Skip to main content Accessibility help

What to Do about The Khmers

  • Michael Vickery (a1)



Hide All

1 General Editors of the series are Peter Bellwood and Ian Glover.

2 A good relief map, although without borders or lines of latitude and longitude, is at the end of Boisselier, J., Le Cambodge, Manuel d'Archéologie d'Extrême-Orient, Première Partie, Asie du Sud-Est, Tome I (Paris, Éditions A. et J. Picard et Cie, 1966).

3 The standard treatments by George Coedes are Les etats hindouises d'Indochine et d'Indonesie (Paris: Editions E. de Boccard, 1964; English translation, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, ed. Vella, Walter F., trans. Susan Brown Cowing [Kuala Lumpur and Singapore: University of Malaya Press, 1968]).

4 Cited further as Michael Vickery, “Pre-Angkor”, although page numbers will not be given since they are still unstable in the text which exists only in typescript versions.

5 Claude Jacques, “Histoire preangkorienne du pays khmer”. [Unpublished MS.]

6 Briggs, Lawrence Palmer, The Ancient Khmer Empire (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1951).

7 See Vickery, Michael, “Where and What was Chenla?”, Recherches nouvelles sur le Cambodge, publiees sous la direction de F. Bizot (Paris: École Française d'Extrême-Orient, 1994), p. 205, for arguments against the late descent of the Khmer from the north. Mabbett and Chandler have cited a pre-publication typescript of this article.

8 Vickery, Michael, “Some Remarks on Early State Formation in Cambodia”, Southeast Asia in the 9th to 14th Centuries, ed. Marr, David G. and Milner, A.C. (Canberra: Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, and Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1986), pp. 95115, esp. p. 100, and note 22.

9 Jacques, Claude, Angkor (Paris: Bordas, 1990), p. 43. This is a large art book with excellent colour photographs, maps, and diagrammes illustrating the monuments of ancient Cambodia and their environment. Jacques has also used it to propagate some of his new historical constructions which have not been argued on their evidence in previous articles, nor exposed to scholarly peer review, and there is no warning to the reader about the novelty or hypothetical character of those conclusions. They include, p. 40, the statements that Bhavavarman I was passed over for succession to his father's throne and that he may have provoked his brother's death; p. 43, the marriage of Jayadevi and Nrpaditya, and the occupation of the throne by the latter before it passed to JayadevI at his death; pp. 47, 51, the conflict among brothers following the death of Indravarman and resulting in the enthronement of Yasovarman, implicitly an usurper; p. 67, Koh Ker, “capital of a small kingdom" before the reign of Jayavarman IV; p. 71, Rājendravarman's supposed transformation of “all the Khmer kingdoms into vishaya [visaya] or ‘provinces’” (see further below); and p. 20, the ability of supreme kings to “create” other kings, illustrated by Jacques with false examples (that is, by the 11th century the title ‘varman,’ which could apparently be granted, no longer by itself denoted a king).

10 The citation by M/C is moreover incorrect. It should be, Claude Jacques, “Le pays khmer avant Angkor”, Journal des savants [M/C cite Dossiers histoire et archéologie 25, 1988], janvier-septembre 1986, p. 62. For the Angkor Borei location see M/C map, p. 67.

11 Sahai, S., Les institutions politiques et I'organisation administrative du Cambodge ancien (Paris: École Française d'Extrême-Orient, 1970); Vickery, “Some Remarks”, note 6. Nor was it a question of “a prince, the son of the lord of Jesthapura” (M/C, p. 84), but rather a son of King Īśānavarman.

12 Two inscriptions are involved, K.506 and K.1150. See Vickery, “Where and What was Chenla?”, p. 203, n. 12. The interpretation that Īśānavarman died by 628 is due to Claude Jacques. See his “Le pays khmer avant Angkor”, p. 71; and Angkor, p. 40.

13 Jacques proposed ‘Bhavavarman III’ in his “Cours 1985–86” (a typescript of his lectures at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études), p. 4; and in “Le pays khmer avant Angkor”, pp. 72–78, and table, p. 94.

14 In this connection M/C do not cite Jacques at all, a real lack of scholarship, for the new revelations about Bhavavarman II and the proposal for Bhavavarman III come entirely from Jacques' work.

