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Friday, August 25, 2017

Cambodia, Cool Facts #189

<= 188. Japan                                                                                                      190. North Korea =>

1. Khmer Empire in Cambodia 802-1431

Powerful Southeast Asian Empire 
The Khmer Empire or officially the Angkor Empire between 802-1431 is the predecessor state to modern Cambodia. The Khmer Empire was a powerful Hindu-Buddhist Empire in Southeast Asia. The ancient empire was situated in the area of the present-day Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The Khmer Empire grew out of the former kingdoms of Funan and Chenla. The Khmer Empire ruled over or visualized most of mainland Southeast Asia. The greatest legacy of the empire is Angkor, the site of the ancient capital during the zenith of the Khmer Empire.

Ancient capital Angkor
Satellite images have revealed that Angkor was the largest pre-industrial urban centre in the world during its peak in the 11th to 13th centuries. The famous monuments of Angkor Wat and Bayon demonstrate the Khmer Empire's immense power and wealth, impressive art, architectural technique and culture. The beginning of the Khmer Empire is conventionally dated to 802, when King Jayavarman II declared himself the chakravartin ("king of the world" or king of kings") on Phnom Kulen.

Decline of Khmer Empire
The empire ended with the fall of Angkor in the 15th century. In 1431 the king abandoned Angkor and left to Phnom Penh area. There are many explanations for the decline of Angkor, including foreign pressure from neighboring kingdoms, ecological breakdown with droughts for example, plague and problems caused by conversion of faith by the people. The scientists don't completely agree about the reasons so there are many theories about the decline of the once thriving Khmer Empire.

Khmer Empire 802-1431
Buddhist monks at Angkor Wat

2. Dark ages of Cambodia 1431-1863

The Dark ages of Cambodia refer to the time period in Cambodian history, which started after Angkor was abandoned and ended when Cambodia became a French Protectorate. There's not much information about the Dark ages of Cambodia, in this era there was even a period when there's not even a single contemporary record of a king's name for over 200 years.

Outside sources
There are almost no records about the 15th century, only some external sources from the Chinese Ming Shilu annales and the earliest Royal Chronicle of Ayutthaya. There are more sources for the 16th century, however they are as well from the outside of Cambodia. Siamese and Vietnamese dominance in Southeast Asia intensified during the 17th and 18th century causing the Khmer Kingdom to become a vassal state, which had to pay tribute to these powers.

Reason of becoming a French protectorate
Cambodia lost its independence in the 19th century, when it was placed under joint suzerainty by Vietnam and Siam. The fear of being incorporated into Vietnam and Siam led King Ang Duong to agree to colonial France's offer of protection. The offer took effect with King Norodom Prohmbarirak signing and officially recognizing the French protectorate on 11 August 1863.

Spheres of influence in mainland Southeast Asia c. 1540

3. Cambodia part of French Indochina 1887-1953

Protectorate 1863
In 1863 Cambodia became a French Protectorate and that doubled the size of the country by reclaiming the north and the west from Thailand. Under the protection treaty signed with France, Cambodia was allowed to keep its monarchy. However the power was vested in a resident general located in Phnom Penh. France was in charge of Cambodia's foreign and trade relations besides providing military protection.

French Indochina 1887
In 1887 Cambodia was integrated into the French Indochina union with  the French colonies and protectorates in Vietnam. In 1885-1895 there were rebellions in Vietnam against the colonial power. Thailand (then Siam) had many times conflicts with France, which tried to expand the borders of French Indochina. There were conflicts or wars with Thailand in 1893, 1904-1907 and 1940-1941. As a result of all these conflicts the borders in Southeast Asia changed a lot during this period. Unlike French North Africa, French Indochina didn't have many French settlers. This was mainly, because French Indochina was an economic colony with the main purpose of exploiting the natural resources of the area rather than settlement colony helping Metropolitan France from being overpopulated. The French government improved the infrastructure of French Indochina by constructing roads, railways and buildings. The colonists also built towns and cities in Indochina serving different purposes from trading outposts to resorts.

