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CAMBODIA

The French protectorate

Pavie stressed the blindness of the residents and their lack of understanding of the Cambodian people, which had led to the French debacle. He was particularly hostile to the civilian administrators. "Although I am absolutely against the military regime, I think the army should be asked to provide some of the officers who contributed towards re-establishing order in Cambodia - those who displayed the kind of calmness in difficult times that should accentuate our superiority, who had a good understanding of the people against whom they were risking their lives, who by chance had travelled in one region or another, as 20 administrators had failed to do over long periods, who saw the people in their own environment and had got to know them."

The Annamite entourage of the residents, the lack of contact with the people, the brusqueness and impatience of the French made it impossible to win over "the hearts of men who want us to like them and who achieve this result so quickly that there is not a Frenchman who knows the Khmers who would contradict this view."

The idea that the administrators who had made their careers in Cochinchina should be excluded, as well as the Annamite element, for him culturally inferior to the Cambodians, was a genuine obsession for Pavie, who had been touched by this country and the people who had welcomed him so warmly. He returned to it several times in his diary. His credo was that the people should be left to choose their indigenous chiefs rather than having strangers to their races imposed upon them.

"It is essential to organise Cambodia quickly, not slowly, with men of initiative and discipline, rather than with these imbecilic administrators who complain constantly that they do not enjoy the wellbeing and comfort that they were promised. Officials trained in Cochinchina are not prepared for service in Cambodia; with the Annamites, functionaries, people and servants they have absorbed ideas that they do not wish to understand and which must be absolutely abandoned in Cambodia. It is essential that they be systematically distanced from the country. They will find a sufficiently large outlet in Annam and Tonkin. There is no more rapport between the Cambodian and the Annamite than there is between the Indian and the Chinaman. Attempting to administer the former with functionaries trained with the latter is an absurdity."