Week One Post
For week one of ASA 150E, we read three articles on the historical backgrounds various peoples and nations in Southeast Asia. What struck me to be the most interesting was the article by Gary Yia Lee and the question of origin with regards to the Hmong people. I never knew whom the Hmong people were till I moved to the mainland US and to Sacramento. Even while I lived in Thailand I had spent time with the Karen People, one of the Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand, but not the Hmong. The different aspects of Hmong culture, that diasporic groups keep with them was interesting to read about as well. The debate in regard to the umbrella term “Miao” and origins of the Hmong people is something to contemplate as well. While each group of people under the term has their own histories and view with regards to origin and ancestors, the Hmong outside of China seem to have strong resentment to the term. The complications that develop from having general terms to identify people are not new to the US. I immediately thought about the Native Hawaiian community and the struggles it faces in the greater American public when such terms as “Asian Pacific Islander” or “Asian Pacific American” are used in the common rhetoric with regards to minority coalitions, politics, etc.
Here is a link to the PBS Documentary called, "The Split Horn" which looks at the Thao family, shamanism and the Hmong Culture.
Week Two Reading
In the reading by Aihwa Ong, Buddha is Hiding, chapter one and chapter two describe the experiences of refugees in the Cambodia during the “Pol Pot” period, the Khmer Rouge, and the conditions in which they had lived under. The horrifying reality of the Pol Pot Regime are graphically depicted and described. What was most disturbing to me was chapter two, A Hilton in the Border Zone. In this chapter it talks about Khao I Dang Refugee camp, operated by UNHCR and the Thai Army. KID was referred to as the “Hilton” of refugee camps because of its huge facilities meant for permanent settlement purposes. However, Ong goes on to describe the prisonlike state of the camp and the various atrocious activities that some Thai soldiers participated in. Such things like extortion, rape, kidnapping and human trafficking, etc. The KID refugee camp, though meant to be a safe place where civilians could escape after the Vietnamese invasion of Phnom Phen in order to over through the Pol Pot regime, brought on a whole new setting of difficulties and challenges for the people.
The conditions that Cambodians had to live under Pol Pot and after have had severe effects on the generations. As Ong writes about the experiences of Cambodians living from before the Pol Pot regime, during and after, the impacts it has on the overall state of the people is heartbreaking and intriguing. The role of international entities and countries giving aid is one that is most interesting with regard to the reading.
For more images of the Khao-I-Dang click HERE