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Thesis title:
THE LEGEND OF PREAH KO PREAH KEO AND ITS INFLUENCE ON THE CAMBODIAN PEOPLE’ S PERCEPTION OF THE THAIS 

Author:
Mr. Kimly Ngoun

Thesis Advisor:
Dr. Klairung Amratisha

MA in Southeast Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, 2006

Keywords:
PREAH KO PREAH KEO, PERCEPTION, CAMBODIAN PEOPLE, THE THAIS

Abstract:
The history of Cambodian-Thai relations was marked by war and conflicts. War resulted in the destruction and the movement of people and wealth from the defeated country to the victorious one. The Cambodians composed a legend called Preah Ko Preah Keo to explain the historical events involving the subsequent captures of their capitals by the Siamese. The legend portrayed the Thai in negative images. In the modern time, the story has been used by Cambodian elites to raise national consciousness and to explain the past historical legacy on the country’s contemporary situation. Moreover, the story also has an influence on the way Cambodian people at present form their perception of Thai people. Therefore, the thesis has two main objectives. First, it aims at studying Khmer people’s perception of the Thais as reflected in the various versions of the legend. However, this perception did not represent Khmer people’s perception in the past as a whole. It was simply the perception of Khmer leaders and the authors of the legend. Second, the thesis intends to study the influence of the legend on the contemporary perception of young educated Cambodian people in Phnom Penh of Thai people.

Findings suggest that all versions of the Legend of Preah Ko Preah Keo portrayed Thai people more or less negatively. The Thais were perceived as invasive, ambitious, tricky etc. The story showed that Thailand had taken Preah Ko and Preah Keo, the symbols of peace and prosperity, from Cambodia. Therefore, the former was also considered as the cause of the decline of the latter. Findings also indicate that in the modern time the legend was popular and influential when there occurred political tension between both countries. The story was promoted by Cambodian leaders in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Cambodian-Thai relations were strained. In later periods, it is also observed that new versions of the legend have been published when there were difficult relations between both countries or when Cambodia attempted to counter the flow of foreign influence. The results also show that young educated Cambodian people in Phnom Penh at present have both positive and negative perceptions of Thai people. However, their negative perception is not much influenced by the legend, but more by contemporary factors. This shows the decline of the story’s influence. Some young educated Cambodian people perceive Thai people as clever and hardworking, while some others hold negative perception of Thais. Their negative perceptions come from the teaching of history, news releases about border encroachment, behavior of some Thai people etc. This reflects that there is still lack of understanding between people of both countries.