Fascinating background reading for anyone considering visiting Cambodia, this was a serious omission from our earlier Cambodia reading and viewing list. An unusual perspective too in that whilst most Cambodian history books you’ll come across cover either the Angkor or Khmer Rouge eras, Cambodia’s Curse is an account and analysis of events and history post Khmer Rouge up until the books publication date in 2011.
The book’s an in depth, though highly readable, coverage of the post KR era, the Vietnamese liberation/occupation, (depending upon how you look it), the UN period and the somewhat problematic nascence of an independent, parliamentary democracy that brings us up to the present day. Cambodia has had, and still does have, plenty of problems in its development as an independent state over the last 20 years or so though the book does tend to dwell heavily on the negative aspects. We’re not denying any accuracy or making light of such issues but some of it may need taking with a pinch of salt or two and we feel that some of the problems Brinkley is so critical of are applicable to most Southeast Asian countries including much more developed ones and aren’t uniquely Cambodian problems.
Corruption and lack of transparency are endemic throughout the region, affluent Thailand has a long history of coups and even developed Malaysia’s last general elections were highly dubious.
It is fascinating reading for anyone interested in Cambodian history or anyone considering a Cambodia tour and it certainly explains many of the country’s current issues but having spent a lot of time in the Khmer kingdom we do feel things aren’t as bad as this book would have you think. Still, a valuable and interesting if sometimes tragic history.
Cambodia’s Curse – The Modern History of a Troubled Land,