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Chinese-Cambodians in the Vietnam War - a lecture by M. Ngo

Orientální ústav zve na přednášku May Ngo  "Chinese-Cambodians in the Vietnam War: an oral history of the 'other' soldiers in the Vietcong", která se uskuteční 7. října 2019 od 16:50 na Taiwanu.

Existing studies of the Vietnam War have been written mostly from Western sources and through Western eyes, although there are increasing accounts from the North Vietnamese as archives open up (Ang Chen Guan 2004). Missing however, are accounts from other actors in the region involved in the war including Laos and Cambodia. This paper will present an oral history of my father’s experiences as a Chinese-Cambodian in the Vietnam War as part of the National Liberation Front, otherwise known as the  Vietcong. The oral history incorporates interviews with my father and will provide insight into the motivations, desires and fears during this period that were rooted in particular local contexts and specific social needs, as well as highlight some of the underlying local conflicts that existed underneath the global Cold War confrontation.
My father’s oral history is an attempt to move his experience from the sidelines to the centre of a war that not only occurred in Vietnam but embroiled the Southeast Asian region. Oral history is unique in this respect in that it can offer an understanding of the different perspectives, thoughts and emotions of those who have been confined to the periphery of political and social history (Leavy 2011). My father’s particular location as an ethnic Chinese will be critical in understanding the support of the Chinese population in Cambodia for the Vietcong and the role of the Chinese school system in the country (Lau 2012). My father’s decision to depart from the army after being demoted for being Chinese reflects not only the freezing of relations between Vietnam and China after the Vietnam War, but also the meaning and role of hope and disillusionment for individuals in the conflict (Masuda 2015).

The Cold War impacted and redefined the history of Asia (Lau 2012)- however it was people on the ground who, in their quotidian practices, contributed to defining this world. These included countless ordinary people like my father, my mother and their peers who, although nameless in political history, in everyday contests and actions helped to shape the direction and reality of the Cold War in local contexts. Using an analytical lens of the ‘local’ to rethink the ‘global’ (Mooney and Lanza 2013), the oral history of my father will demonstrate the ways in which individuals and communities were critical in the creation of the ‘reality’ of the Cold War world; the diverse ways in which it was imagined and produced within local, specific contexts and the social dynamics that underpinned its construction (Masuda 2015). The way in which peripheral others experienced and recount the history of the Cold War is critical in destabilising standard accepted narratives and in troubling the image of the whole through an examination of its parts (Kwon 2010). Through a particular oral history, my father’s, I will trace a personal life trajectory that was impacted by- but also significantly- responding to, both local and wider socio-political-economic dynamics of the Cold War.

3. 10. 2019