Sid Harta Publishers
There are quite a few brave personal accounts on offer describing the mass destruction, genocide and famine suffered in Cambodia under the rule of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in the 70's. The grim fact, the haunting images of human skulls piled like so many coconuts, have given way to a trickle of visitors interested in exploring Cambodia in the mid 90's. Now the travel industry's images of the extraordinarily ancient and ornate architecture of Ankor Wat are advancing Cambodia as a popular tourist destination. The recent coronation of Cambodia's new King, has added the sort of grace and colour that will put Cambodia once more in the public eye. While the gloss and glamour of the popular tourism hype is a great restorative, the facts of Cambodia's struggle during the bleak war years; the success of the combined efforts of many nations to assist in its rehabilitation, remain virtually untold. With the release of The Burning of the Rice, Sid Harta 2004, author Don Puckridge provides a rare find; a thorough scientific history of the people, organisations and expertise involved in the rebuilding of Cambodia's rice crops. This the author has melded with a meticulously detailed and psychologically engaging account of Cambodian farmers, teachers and above all survivors working in tandem with many scientists and R&D technologies to successfully achieve a stable and reliable food source for Cambodia. Puckridge shares his experiences as a researcher, a friend, a husband and a negotiator. He outlines much intricate knowledge about Cambodian heritage and attitudes. To that end the book is a handbook to managing science, bad roads, challenging culinary experiences and the way the many layers of Cambodian society survived the vicissitudes of occupation, terror and famine. It is in total far more than the story of how scientists, farmers, governments, media, teachers and researchers came to know each other. The story tells how these very different people learned to live and work together to restore rice production in Cambodia. Its sub-title 'A Cambodian Success Story' is an uplifting promise that makes good. A history of Cambodia is worked in to the daily focus of all those involved. The effect of the whole is to provide the reader with a strong impression of the author's reverence for the country's beauty and his respect of the forbearance of its brave people. Puckridge worked in Cambodia as a research leader with the International Rice Research Institute. So the book is both a personal account of the working friendships he forged with Cambodians whose first-hand experiences of those dark war years are not yet lost in re-interpretation and history, and a shrewd and refreshingly objective observation of the maneuverings involved in accommodating corporate and government ideals with local knowledge and realities. Clare Allan-Kamil: Freelance writer, editor, reviewer, publicist and dramatist.
In April 1975 Ngak Chhay Heng and his family loaded their car with their personal possessions, pushed it 20 kilometres from Phnom Penh, discarded anything that differentiated them from peasant farmers ... Read more about “The Burning of the Rice”