Friday, 11 July 2014

In the Name of National Identity and Culture

“These items [lost Buddhist relics at Phnom Oudong] are the spirit of our religion and our nation, and it represents our nation’s culture.”

Sok Oeun, director of Kandal province’s Department of Culture and Fine Arts, 12 December 2013

“The lost gold and money, we don’t want to get them back, and if [the story on the loss Buddhist relics] is disseminated, it will affect [the investigation]. They will destroy the ashes and they will know about the police investigation. We do not want to talk about it. We think it’s a matter of national identity, so please do not write about it.”

Eav Chamroeun, Kandal provincial police chief, 12 December 2013

If the Buddhist relics at Phnom Oudong were really the spirit of the country and culture, they would certainly be treated like one; but they are not. The relics have been entrusted to a dilapidated security system that breeds negligence and disinterest. About a dozen of guards are supposed to get paid $42.50 per month per person; yet, families of the guards claim the men have received only a total of ten month’s salary over the past two years.

If the provincial police chief who is also the payroll officer for those guards had his way, the public would not know about the robbery. The police chief mindset for covering up is interesting. He claims the robbers would not know if the authorities know about the heist. They may even believe no one would come after them. Given similar mindset engrossing the Kingdom of Wonder, the robbers may be right though.

The public would not know about police investigation, if any. Above all, besides the police chief, not many would know if the investigation is a success or failure.

Thus, the bliss of ignorance would this way preserve the national culture and identity; for all the public knows, the relics would still be in the stupa.

Ung Bun Ang


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