Love Amid Hated
July 31, 2012, 3:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Love Amid Hated

by Moeun Chhean Nariddh

  

            The year is 1937. Thai Army’s Captain Tepkoson Vichitrakorn flees to Cambodia following an aborted military coup in Thailand. Life in exile just provides Janmunee, his 18-year-old beautiful daughter, an excuse to encounter 20-year-old Tikheavudh, who becomes her Cambodian lover.

Yet, the newly found friends become enemies due to the faults of others. In the end, the wounds of the relations between the two nations have relatively healed and the two lovers finally meet. However, they have to experience separation, war, anguish, hatred, and almost death.

All these things have happened in the name of patriotism that dominates a dramatic love story that spans throughout each of the 124-page-long novel “Mealear Duongcheth” written some 30 years ago by late famous Cambodian writer Nou Hach.

Today, the wounds of the relations between Cambodia and Thailand seem to have relapsed following the anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh early last year.

At the end of the novel summary, Cambodian novelist, literature teacher, and history professor have discussed the role the novel can play in remedying these wounds in separate interviews recently.

The novel starts with a scene in the Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh in 1939. Tikheavudh, the main Cambodian character, begins his imaginary adventure of love with a Thai woman.

What interesting is that Tikheavudh’s dream of love and the recent anti-Thai riots are both originated from the media. The anti-Thai sentiment began after a newspaper report of a rumor that a Thai actress had claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand. Tikheavudh falls in love with a Thai singer after listening to her song in a Thai radio broadcast. He greatly admires the beauty of the unseen lady.

“Tikheavudh also dares to [say] that such an unbroken, genuine voice surely doesn’t come out of an ugly self,” writes Nou Hach.

Indeed, Tikheavudh’s dream comes true. On a train ride from Battambang to Phnom Penh, he meets and falls in love with Janmunee, a Thai lady who has the voice and look that matches the girl in his imagination.

Janmunee, a student at the Chulalongkorn University, is traveling from Bangkok to fulfil her wish to see her neighboring country and to visit her father who lives in self-exile in Phnom Penh.

“Since I became grown up, I’ve always wanted to see Cambodia…because we have the same tradition, custom, religion and culture,” Janmunee explains to Tikheavudh.

Their love is getting too good to last.

The self-exile of Capt. Tepkoson Vichetrakorn comes to an end when the Thai court rules that he was not linked to the coup plot. And Janmunee has to follow her father to Bangkok to tend her sick mother.

Before long, Tikheavudh leaves school and becomes the deputy governor of Pursat. Correspondence with his lover, Janmunee, has turned from bad to worse – from words of love to simple greetings and to none. All correspondences have been strictly censored by the Thai government as war between Thailand and Indochina is looming.

After a long period of silence, Tikheavudh finally receives a letter, but not from his beloved Thai sweetheart. It’s a letter from a Cambodian friend who works as a government detective in Phnom Penh. The letter says his Thai lover and her father are merely the spies of the Thai military.

Tikheavudh bursts into anger. He resigns his job being upset with the provincial government that is plagued with gruesome corruption. Then, he volunteers into the army to fight the country of his lover who turned out to be an enemy.

From this chapter, writer Nou Hach begins to give a detailed account of the historical events concerning the Thai-Indochina battle that is being fought along side the second world war.

In December 1940, writes Nou Hach, the frequent armed clashes have turned to a full-scaled war.

“Whatever the Thais have done would be immediately responded by the French,” the book reads.

At this time, Tikheavudh’s unit has been ordered to station in Sereisorpoan district on the way to the border town of Poipet.

According to Nou Hach, the Thai military arsenals which are supported by Japan are much more sophisticated than the French, who has suffered a series of defeat in Europe.

The entire French army in Indochina has only 15 tanks and 15 Moran fighter jets along with a few other bomber planes, writes Nou Hach. However, the writer describes, the French tanks are so old that they can’t drive forward and need to be loaded onto trucks to go to war.

On January 1941, the French plans a secret offensive against the approaching Thai troops, but it has been detected by a Thai secret agent. Tikheavudh is also engaged in this special operation.

Due to the meager ammunition and failed plot, the French has been defeated after an overnight battle. Tikheavudh is taken as a prisoner when he is seriously wounded.

He has been taken to a hospital in Aranjaprathet district on the Thai side of the border. Worst still, the hospital has no blood that matches Tikheavudh’s blood group.

With a stroke of luck, Janmunnee, his Thai lover, is working as a nurse in the hospital. She sacrifices her blood to rescue her Cambodian lover.

When back to Bangkok, Janmunee attended a five-month- training in basic care for the wounded.

