Manipulations of Cambodian Nationalism: From French Colonial Rule to Current Polity

Hilary Grant


This paper analyzes the sources of and problems arising from Cambodian nationalism. It considers four different political regimes: French colonial rule, the reign of Prince Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge regime and the UNTAC period. Each of these periods demonstrated that nationalist sentiments can easily be transformed and influenced by political players. The paper also points to the role nationalism plays in internal and external conflicts. In analysing these periods it establishes the pillars of Cambodian nationalism as the burden felt by the modern Khmer to live up to the glories of the ancient Angkorian empire and the concept of the morally superior ethnic Khmer. It concludes that Cambodian nationalism has been vertically imposed on the general population by powerful elites to negative ends.

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