The mysterious statue of a spear- and shield-wielding Cambodian warrior erected provocatively near the Thai border in Preah Vihear province’s Chaom Ksan district was finally identified by RCAF officers this week as a depiction of In Oum, a captain in the French colonial forces of Indochina.
Major General Srey Dek, commander of the RCAF 3rd Division, confirmed yesterday that the statue was not of an ancient Khmer general, as RCAF officials had previously claimed, but of a Cambodian officer the French colonial administration supposedly put in charge of redrawing the Thai-Cambodian border in the early 20th century following the withdrawal of then-Siamese from the area.
“In Oum was the captain who demanded the Cambodian territories of Preah Vihear, Battambang and Siem Reap back from Thailand,” said Maj Gen Dek, who added that he used to invoke In Oum’s name for protection during the recent firefights with Thai troops along the border.
According to the 1962 ruling of the International Court of Justice awarding the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia, the borderline in effect was the result of a mixed Franco-Siamese commission established by the Franco-Siamese treaty of 1904.
Oum Mannorine, In Oum’s 87-year-old grandson who currently serves as King Norodom Sihamoni’s representative in the Senate, said most of the photographs of his grandfather were burned during the Khmer Rouge regime, but he displayed one remaining portrait dug up by a family friend in France.
The portrait shows a skinny middle aged In Oum nattily attired in a brass-buttoned, mandarin-collared French colonial uniform and holding a pith helmet-a far cry from the husky, bare-chested Khmer titan on horseback the new sculpture depicts.
Mr Mannorine said that his grandfather studied at a military academy in France, became a French citizen then returned to Indochina to serve in the colonial forces.
According to Mr Mannorine, a statue of his grandfather stood—until it was dismantled in the late 1960s by the Lon Nol regime—in Kandal province near Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge.
Mr Mannorine’s wife, Kep Soum, said yesterday that while doing family research she had learned that her husband’s grandfather left French Indochina to fight in Italy after World War I broke out.
“He returned and married two women, one from Laos and one from Vietnam,” Ms Soum said.
Preah Vihear provincial RCAF commander Brigadier General Som Bopharoth said the statue of In Oum was made at a fine art school in Siem Reap.