End of French Indochina 1954
French Indochina was occupied by Japan during World War II. After the war France tried to reclaim the control of French Indochina, but it wasn't able to do it and so it had to accept the independence of the countries in French Indochina. In 1946 Cambodia was granted self-rule within the French Indochina union and its protectorate status was abolished in 1949. In 1953 Cambodia celebrated its independence from France. One year later in 1954 the French Indochina came to an end.

French Indochina timeline

1887 French Indochina established on October 17th including Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchina and Cambodia
1893 Laos was added to French Indochina
1900 Kwangchow Wan was added to French Indochina
1945 North Vietnam became independent
1953 Laos became independent on October 22th
1953 Cambodia became independent on November 9th
1954 South Vietnam became independent on July 24th

French Indochina expansion

4. Bombing of Cambodia 

Vietnam War 
The disastrous bombings of Cambodia occurred between March 18, 1969 and May 28, 1970 during the Vietnam War. USA was allied with South Vietnam, who were fighting against the Communists of North Vietnam. The forces of North Vietnam had sanctuaries and supply routes in Cambodia and from there they launched some attacks against South Vietnam and the American forces. US President Nixon wanted to stop the attacks of the North Vietnamese Viet Cong. 

Secret Operation Menu 1969-1970
Nixon consulted his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and the two came up with a plan to bomb secretly the bases of Viet Cong in Cambodia. The plan had to be kept secret, otherwise it would have caused a national chaos, especially because Cambodia had declared itself as a neutral country in the conflict. Nixon gave the orders directly to the bombers without even consulting the Congress. Nixon kept the attack a secret from high-ranking officials in the military as well. Operation Menu started on March 18, 1969 when planes started bombing Cambodia. The first set of bombings were named Breakfast and it was hailed as a success by the White House. Then the Nixon administration secretly ordered more bombings without the consent of the Congress. Air raids called codenamed Lunch, Snack, Dinner and Dessert then followed Breakfast concluding Operation Menu.

US troops occupy parts of Cambodia 1970
In April 1970 Nixon ordered US troops to occupy parts of Cambodia and he claimed that the soldiers were protecting the US withdrawal from South Vietnam. The chaos created by USA led the Cambodians to overthrow their government, leading eventually to the rise of the Khmer Rouge. 

Result of the bombings
Many Americans were against the war in Vietnam and the US involvement. The opposition against the Vietnam War grew after the media outlets publicized what America had done in Cambodia. As a result of the US bombing in Cambodia a total of 2,756,941 tons of bombs were dropped, making the country possible the most heavily bombed country in the world. As a comparison the Allies dropped just over 2 million tons of bombs during the whole World War II including the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A lot of innocent people died, because of the bombings and have died and injured up to this day due to the bombs in the terrain. 

US planes bombing Cambodia

5. Khmer Rouge in Cambodia

Most devastating period in Cambodian history 1975-1979
The rule of Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot between 1975-1979 is the most devastating period of the Cambodian history. At least 1.7 million people, almost a quarter of the population was killed by execution, starvation or overwork.

Coup of 1970 in Cambodia
In 1970 Prince Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown by Marshal Lon Nol in a coup. Sihanouk then aligned with the Khmer Rouge, which were building a following in the countryside of Cambodia. The chaotic situation at the time was partly caused by the bombings of USA in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. USA suspected that the North Vietnamese Viet Cong forces had supply lines and sanctuaries in Cambodia, from where they launched attacks against the American and South Vietnamese forces. That's why USA bombed Cambodia and occupied parts of the country in 1970.

Khmer Rouge rise in power 1975
In 1975 the Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh taking Cambodia under their control. About two million people were forced out of the cities to rural areas as the Khmer Rouge tried to create a purely agrarian society. The Khmer Rouge idealized the Angkor Empire in 802-1431 and had an existential fear about the existence of the Cambodian state, which had been liquidated historically during periods of Vietnamese and Siamese intervention. During the Khmer Rouge Cambodia was an atheist state and 95% of Cambodia's Buddhist temples were destroyed during this time. Many ethnic minorities were exterminated and this era gave rise to the term "Killing Fields". Also intellectuals were killed for example professionals like doctors, lawyers and teachers.

