Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

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.


Updating Trần Trọng Dương

A year ago I made some videos of a conversation with scholar Trần Trọng Dương. I recently “updated” those videos by improving the quality of the sound and images.

There are still two videos from this conversation that I have not completed yet, but here are the other seven.

Continue reading “Updating Trần Trọng Dương”

Sihanouk’s “Glory to Our Arab and African Brothers”

Among the many musical compositions that Norodom Sihanouk composed was a piece called “Glory to Our Arab and African Brothers.”

It would appear that this was a piece that Sihanouk composed while he was living in Beijing and Pyongyang in the 1970s, when he was allied with the Khmer Rouge.

Here is a re-creation of this song and an English translation of the lyrics.

Continue reading “Sihanouk’s “Glory to Our Arab and African Brothers””

Sihanouk’s “Korea and Cambodia Are Revolutionary Comrades-in-Arms”

After Cambodian Head of State Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown in 1970, he took up residence in Beijing, China and Pyongyang, North Korea.

I’ve always wondered what Sihanouk did in those places, and now I know. . . He composed music!

Continue reading “Sihanouk’s “Korea and Cambodia Are Revolutionary Comrades-in-Arms””

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