Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (4): Reordering the Power Structure

In 1834, Vietnamese and Cambodian forces succeeded together in driving the Siamese out of Cambodia, and King Chan, who had fled to Vietnam (see this post) was able to return to Phnom Penh.

In his A History of Cambodia, historian David Chandler writes that “When Chan returned to his battered, abandoned capital in early 1834, he found himself under more stringent Vietnamese control. Thai successes in their overland offences had shown Minh Mạng that he could not rely on the Khmer to provide a ‘fence’ for his southern and western borders. With the defeat of the rebellion, he now moved to intensify and consolidate his control.” (123-24 1st ed.; 149-50 4th ed.)

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (4): Reordering the Power Structure”

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (3): King Chan and Vietnam

In the early 1830s the Vietnamese fought a war with the Siamese: There was a rebellion that broke out in southern Vietnam at that time (the Lê Văn Khôi rebellion) and the Siamese moved their troops through Cambodia to support this rebellion. This led to a war between Vietnam and Siam.

In the midst of that war, the king of Cambodia, King Chan, ended up in Vietnam.

How did that happen?

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (3): King Chan and Vietnam”

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (2): Military Colonies and Vietnamization

The “tax issue” concerning how people in Cambodia were taxed when it was under Vietnamese control in the 1830s is very complex, and therefore, also very interesting. I will return to that issue, but in order to do so, we need to first examine some other issues.

A couple of issues that we need to look at are the establishment of military colonies (đồn điền 屯田) in Cambodia and the issue of “Vietnamization.”

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (2): Military Colonies and Vietnamization”

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (1)

In the early 1830s a rebellion broke out in the Mekong Delta. The Siamese sent troops to support it, and then in 1834 the Vietnamese (i.e., the Nguyễn Dynasty), pushed the Siamese back. Afterwards, they tried to control the area of Cambodia, and did so until a major rebellion broke out at the end of 1840.

This period from 1834 to 1840 is referred to as “the Vietnamese annexation of Cambodia.” One of the first people to write in English about this period was historian David Chandler in his 1973 PhD dissertation, “Cambodia Before the French: Politics in a Tributary Kingdom, 1794-1848.”

In writing about that period, Chandler relied heavily on a Vietnamese source, the Đại Nam thực lục (Veritable Records of Đại Nam); a collection of Nguyễn Dynasty documents. Chandler praised this work in his dissertation, saying that “For several stretches in the early nineteenth century” this was “the most detailed and accurate source” for what transpired in Cambodia (13).

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (1)”

Engaging With Vietnam in HCM City, Bình Dương and Phú Yên

After an intensive summer of planning for the 9th Engaging With Vietnam conference, we are pleased to announce details about the conference and to encourage everyone interested in participating to please submit a proposal by August 31 (see for details).

This year’s conference theme is “TOURING VIETNAM: Exploring Development, Tourism and Sustainability in Vietnam from Multi-disciplinary and Multi-directional Perspectives.” We encourage submissions that address this theme, but as a multidisciplinary conference on Vietnam, we also consider submissions on topics not directly related to the theme, so please feel free to submit a proposal!

This year’s conference will engage the theme through the following formats:

Continue reading “Engaging With Vietnam in HCM City, Bình Dương and Phú Yên”

Southeast Asian Studies, ASEAN and Western Scholarship

A few days ago I had the pleasure of attending two panels on “Emerging and Continuing Trends in Southeast Asian Studies” at The 10th International Convention of Asian Scholars that was held in Chiang Mai. Those panels made me think a lot about Southeast Asian Studies in Southeast Asia.

Then this morning I was reminded of those two panels when I came across a paper (in Vietnamese) that had just been uploaded to the Internet called “Vietnam at the Crossroad of Area and Global Studies: Vietnamese Knowledge on Southeast Asia and New Approaches.”

Continue reading “Southeast Asian Studies, ASEAN and Western Scholarship”

The (Complex) Power of Empty Rooms

In the previous post I wrote about an impression that one can get from viewing the interior design of the Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập) in Saigon.

Viewing the rooms in the bunker (the basement), on the other hand, can bring about other impressions and feelings.

In Honolulu, one can visit the USS Missouri, the ship on which the Japanese, in Tokyo Bay, formally signed the surrender documents that ended World War II in Asia on September 2, 1945, the very same day that, in Hanoi, Hồ Chí Minh declared Vietnam to be independent.


That ship has many empty rooms like the ones that are in the basement of the Independence Palace.

In both cases, those empty rooms can elicit complex feelings.

I have seen many pictures of Independence Palace, but I’d never seen those empty rooms until I visited this historical site. Below are some pictures that I took of those rooms.

They are as important to this building as the official meeting rooms and the hip entertainment room. Continue reading “The (Complex) Power of Empty Rooms”

The (Tropical) Coolness of Independence Palace

As someone who is interested in architecture and “coolness,” I decided to spend some time this summer looking at the Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập) in Saigon, as this is a structure that was clearly built to be cool.

Continue reading “The (Tropical) Coolness of Independence Palace”

The Engaging With Vietnam Conference Theme

I’m posting this information here for people who view this blog but who do not follow the Engaging With Vietnam Facebook page.

These two videos explain about the theme for the upcoming Engaging With Vietnam conference. One is a tired version and one is an upbeat version, but the content is the same.


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