Land Taking

I want to touch on the central problem of my novel: Noy and Her Ungrateful Husband Khamsouk. That central issue is that of land taking.

Land taking, better known in the United States as imminent domain, is very common in Southeast Asia. It is, in and of itself, a form of corruption. Officials will take land and deed it over to a wealthy sponsor who then pays out to the culpable official.

Often this practice results in the poor losing their equity in land that was given them back in the seventies as part of the land redistribution efforts of the Communist governments after the end of the Second Indochina War.

In my novel, this is the conflict that sets in motion an entire fmsily and causes their breakdown. The patriarch and matriarch of the family live alone in a village in Southern Laos. Several plots of land are taken by a rich son of a government official, one of those lots belonging to the old couple. They try to garner support from their lawyer nephew–who they raised–but he offers no realistic options. They are left to appeal to the powers that be without representatives.

In the meantime, the lawyer nephew is busy ingratiating himself in the political spectrum, trying to work his way up the Party structure until he can get into a position of corruption. When his wife, on whom he is cheating, begins to campaign for the return of their relatives land the rift between husband and wife is strained to the breaking point, and their standing in Laos society shattered.

I don’t want to give anymore away lest I spoil the plot, but needless to say, I think its a good read. When I wrote it, I thought of Milan Kundera and Ismail Kadare, two authors who survived Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and went on to garner international fame. Not that my novel is mimicry of theirs, simply along a similar frame. Only in Laos, a Communist country in East Asia, a country in which I lived for nearly four years.

Also, RIP Michael Vickery, a great scholar on the history of Cambodia.


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