15 Dupont, Pierre. “La dislocation de Tchen-la et la formation du Cambodge angkorien (viie-ixesiècle”, BEFEO XLIII (19431946): 1755. Vickery, “Where and What was Chenla?”, pp. 207, 209.

16 See Coedès, Les etats hindouises, pp. 175–77, 184; The Indianized States, pp. 92–93, 97; Wolters, O.W., “Jayavarman II's Military Power: The Territorial Foundation of the Angkor Empire”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, No. 1 (1973): 21, n. 7; Wolters, O.W., History, Culture, and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1982), p. 7 where he did not even mention this detail; Jacques, Claude, Études d'épigraphie cambodgienne VIII, “La carrière de Jayavarman II”, BEFEO LIX (1972): 208; Jacques, Angkor, p. 43.

17 Jacques, Claude, “The Kamrateh Jagat in Ancient Cambodia”, in Indus Valley to Mekong Delta Explorations in Epigraphy, ed. Karashima, Noboru (Madras: New Era Publications, 1985), pp. 269–86.

18 In Angkor, p. 71 Jacques wrote that Rajendravarman's genealogy in the Baksei Camkrong inscription, began with “completely legendary kings”. If they faked gods, why not royal genealogies too, as in claiming descent from kings of Bhavapura?

19 The evidence is in the distribution of inscriptions of Jayavarman's reign, and in the lists of provinces and districts listed in the inscriptions in his capital. If “Kampong” is not a typographical error, and in all other contexts of M/C it appears as “kompong”, they may have been trying to signal its alleged Malay origins (221). This interpretation may be outdated, for the modern term “kompong” probably derives from ancient “kamvan”, an apparently Khmer term found in inscriptions as early as the seventh century, much earlier than Malay influence has usually been attributed. Nor would kamvan have been an ancient form of Malay kampong.

20 See Jacques, “La carrière de Jayavarman II”, pp. 205–220 for Jayavarman II and III, and Études d'épigraphie cambodgienne VI, Sur les données chronologiques de la stéle de Tuol Ta Pec (K.834)”, BEFEO LVIII (1971): 163–76, for Harsavarman I to Harsavarman II. I do not know where Jacques has argued his case for the new dates of Yaśovarman, whose date of death is implied in Angkor, pp. 63, 186. The date of 790 for the consecration as king of Jayavarman II, as king of Indrapura (my emphasis—MV), is another unexplained novelty in Angkor, pp. 43, 186, and in this case evidence has been abused, for the inscription in question, K.583, merely says Jayavarman was ruling at that date, and there is no connection with Indrapura.

21 Michael Vickery, “Some Remarks on Early State Formation in Cambodia”, pp. 106–107, and inscription K.957.

22 Dupont, “La dislocation de Tchen-la et la formation du Cambodge angkorien”, p. 45: Claude Jacques, “Le pays Khmer avant Angkor”, p. 79.

23 Claude Jacques, Angkor, p. 70. Another of the unsupported reconstructions of history in Angkor, is Jacques' assertion, pp. 20, 186–87, of the existence of an institution of “roi des rois” (“king of kings”, Sanskrit rājādhirāja) among other contemporary Cambodian kings. This was first oudined very summarily in his Etudes d'epigraphie cambodgienne VI, p. 173, without, however, attempting to show whether this was used regularly by most kings and in situations where other lesser kings might credibly be hypothesized. He contented himself with “the king of Angkor is often called rajadhiraja in the inscriptions, or an equivalent title (my emphasis—MV)”. In Sanskrit inscriptions kings are called by many different titles, usually for metrical reasons, and a convincing argument must examine all occurrences of “rājādhirāja”.

24 In his “La carrière de Jayavarman II”, pp. 218, 220, Jacques noted some of the evidence that Jayavarman II might have ruled over Bhavapura. Coedes also read the evidence as meaning that Jayavarman II “began by establishing himself in … Indrapura.…” [T]hen he moved “to a region north of the Tonle Sap … the fief of Bhavapura” (G. Coedes, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, p. 98).

25 Mabbett and Chandler (p. 262) offer still a third interpretation, Rājendravarman “brought together under his rule a number of territories not previously assimilated”, which, except for the possible case of Bhavapura, itself extremely dubious, is unsupported by any evidence, nor has it been claimed by scholars of Angkor history.

