The Khmer Rouge hoped to obliterate our history, and in doing so, their songs have forged a significant place in it.
—Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, from her essay, “Songs My Enemies Taught Me,” in Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (1997))
Cambodia is a beautiful country, with fertile lands and vibrant traditions. Ancient innovators built Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world; Preah Vihear, situated high atop a cliff looking over miles of countryside; and Indravarman’s vast irrigation system, which allowed for rice production far beyond the typical production levels. Stories and poems of love and valor date back millennia, as do the Robam Tep Apsara and other traditional dances. Cambodian folk tales have passed from generation to generation, often featuring anthropomorphized creatures. Perhaps the most well-known is Judge Rabbit, a wise soul sought by the oppressed to mete out justice, often when the traditional legal system fails to do so. Yet, in other tales, he is a trickster, known for convincing the naive to do his bidding, sometimes to their ultimate demise.