. He mentioned some of his ideas to Cambodian militiamen and on July 17, one of them arrested him. The seizure of a senior monk outraged many, and the people planning the protest decided to rally in support of Hem Cheav. Son Ngoc Thanh believed that the Japanese had promised to help the rally, which took place on July 20, 1942.
The rally headed for the office of the acting French Resident Superieur, Jean de Lens. There, the protestors, led by Pach Chheun, demanded Hem Cheav’s release. This event attracted some 1,000 to 2,000 ordinary people, as well as 500 monks, and captured the imagination of many. Pach Chheun’s wife’s youngest brother, Douc Rasy, described many years later how as a 16-year-old schoolboy, he watched with great pride as the demonstrators marched through Phnom Penh. Because the monks in the protest carried umbrellas, the event was often referred to as the “Umbrella Protest.”
The French reacted harshly. They had agents following the protestors and photographing them. These photographs were used to identify who was in the demonstration, and Pach Chheun was dragged before a French court and sentenced to death, and then had the sentence commuted to life in prison. The harshness of that sentence—nobody had been killed in the demonstration—shocked and cowed many people. Pach Chheun was taken to the French penal settlement on the island of Poulo Condore (in Khmer Koh Tralach, in Kampuchea Krom, located in the South China Sea), where Hem Cheav was also held. Cheav died within two years of arriving there, and when Pach Chheun was finally released less than three years after his arrest, he was, physically, a shadow of his former self. The event, however, was to join many others in the folklore of the Cambodian nationalists and in 1979, the government of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea renamed the street along which the demonstration traveled after Hem Cheav to commemorate the monk, who was one of the early martyrs of the nationalist struggle.
Son Ngoc Thanh had expected the Japanese to act to protect the demonstrators and when it became clear that this was not going to happen, he fled for safety to the house of a Japanese officer, and then went to live in Battambang, moving to Tokyo in 1943, where he tried to urge the Cambodian nationalists to resist the French.
The arrest of Hem Cheav had led to simmering discontent in Buddhist circles, and this discontent became worse when, in 1943, the newly appointed French Resident Superieur, Georges Armand Leon Gauthier, decided to replace the Cambodian alphabet of 47 letters with a romanized one. The aim was to adhere to the phonetics of the spoken language, but also to change it as the French had done in Vietnam, the British had done in Malaya, and Kemal Ataturk had done in Turkey. The monks felt this would debase Cambodian culture, but the French pushed the change through.
A Dhamma Talk on Vipassana and mindfulness meditation by Vipassana Gossalaya Jotannano Hong Keo, Vipassana Buddhist Master during a 10-Day Meditation & Vipassana Retreats at the Buddhist Meditation Center, Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam on the 11th Waxing Moon – 7th Waning Moon of Jeṭṭha B.E.2560 equivalent to June 15 – 26, A.D.2016 in Leverett, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in 2016.
ក្រុងសាវត្ថី Sāvatthī or Śrāvastī
Vipassana chanting by Meditation Master Ketodhammo Som Bunthoeun. Footages from 2016 Vipassana classes at the Buddhist Meditation Center – Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam in Leverett, Massachusetts, USA.
SAMDECH CHUON NATH
Khmer literature and Dhamma talk by His Holiness Jotannano Chuon Nath, the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism. His Holiness was born on March 11, 1883; passed away on September 25, 1969
MAHA GHOSANANDA SERVICES
Extraordinary Funeral and Memorial Services for His Holiness Samdech Dr. Maha Ghosananda