Burning up

January 30, 2015

I was going to write about going to a Burns Night Supper last weekend.

I thought that I could get an elegant little piece out of it about the cultural dissonance involved in being in Cambodia and watching a bunch of men in skirts loudly declaiming about “Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beasties” and “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face/ Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!”  while eating a sheep’s stomach filled with lungs and entrails. But, on reflection, I decided that it’s a pretty weird thing to do wherever you are: even in Scotland. And, to be honest, my memories of the event are a little hazy. (I was apparently found at the end of the evening with my head on a table, fast asleep.)

A somewhat more troubling import from abroad is an admiration of the life and work of Adolf Hitler.

Cambodia’s National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha attracted justified criticism after he told his subordinates at a meeting in Phnom Penh last week that he “learned” from the Nazi dictator.

Sokha’s comments were apparently made amid speeches defending the authorities’ deadly crackdown on protests last January, which saw five people shot dead.

Sokha quickly backtracked, saying said his comments had been misunderstood, and that while he acknowledged that he “raised the name of Hitler” and said that he learned from him, he said the lesson was far from inspirational.

However a tape of his remarks quickly surfaced: “Speaking frankly, I learned from Hitler. Germany, after World War I, was not allowed by the international community to have more than 100,000 soldiers, but the Nazis and Hitler did whatever so they could wage World War II.
This is the first thing.

“Secondly, I learned from the Vietnamese guerrillas to take small numbers to fight against the big, but that cannot be for winning, but to destroy them. If we want to win, we have to take big numbers to fight against the small—to fight them until they are frightened and it is finished. This is what I can say; it is not accidental, it is not  boastful. My thoughts and methods are to achieve this.”

I leave it to you to decide what you think about his attitude. I think I prefer Burns.



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