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Michelle Vachon

Feature writer

Deforestation During Angkor: Looking for Trees in the Dirt

Their motivation may not have been to support a sprawling political patronage network, but when the Khmer dominated the region about 1,000 years or so ago, one necessity of maintaining their empire was steady deforestation.

French Psychoanalyst Draws Up Mental-Health Profile of Pol Pot

In every human being, there must be a degree of believing in oneself in order to succeed in life, but in some revolutionaries, such as Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, an excessive amount of self-love stripped them of their humanity, according to French psychoanalyst Jean Artarit.

Dig Unearths Ancient Furnace in Hunt for Cambodia’s Past

A team of Cambodian and international scientists has uncovered the first Angkorian-era iron smelter ever to be found virtually intact. On the second day of a three-week excavation in Preah Vihear province, the archaeologists unearthed what they had spotted during previous surveys in Rovieng district near Phnom Dek mountain: a furnace used a millennium ago to extract iron from ore.

Ambitious Arts Trial Seeks to Spark Cambodia’s Creativity

A five-year pilot program is being created to integrate arts and culture into public schools throughout the country, and may help Cambodians develop a better understanding of their roots and the creative ability to take on global challenges.

Celebrating Forced Marriages That Blossomed, Through Ballet

Like any flower, the phka sla grows, blossoms, then eventually withers and dies. But as a central feature of Cambodian weddings—handed from the groom to the bride as their journey begins—its symbolism can remain alive long after its petals have fallen.

When Brutal Killers Die, What Becomes of Their Remains?

Over the last century, many countries have faced a predicament as they topple brutal regimes or emerged from devastating conflicts.

Remembering Ancestral Past Provides Path to Uneasy Reconciliation

In 1991, Cambodian factions that had fought each other for decades signed the Paris Peace Agreements to end their conflict. But peace would not truly return until the last Khmer Rouge forces surrendered in December 1998.

Weaving Past and Present Together With Civilized Sampots

“Sampot civilise” (Civilized sampot), a new exhibition in Phnom Penh, celebrates one of Cambodia’s oldest garments, at once both beautiful and practical, and kept alive through the country’s good times and bad.

Evoking the Past, Festival Presents Indian Lineage of Arts

For two millennia, merchants and monks have carried parts of their culture across Asia, influencing everything from religious practices to the arts in Cambodia, including bringing some traditions from India that were transformed upon arrival.

‘Breaking the System Is Not Bad’: Artist Paints for Freedom

Is there such a thing as true freedom? Or is it impossible to escape pressures from family, friends, lovers, work, society or oneself—no matter how much one tries? This is the question artist Nov Cheanick raises in his latest exhibition “Break the System,” held at Battambang City’s Sangker Gallery.

National Museum to Show First Zero Inscription

Fulfilling a dying dream of mathematician Amir Aczel, an exhibition is set to open this month at the National Museum displaying an inscription in Old Khmer containing the very first use of the number “0” discovered in the world.

Researchers Explore Khmer Memories Linking Past to Present

A sense of Khmer history has persisted through centuries of Cambodian upheaval and turmoil, a tenuous, ambiguous chain of memories sinking and resurfacing over a vastness of forgotten time. Those shifting sands of memory—created, shared and lost—are explored in a collection of research being presented tonight at the Institut Francais.

Photojournalist’s Unwavering Lens Captured Wartime Suffering

In 1987, a young American photojournalist headed to Thailand to document the precarious life of Cambodians in refugee camps along the border. What his photographs captured were the dire circumstances of everyday life, and the tremendous fear and deep sorrow of those who survived the starvation, beatings and executions that had claimed so many lives.

Surgery Pushed to Center of Health Planning

Since 2010, lack of access to surgery in poor countries such as Cambodia has led to 16.9 million deaths—a third of deaths worldwide, easily surpassing the 3.83 million deaths due to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Battambang Artists to Treat ‘City of Heart and Art’ to a Show

Battambang artists’ presence is not always obvious to the general population of the city, so a group of them decided to organize an arts festival.

In ‘Striving,’ Artist Probes Ties Between Fantasy and Reality

Painter Chov Theanly is both puzzled and captivated by those who assume personas while virtually ignoring the world that surrounds them, and his latest exhibition of paintings explores this dichotomy in oils.

A Poet, Purged

Unlike so many, his words live on—in essays, poetry, a novel and a documentary film, “A Tomb for Khun Srun,” to be shown Saturday at the Institut Francais.

Structural Problems Sink Plans for Arts Boat

A year ago, a team of leading arts advocates in Phnom Penh unveiled grand plans to turn a multi-story boat into a visual and performing arts center off Sisowath Quay. But those plans were scrapped after inspections revealed costly structural problems.

Shakespeare Meets Khmer at Phnom Penh Music Festival

The International Music Festival, which opens tonight in Phnom Penh, will this year be filled with the songs, poems and gentle melodies played on instruments that charmed royals and street vendors alike four centuries ago in Europe—but with a Cambodian-inspired twist.