“Janmunee…has volunteered to be a nurse, because she thinks that tending the wounded is both a good deed and a good chance to fulfil her obligation for the country,” explains Nou Hach, citing patriotism of the Thai female character.

Though, he has recovered from his wounds because of Janmunee’s blood, Tikheavudh still remembers what his Cambodian spy friend has told him. And the anger lingers in his heart. He has just responded with hatred to the kindness and care of Janmunee and her family.

Tikheavudh is sent back to Cambodia when the two sides exchange their prisoners of war.

Tikheavudh is trying to figure out how his girlfriend and her father have turned to be such bad people. He thinks that it would be a serious mistake if what his spy friend told him is not true.

“Even though the Thai government is bad… and has encroached upon Khmer land, not all Thai people are bad,” he talks to himself.

Sure enough, Tikheavudh was misinformed by his spy friend. The Cambodian spy latter told him that they had confused Janmunee and her father with another Thai spy who was also living in Phnom Penh.

However, this news is probably a bit too late. Tikheavudh is now overwhelmed with regret over his mistake. He just wishes to meet his Thai friends again in order to apologize to them.

Upon returning from Thailand, Tikheavudh was appointed the governor of RSiemreap’s Purk district on the border of Sasasdom district, which has been ceded to Thailand.

As the governor, reads the novel, Tikheavudh has to communicate with the Thai governor of Sasasdom to solve the paper works for Khmer people who have a house in the new Thai soil but they have rice fields in the Cambodian side or vice versa.

A long-waited opportunity arrives. Tikheavudh meets Janmunee and father again when the two are visiting the Thai governor of Sasasdom district.

Though he gets the chance to apologize to his Thai lover and her father, Tikheavudh can’t recover his lost love. He has made an oath at Angkor Wat that he won’t make friends with any Thai nationals unless the Khmer provinces which have recently been ceded to Thailand are returned to Cambodia, writes Nou Hach.

The second world war is coming to an end with Germany and Japan losing to the ally forces. Thailand was forced to return all the land to Cambodia after it had been taken away by the Thais for five years, writes Nou Hach.

Captain Tepkoson Vichitrakorn has bought a plot of land in Battambang and moved his family to Cambodia after resigning from the Thai army.

Tikheavudh finally meets Janmunee again. No longer bound by his oath, Tikheavudh and his Thai lover build a happy life together in Cambodia.

THIS NOVEL was published in 1972 and has been considered as one of the best books in the modern-day Khmer literature.

Yim Nimola, one of a few Khmer novelists, said it was important for the young generation to read and learn from the old novel.

“It educates people not to be too conservative,” she said. “It’s not just for the Khmers, it’s the same for the Thai youth; if the Thais are too conservative, we can’t live in peace.”

Agreed Tep Sok, a Khmer literature teacher.

“Through the two [Cambodian and Thai] characters, it intends to reconcile the two countries,” he said of the novel.

Sok said the writer portrayed Tikheavudh and Janmunee as both lovers of their respective nation who can forget their differences.

“The two are both patriots, but the know how to live together by forgetting their malice,” he said.

Sok said it’s a good novel that all Khmer students should read.

A Khmer history teacher who asked not to be named said he considered Nou Hach a writer who had good knowledge of history. He said Nou Hach used his writing both to entertain and to teach readers about history.

“Though it’s a novel, it helps people understand what happened in the past,” said the history teacher who asks not to be identified.

Concerning the Cambodian-Thai disputes last year, novelist Yim Nimola said it’s normal for two neighbors to quarrel. She said the novel “Mealear Duongcheth” teaches the two nationals to forget their past conflicts and learn to live as good neighbors.

“You never quarrel with people who live [in a house] four or five blocks away,” she said. “[But, usually], it’s the next-door neighbor who will come [in time] to help you when you’re in trouble.”

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Nariddh… It is good to see that you are still findings ways to express your sense of humour and managing to stay out of too much trouble.For myself, it apparently is impossible to keep some people out of Cambodia. This time I have returned as an advisor to the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (porter.ian@ccc-cambodia.org) and would love to catch up with you sometime. My schedule is flexible and if you would like, I could come to see you at your convenience. Hope to see you soon. Best wishes, Ian Porter (ex of IMPACS)

Comment by Ian Joseph Porter

Hi Ian, It’s great to hear that you have come back. Yes, lets get together one day. Maybe, go have a drink or two. I always remember thw two Ian’s whoch used to teach at CCI: you, Canada’s Ian and Australia’s Ian Ramage, whoch taught photography. Cheers, Nariddh

Comment by chhimborom




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