26 Jacques' statements about this problem are in Claude Jacques, “Sur les données chronologiques de la stéle de Tuol Ta Pec (K.834)”; Jacques, Claude, “Sur l'emplacement du royaume d'Aninditapura”, Études d'épigraphie cambodgienne VII, BEFEO LIX (1972): 193205; Jacques, Claude, “Nouvelles orientations pour l'étude de l'histoire du pays khmer”, ASEMI XIII (1–4), 1982; Cambodge I, pp. 39–58; Angkor, p. 71.

27 Inscription K.697 from Ubon in northeastern Thailand, from the time of Yaśovarman's son Isanavarman II (923–928), records activities of a certain Ioñ Myan in the visaya of Dharmapura. Visaya, although unnamed, are also implied in other pre-Rajendravarman inscriptions, K.52/918 from Prey Veng, K.99/922 from Kompong Cham, and K.957/941, from Prachinburi, recording the presence of khloñ visaya, “chiefs” of visaya.

28 This was in Vickery, Michael, “The Reign of Suryavarman I and Royal Factionalism at Angkor”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 16,2 (Sep. 1985): 226–44, see p. 235, n. 37.

29 Coedes, George, “Documents sur l'histoire politique et religieuse du Laos occidental”, Bulletin de I'École Française d'Extrême-Orient XXV (1925): 2426; Vickery, “The Reign of Suryavarman I and Royal Factionalism at Angkor”.

30 Jacques, Angkor, p. 94.

31 Claude Jacques, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études, Cours 1982–93, “Épigraphie de l'lnde et de l'Asie du Sud-Est I. Épigraphie khmère: la prise du pouvoir par le roi Sūryavarman Ier”, Paris, typescript 1982–83.

32 Vickery, “The Reign of Sūryavarman I and Royal Factionalism at Angkor”, esp. pp. 232–36.

33 They cite Hall, Khmer commercial development and foreign contacts under Suryavarman”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 18,3 (1975): 318–36, which was largely reproduced in chapter seven of Hall's Maritime Trade and State Development in Early Southeast Asia, which I reviewed in Journal of Asian Studies 46,1 (Feb. 1987): 211–13.

34 The inscriptions in question are K.105, with mention of a vāp Cham and a yvan, perhaps a Vietnamese, although both “cham”, and “yvan” are also simply personal names in modern Khmer, and may have been in Angkor times, and K.164, in which there is a vāp Ci, which Hall fantasized into “China”.

35 I have discussed this in a still unpublished paper entitled “Style, Names, and Titles as Elements in Studying Khmer Inscriptions”, presented at a Symposium entitled “Les Sources de l'Histoire du Pays Khmer”, Paris, 28 Jun.-4 Jul. 1993.

36 Vickery, “Pre-Angkor”; C. Jacques, “Apropos de l'esclavage dans l'ancien Cambodge”, XXXIX Congres International des Orientalistes, Paris 1973, Proceedings, pp. 71–76. In his Angkor, p. 17, Jacques did not even allude to India as the evidence for this alleged prohibition, but wrote that the people listed as workers in the temples or attached fields could not have been slaves because, “it was formally forbidden for the latter [slaves] to enter temples, which they would have desecrated; it is thus hardly imaginable that care would have been taken to engrave their [slaves'] names under the very eyes of the gods” [translated from the French]. There is nothing in the Khmer record about what was forbidden or permitted to slaves.

37 Wolters, O.W., “Khmer ‘Hinduism’ in the Seventh Century”, in Smith, R.B. and Watson, W., Early South East Asia: Essays in Archaeology, History and Historical Geography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 427–42.

38 Wolters, O.W., “North-Western Cambodia in the Seventh Century”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 37, 2 (1974): 355–84, see p. 368. Lawrence Palmer Briggs, The Ancient Khmer Empire, p. 72.

39 Details in Vickery, “Pre-Angkor”; and on poñ in Vickery, “Some Remarks on Early State Formation in Cambodia”. For example, in the seventh century the title vrah kamratān añ designated both gods and kings without distinction.

40 Ibrahim, Ibn Muhammad, The Ship of Sulaiman, translated by O'Kane, John, Persian Heritage Series No. 11 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), p. 56. It describes a voyage to Ayutthaya between 1685 and 1688.

