Controversy on an AsianWeek’s feature on a Cambodian Hero: Dr. Haing Somnang Ngor

On August 07, 2009, AsianWeek released a feature titled ?Chinese American Hero: Dr. Haing S. Ngor.? It was a surprise feature to most Cambodian readers who have known that Dr. Ngor is a Cambodian whose fame of?winning the 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the Killing Field movie. As a result, there were some comments posted to this feature in order to express their disappointment, curiosity, and request for correction.

I was among those who feel uneasy and wonder about this feature. After seeing no respond on the earlier commentary, i wrote a letter to editor of AsianWeek in order to seek for their explanation and correction on this feature as the following:

Dear Asianweek editor,

I refer to your current article about Chinese-American Hero. Dr. Ngor.
http://www.asianweek.com/2009/08/07/chinese-american-hero-dr-haing-s-ngor/#comment-28332

Would you mind read all comments and also review again if Dr. Ngor is
Chinese or Cambodian?
I would request for your correction or clarification on this matter.

Regards, Sopheap

However, There was no any respond neither. This partly indicates a lack of responsibility of AsianWeek in communicating with its readers.

Fortunately, on August 09, 2009, Roger S. Dong, the Chairman and Founder of Chinese American Heros, post his comment in responding to the above all commentary. It mean somehow our concern got heard and we expect the satisfied explanation on this matter. Though he accepted that Dr. Ngor is Cambodian, his explanation apparently contradict to his feature and attach the neocolonialism sentiment. The following are some excerpt of his respond:

“[…] In this instance where we included Dr. Ngor as a hero in our website, we had to make a judgment call and we are being questioned on that call. A few of you are strongly incensed that Dr. Ngor?s heroic biography is included in a Chinese American heroes website. With the power of the DELete key, I can fix that with a click. But is that what you really want?
After reading all your comments, I can see why many of you are angry, I agree that Dr. Ngor is a Cambodian American, more than he is a Chinese American. (We never said he was a Chinese American, we just included him into our website, but I can fix that really fast.)”

“[…] But before I take any action, for those of you who think that we are trying to change Dr. Ngor?s genetic makeup, which we could never do, please re-read the article. The word ?Chinese? appears two times in this article, once referring to his Chinese father and once in reference to Chinese New Year. The word ?Cambodia? or ?Cambodian? appears 10 times, and the word ?Khmer? appears 5 times. Our story about Dr. Ngor is about his very difficult life in Cambodia, his Cambodian heritage, his Cambodian heroism and Cambodian philanthropy. There is very little spoken about his “Chinese-ness.” […]”

This claim contradicts to the above title he put as ?Chinese American Hero: Dr. Haing S. Ngor.? which was later changed to “Chinese-Cambodian American Hero: Dr. Haing S. Ngor,” on August 10, 2009. The fact of letter counting he mentioned is not equally important to the highlighted title.

He also mentioned:

“If there were a Cambodian Heroes organization and website, no doubt Dr. Ngor would be one of the first Cambodian heroes in that website. But to date, there isn?t, and by inclusion into the CAH website, we tell a great story about a great man.”

From his statement, it implies that Cambodians is very fortunate to have AsianWeek post our hero on its website. Regard the fact that Cambodia is a yet poor infrastructure country where could not afford to have its own Hero website or institution, it does not mean that the Chinese American Hero could manipulate the media or profile of other country or individual while claiming that such act is a good cause. Such explanation somehow appear to misuse the media professionalism.

Instead of giving a justified explanation to his feature, Mr. Roger somehow denied the allegation. Consequently, there are more comments on this matter and he repeatedly maintained his position of doing a good cause for Cambodian Hero.

Nevertheless, I personally thank for his respond to readers and his so-called claim of good cause for Cambodians. Yet, his assertions are not justified his act. However, one thing that we could learn from his advise is that Cambodians should improve our infrastructure and involvement to create our Cambodian Heroes organization or website. This message is influential for the fact that we would not want others to manipulate our profile.

4 comments

  1. We cannot let foreigners continue to speak for us. Let the world hear our voice through our (possible) Cambodian Hero Web Site.

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