Cambodian Identity

1458 Words6 Pages
Political Psychology and Identity of Cambodians
Abstract: Various factors besides culture and religion assist in defining the identity of a community. In the case of Cambodia, the tragic genocide of the Khmer Rouge and its aftermath established an unrelenting Cambodian identity suffering from severe psychological trauma. The lack of essential reconciliation and rehabilitation efforts by the government has played a role in the transgenerational passage of the trauma and needs to be addressed for the stable progression of Cambodian society.
Key Words: psychological trauma, reconciliation, identity politics, transitional justice

Cambodia’s name has become synonymous around the world for a country still plagued with the horrors of the Khmer
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In defining the nation, Sihanouk named Khmer reverence and Buddhism as the fundamental attributes of Cambodians. Through the selective categorization of Cambodian identity, other ethnic and minority groups were excluded and left with an uncertain status in society. Despite the ethnic Khmer dominant community, Sihanouk’s identity requirements marginalized and caused tension among the other minority religious and ethnic groups (Zook, Cambodia #1). Following the seizure of power by the Khmer Rouge however, Pol Pot and the other “brothers” (needs to explain who they are) implemented a new form of regime that incorporated racial and cultural purity beliefs with extreme Marxism and Maoism. Having first formed as a rural based organized armed resistance under Norodom and then Lon Nol, the Khmer Rouge quickly began a quest to purify and return Cambodia back to the glory days that had been lost through Western influence. Under Khmer Rouge ideology, the new pure Khmer civilization had to empty out of their so-called artificial cities and move into the rural heartlands. The leaders believed that the rural heartlands held the key to the foundation of the powerful rural based empire of the past. Individuals categorized as “new people” – based on their occupations, western connections, or higher classes – were forced to work in…show more content…
The results of this ideology was in part due to the forced methods employed by the Khmer Rouge leaders but also indirectly through the tactics taken up by the people in coping with the atrocities of the time. This ideology was one of self-perseverance and self-assertive attitudes that represented a new feature of Cambodian life (Downie). The threat of witch-hunt like accusations of foreign connections made people paranoid and afraid for their lives; trust was lost among even the closest communities: neighbors and families. Pot’s idea was for everyone, especially the poor and the young, to do everything on their own and be able to form a self-sustaining society without any foreign influence. Traditionally, Buddhism had constituted the moral and ethical system of Cambodia and was extremely important for the preservation of the Khmer nation and culture (Downie). However with the abolishment of Buddhism by the DK, there was a complete destruction of trust, human dignity, and perhaps moral values. This “survive or die” culture of the Khmer Rouge broke down social and family norms, making people less likely to help one another when they were no longer bound by the former system of obligations (Hinton). Buddhist notions of the pursuit of happiness and truth were completely demolished with the
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