41 See Pelliot, “Le Fou-nan”, p. 254, cited in Coedès, États, p. 85; States, p. 42; and Coedès, États, p. 143; States, pp. 74–75.

42 This does not prove that the same was true in the seventh century, but the total content of the inscriptions implies it was true then also. The totals are from published inscriptions. Pou, Saveros, Dictionnaire Vieux Khmer-Frangais-Anglais An Old Khmer-French-English Dictionary (Paris: Centre de Documentation et de Recherche sur la Civilisation Khmère [Cedoreck], 1992), p. 235, lists millet (tvau) in the unpublished K.329/9th c; and also lists a personal name va tvau, which may not be taken as evidence for millet.

43 Note also the remark of John Whitmore, ‘“Elephants Can Actually Swim’: Contemporary Chinese Views of Late Ly Dai Viet”, Southeast Asia in the 9th to 14th Centuries, ed. Marr and Milner, pp. 117–38, p. 134, n. 8 (with citation from Pelliot, “Le Fou-nan”, p. 138), concerning d'Hervey de Saint-Denys' (Ma Tuan-lin's translator) “habitual negligence” and tendency “to gloss over some points rather than directly translate them”, noted by Sinologists.

44 See Liere, W. van, “Traditional Water Management in the Lower Mekong Basin”, World Archaeology 11, 3 (1980): 265–80.

45 The details are in Vickery, “Pre-Angkor”.

46 Examples, out of many, are K.735/AD 1012 and K.252/1020 in which there is no indication of size; K.190/Yaśovarman, a description of sre outlined by geographical features and apparently huge; K.873/999, sre together with “lands with their revenues” (bhūmyākard), a list of sruk and camnat; and K.205-207/1114, 1120, sre measured in units of unknown length, but apparently very large.

47 The exaggerated view of private land in Angkor is in Ricklefs, Merle, “Land and Law in the Epigraphy of Tenth-Century Cambodia”, Journal of Asian Studies 26,3 (1967): 411–20.

48 Wolters' article appeared in Asia Major XII, 1 (1966): 4489. See Vickery, , “Cambodia After Angkor: The Chronicular Evidence for the Fourteenth to Sixteenth Centuries” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1977), and Vickery, , “The 2/k. 125 Fragment, a Lost Chronicle of Ayutthaya”, Journal of the Siam Society 65, 1 (Jan. 1977): 180.

49 Examples are Wyatt, David K., Thailand: A Short History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984); and Chandler, David P., A History of Cambodia, 2nd ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992).

50 There were two generations and two kings, not identical, between Norodom (1834-1904) and Sihanouk (b. 1922).

51 See Chandler's, Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1992), and his Epitaph for the Khmer Rouge?”, New Left Review 205 (May-June 1994): 8799.

52 Mabbett and Chandler, p. 24; Migozzi, Jacques, Cambodge faits et problemes de population (Paris: CNRS, 1973).

53 David Chandler, “Epitaph for the Khmer Rouge?”, n. 1.

54 Vickery, Michael, “Democratic Kampuchea — CIA to the Rescue”, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 14,4 (1982): 4554; Vickery, Michael, Cambodia 1975–82 (Boston: South End Press, 1984), pp. 184–87. The UNTAC figure of 8.8 million is in a computer program of statistics distributed by the UNTAC electoral component in 1993, and the Economist Intelligence Unit Country Report, “Indochina: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia”, 3rd quarter 1993, p. 9, offered a 1992 population figure of 9.7 million based on UNTAC data. The latest estimates are in Phnom Penh Post (American-published English-language newspaper, Phnom Penh) 4,15 (28 Jul.-lO Aug. 1995), p. 8; “Govt approves study of ethnic minorities”, showing table of population by province from “National Institute of Statistics of the Ministry of Planning (1994)”, with total of 9,752,466; Phnom Penh Post 4,14 (14-27 Jul. 1995), p. 17, Mark Dodd, “Population tops ten million”, says “Cambodia's population has reached 10.4 million”, citing a “statement from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities” released to mark World Population Day on July 11.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-4634
  • EISSN: 1474-0680
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-southeast-asian-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed