A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 26 December 2007

A Biograhy of Prince Norodom Chantaraingsey- part one.

picture: Prince Chantaraingsey as a military commander.

This is the first of a four-part series of a biography of Prince Norodom Chantaraingsey. This biography was compiled by Mr. Hass Savoeun, a member of the Buddhist Khmer Center in the USA (http://www.ibuddhi.org.about/php) and was republished in the website of the Khmer Center in Switzerland, adding the front page picture by Lok Ly Diep of Angkor Boei News in the USA. The biography is translated from Khmer to English by Khmerization.------------------------------------------
Previously I cited Mr. Hass Savoeun as a member of Khmer Center in Switzerland. He is in fact a member of the Buddhist Khmer Center in the USA. I wish to thank Lok Perom Uch for bringing to my attention about my erroneous citations. I thank him for his correction and wish to apologise to all concerned for my errors.

Prince Norodom Chantarainsey was born in 1926 or the Year Of Tiger (Henry Soszynski, who compiled a genealogy of the Cambodian royal family, recorded Chantaraingsey’s birth year as 1924) and was executed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. He was the son of Prince Norodom Chanthalekha (1891-28th May 1971) who was the son of King Norodom (Feb. 1834-24th April, 1904) and Neak Moneang Tath. He was married to Preah Ang Mechas (Princess) Sisowath Samanvoraphong who was the daughter of King Sisowath Monivong. It was not sure if they had any children. Prince Chantaraingsey was the youngest child in a family of seven brothers and sisters. His other siblings were: 1. Neak Ang Machas Norodom Yassanorak (1908-1940s), 2. Neak Ang Machas Norodom Chanmaly, 3. Neak Ang Machas Norodom Peng, 4. Neak Ang Machas Norodom Chansodareth, 5. Neak Ang Machas Norodom Sumanavan, 6. Neak Ang Machas Norodom Siddharangsy (18th Feb. 1920-13th Sept. 2004). He had one known half-brother named Prince Chitsarik (17th June, 1917-1975) who was the ex-Governor of Kandal province and one known half-sister named Neak Ang Machas Ngeth who was married to an ex-Police Commissioner named Kol.

1. Political Life
In World War II the Japanese troops had occupied Cambodia as well as the whole of Asia. With the help of Japan, Thailand had forced France to cede the Cambodian provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom North to Thailand , except the Angkor region which was still under the control of the French authority in Cambodia.
In the interior of the country the nationalist movements had grown dramatically with active involvements of the general population, including both the lay-people and the Buddhist monks. Later, these movements were known to have been led by such important leaders as Son Ngoc Thanh, Pach Chhoeun, Achar Hem Chieu and Nuon Duong. When the French authority knew that there were anti-French movements they ordered the arrests of Achar Hem Chieu and Nuon Duong. That has caused widespread anti-French protests in front of the Phnom Penh City Hall on the 20th of July 1942 to demand the release of those two. But the protests were forcibly broken up by the French police with the French ordering for more arrests of the anti-French leaders, except Song Ngoc Thanh. Those anti-French movements were considered to be the “First Royal Issarak Movement”, but it was only a political movement led by Son Ngoc Thanh.
With the help of the Japanese occupation forces the movement had formed a “Voluntary Army Brigade” and a “Royal Guard” which was commanded by a Japanese officer named Tadaguma who is presently the Secretary in the Japanese embassy in Cambodia. At that time Prince Chantaraingsey joined the “Voluntary Army Brigade” along with other future leaders of the Issarak Movement such as Sarou, Savang, Savath, Him Khan and others.
After the Japanese launched a coup de force by arresting the French army officers, the French public servants and the French civilians on the 9th of March 1946, the Japanese occupation forces encouraged and supported the declaration of independence in Indochina. King Sihanouk declared Cambodia independent from France on the 12th of March of the same year and assumed the post of Prime Minister from 18th March to 13th August 1945. After that Son Ngoc Thanh took over as Prime Minister from 14th August to the 16th of September 1945. Not long after, Japan lost the war and surrendered to the Allied Forces. The Voluntary Army Brigade in Cambodia was disbanded and the French quickly returned to re-occupy Indochina, especially in Cambodia when Sihanouk’s special emissary, Khim Tith, who was the Minister of Defence in the Son Ngoc Thanh government, secretly facilitated and pre-arranged for their return.
When the Voluntary Army Brigade was disbanded Prince Chantaraingsey immediately escaped to Battambang province, which at that time was under the control of Thailand, and he defected and joined the Issarak Movement there.

2. The Issarak Movement led by Ros Yeun
In fact the word “Issarak” was first coined when the anti-French movement was formed in Battambang province after the French colonial authority was forced to cede this province to Thailand on the 9th of May 1941. At that time the Thai had the policy of supporting the Cambodian nationalist anti-French movements in the Thai-occupied territories, especially in the Battambang city areas of Kdaing Ngear Temple, Wat Leap Temple and Wat Piphith Raingsey (Wat Piphith) Temple. One of the Cambodian intellectuals who used to be a teacher named Ros Yeun, or Monsieur Yeun, was the first leader of that movement, along with one other assistant, Mr. Borin who had been supported by Mr. Poc Phalkun (alias Poc Tralach) who was a descendant of Lord Pen whose family occupied the Lord-Governorship of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces for generations. At that time the Issarak movement used Neak Lameay’s (Mrs. Lameay) house, which was located at the end of the Steel Bridge, as their headquarter.(Please note that Neak Lameay was the daughter of the last Lord-Governor Chhum and a descendant of the Lord-Governor Pen, whose brother, Luang Kovid or Khuang Aphaiwong, became the Prime Minister of Thailand in the mid 1940s). But the majority members of this movement were the political activists of Mr. Son Ngoc Thanh’s group who had fled from Phnom Penh at the end of 1945.
The activities of this movement was financed by the funds from the “Salvation Association” based at Wat Sangker Temple which was headed by a man named Chhuon and an assistant named Ny Vanthy, who was our interviewee for this article. The Salvation Association got their funds from their theatrical performances. Ny Vanthy was in charge of organising the performances. When they have raised enough money they sent it to Bangkok for purchasing weapons, ammunitions and military supplies to equip the troops who were training in military strategy at Anlong Vill. Poc Tralach was in charge for the purchasing of weapons from the Thais. He was also a very important person who had a direct access to the Thai king. That anti-French movement, which was based in Battambang, was considered to be the “Second Issarak Movement”. The people who volunteered to join the Isaarak army had grown on a daily basis. But due to the high prices and the shortages of weapons, coupled with the lack of funds, they were not able to arm every volunteer. Most of the army volunteers carried only the swords as their weapons and only the commanders or the heads of the big groups were armed with guns. Other than this, there were reservists called “Series Soldiers” who were only trained with wooden toy guns and will only be equipped with outdated guns.
Ros Yeun, even though he was the top commander, had never led troops in any military operations. Therefore he did not have any influences over those Issarak military commanders. And Sarou, who acted as the commander-in-chief, did not have absolute influences over the Issarak army at that time.
The military commanders or heads of the groups at that time were:
-Sarou, a senior commander of the battalion who was later killed by Dap Chhuon at the foot of the Dangrek Ranges.
-Prince Norodom Chantaraingsey, a battalion commander.
-Dap Chhuon was also a battallion commander but in his groups there were other important members of the Issarak Movement as well such as Kao Tak, Leav Keo Moni, Mey Pho and Mae Muon etc.
-Hem Savang was a battalion commander and his nephew, Hem Savath, was a deputy battalion commander.
-Oum was a battalion commander, but sometimes they were called “A One Hundred Brigade” because each of the battalion had only about 100 fighters, except Sarou’s battalion which had more troops than others that’s why his rank was upgraded to the rank of senior battalion commander.//(To be continued parts 2, 3 and 4). To read part two (A) click here.

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