>A Biography of Prince Norodom Arun Yukanthor- part three

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The Yukanthor Affairs
King Ang Duong, Prince Yukanthor’s grandfather, paved the way for France to establish its protectorate over Cambodia in order to save it from being swallowed up by its two powerful neighbours, Vietnam and Thailand. And King Norodom, Prince Yukanthor’s father, had facilitated the establishment of the French protectorate for the same reasons. Many Khmer leaders of the time welcomed and hailed the move as they believed that it will ensure Cambodia’s survival. But years of French repression and oppression and their demand for total control over Cambodia’s affairs had caused widespread discontent among the Cambodian elites. Princes were no exception. Leading the campaign against the French were three most politically astute princes, namely: Prince Norodom Yukanthor, Prince Norodom Mayura and Prince Norodom Duong Chacr. These were the three sons of King Norodom who have caused a lot of embarrassments and headaches to the French authority in Cambodia. Yukanthor was the most famous instigator of the three. Felt repressed, oppressed and being dehumanised by the French colonial authorities he embarked on a journey to France to publicly press his case with the French government and lobby the French public opinion over Cambodia’s sufferings known as the Yukanthor Affairs.
The rebuffs and the disappointments of the early months of 1899 provide part of the explanation of the Yukanthor Affairs. The events surrounding Prince Yukanthor’s visit to France in 1900 are treasured in modern Cambodia as one of the instances of royal resistance to French authority. The account of his visit to Paris was published by a young French journalist named Jean Hess under the title L’Affaire Iukanthor. Hess supported the Cambodia’s position regarding its dealings with the French authorities. He visited Cambodia in 1899 and wrote one of the few entirely enthusiastic accounts of Norodom ever prepared by a French observer. It was published in Le Figaro newspaper on 13 July 1899.
In his full-length article, Hess dealt with some of the developments and appointments in the council of ministers that had incurred the ire of King Norodom. According to French sources, Hess played an important part in the Yukanthor affair as he was suspected of persuading King Norodom to make a further protest against the actions of the French Protectorate. Prince Yukanthor, who was a favoured son of the king, accompanied by Hess, travelled to France in 1900 and confronted the French government with a catalogue of Norodom’s complaints. There is considerable evidence that Yukanthor’s visit was approved by Norodom, although the king later denied this when challenged by the French to denounce Yukanthor. But at least one member of the royal family opposed the visit. Another of Norodom’s son, Prince Mayura, condemned Yukanthor in a letter that he wrote to the Saigon newspaper Le Courier Saigonnais, on 14 November 1900. Mayura denounced Yukanthor as an enemy of France and urged that he be punished with exile. This was to be Yukanthor’s fate. But it was Mayura’s, too, for in 1916, suspected of working against French rule in Cambodia, Mayura himself was exiled to the remote Laotian town of Xieng Khouang.
Once in Paris, in September, Yukanthor sent a long memorandum to the French prime minister and other members of the French cabinet(4). He claimed to be the heir presumptive to the Cambodian throne, placing himself in direct opposition to the long-held French view that Sisowath would succeed Norodom. There is no conclusive evidence to Norodom had at last made his own choice of successor. While it is possible that Yukanthor adopted this title to strengthen his position in France, this remains speculation. The question of whether Yukanthor had any right to be considered as heir presumptive was discussed in detail in a confidential document from Resident Superior Luce to the Governor General of Indochina in Phnom Penh on the 3rd of April in 1906. Luce was Resident Superior in 1900. In the confidential document he stated that Norodom had supported Yukanthor’s visit to France since the king had hoped, among other things, that the visit would lead to the king regaining control over some of the Cambodian tax revenues. Luce claimed that only Yukanthor himself and some of his friends regarded his position as being the heir presumptive.
Yukanthor’s memorandum was a long listing of Norodom’s grievances. It rehearsed the events of the previous twenty years, recording the way in which Norodom had time and again been forced to make concessions to the French authorities under duress. French control over Cambodia, Yukanthor asserted, was “complete and absolute, tighter than in a conquered country”. The prince singled out the “boy-interpreter” Thioun and Prime Minister Um for his severest criticisms, arguing that they joined corrupt French officials in exploiting the country and discriminating against honest officials. There was only one Cambodian official for whom Yukanthor had any praise. This was Alexis Chhun, a smart young man who became an interpreter at the age of 13, who was once a favourite of Governor Doudart de Lagree and by 1900 became the official in charge of the royal treasury. According to Yukanthor, Sisowath employed thieves in his household and accused the governor general of “basing his policy on this ridiculous figure (Sisowath) who is an object of mirth for all Cambodians”.
Not only was this denunciation placed before the French government; Hess also arranged for the publication of an article incorporating Yukanthor’s complaints in Le Figaro. The Ministry of Colonies reacted swiftly. Under instructions from Paris, the Resident Superior confronted Norodom with evidence of his son’s actions in Paris and demanded the king summon Yukanthor to return. In these circumstances, Norodom had little choice but to agree, and a telegram was duly dispatched. At this point an element of comic opera intrudes. Still working in close association with Hess, Yukanthor eluded the French security officials who were dogging his steps, and instead of travelling to Marseilles in late September as he had planned, he went to Brussels with the aim of continuing his campaign against French control in Cambodia.
In Brussels, the French security agents kept Yukanthor under surveillance, but despite Hess efforts, public interests in France could not be rekindled. Yukanthor had little reason for continuing his stay in Europe and no inclination to return to possible punishment in Phnom Penh. He therefore travelled to Singapore, apparently arriving there in late 1900. The protectorate authorities worked to ensure that Yukanthor suffered for his boldness. The council of ministers had been informed of the criticisms that the prince had made of some of its members, and the Resident Superior indicated that punishment of some sort was expected. After a series of interviews with Norodom, the Resident Superior persuaded the king to agree that Yukanthor should either return to Cambodia, make a public apology to the officials whom he had insulted and to Sisowath the Obareach, and beg the king’s pardon, or accept as punishment permanent exile and the confiscation of all his possessions. The council of ministers unhesitatingly approved this proposal. But Yukanthor feared punishment too greatly to return to Cambodia. He lived on in exile until his death in Bangkok in 1934.
In ten years following Norodom’s death in 1904 there were frequent indications that the resentment felt by members of the Norodom branch of the royal family. Yukanthor remained in exile, but his half brother Mayura was linked with various clandestine efforts to assert the inequity of Sisowath’s tenure. There was little the discontented princes could do. The French held a firm grip on the kingdom. From time to time letters circulated, arguing the rights of the Norodom branch. In Mayura’s case, French suspicion of his involvement in this activities led to his exile to the northern Laotian town of Xieng Khouang.
To make sure that one of his sons, Monivong, succeeded him, in 1909 King Sisowath appealed to Klobukowski, the French Governor General of Indochina who was closely associated with Thomson in forcing Norodom to sign an 1884 convention, who suggested that Monivong would have their approval but made no promises. And Monivong eventually did succeed his father as king in 1927.

The Repercussions from the Yukanthor Affairs …….
(To be continued on part four)

To read part four click:http://khmerization.blogspot.com/2008/02/biography-of-prince-norodom-arun_06.html

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One Response to >A Biography of Prince Norodom Arun Yukanthor- part three

  1. I pray no more war.Homeless Inc.
    United State of America.

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