Vietnamese occupation in Cambodia 1979-1990
In 1978 the Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia after some border raids by the Khmer Rouge as they had the intention to get some of their historical areas from Vietnam back. In 1979 Vietnam takes over Phnom Penh and starts the 11-year Vietnamese occupation in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge move to the west and lose the control of the country. Pol Pot and Ieng Sary were found guilty in 1979 in the genocide tribunal, where neither of the men arrived. They didn't serve a sentence either. The Khmer Rouge continued guerrilla war until 1998 when Pol Pot died. The year 1999 is considered the end of Khmer Rouge.

Pol Pot, birth name Saloth Sar
Skulls in a killing field in Cambodia


200-400s Funan and its successor Chenla ruled in Cambodia
690 Chenla was divided into Land Chenla and Water Chenla after the death of Jayavarman I
802 Khmer Empire declared independence from Java
1200s Monks from Sri Lanka introduced Theravada Buddhism to Southeast Asia
1295 Buddhism became the official state religion when Indrawarman III took power
1432 Angor was sacked by Ayutthaya Kingdom and abandoned
1511 First mention of Cambodia was made by the Portuguese
1594 The capital Longvek was conquered and destroyed by Kingdom of Ayutthaya
1618 New Khmer capital was established at Oudong
1841-1845 After the Siamese-Vietnamese War Cambodia came under joint Siamese-Vietnamese suzerainty
1863 Cambodia became a French protectorate
1867 The Thai signed a treaty with France to get suzerainty over Cambodia in exchange for the control of Battambang and Siem Reap, which were ceded back to Cambodia in 1907 by a border treaty
1887 Cambodia became a French colony as the colony of French Indochina was established
1904 France manipulated the choice of king and placed the brother of the former king to the throne
1941 King Monivong died and France placed Norodom Sihanouk to the throne after having passed over Monivong's son Monireth
1953 Cambodia became independent from France
1955 Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father and was elected prime minister
1960 Sihanouk's father died and he became the head of state again, taking the title of prince
1967-1975 Cambodian civil war
1969 USA started bombing in Cambodia, where the Vietnamese Communists had a sanctuary and a supply route for their arms and other aid to their armed forces in South Vietnam
1970 Prime Minister Lon Nol led a military coup overthrowing Sihanouk who was visiting Beijing
1975 Lon Nol's government surrendered and the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot took the power, starting one of the most devastating periods in the history of Cambodia
1979 After border disputes with Vietnam the Vietnamese army occupied Phnom Penh and overthrew the Khmer Rouge 
1990 Vietnam withdrew its troops from Cambodia
1991 Paris Peace Settlement
1993 Norodom Sihanouk was restored as King of Cambodia, altough all power was in the hands of the government 
1997 A coup led by the co-Prime Minister Hun Sen against the non-communist parties in the government
1998 Pol Pot died and the guerrilla war was over
2004 Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Japan, Cool Facts #188

<= 187. Indonesia                                                                                                     189. Cambodia => 

1. Meaning of Japan's Name 

Nihon or Nippon is the Japanese word for Japan and it means "the origin of the sun". The popular Western epithet of Japan is however "Land of the Rising Sun". The earliest recorded use of the name was in a letter sent in the year 607 to the Chinese Sui Dynasty. Terms like "Yamato" or "Wakoku" were used prior to the adoption of Nihon. The English word Japan comes from the Old Mandarin or possible the Wu Chinese pronunciation, which Marco Polo recorded to be Cipangu. Besides the name of Japan also their mythology links the country to the sun. According to the legend Jimmu, the son of the sun goddess Amaterasu, founded the Japanese Empire in 660BC.

Rising sun on the background of a Japanese torii
Amaterasu sun goddess

2. Isolation of Japan 

First foreigners arrive 1500s
The first Europeans arrived in Japan in the 1500s bringing with them Christianity, firearms and goods from Europe.

Tokugawa Shogunate isolates Japan 1600-1854
In 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated his opponents and unified the country again. He founded the Tokugawa Shogunate with Edo (Tokyo) as the capital. The Imperial Palace remained in Kyoto.
During the Tokugawa Shogunate Japan isolated itself from the outside world, Christianity was banned, foreigners were expelled from the country and it was forbidden to trade with them. Also traveling abroad was forbidden.

USA forces Japan to end isolation 1854
This isolation of Japan lasted two and half centuries until 1854, when  the American Commodore Matthew C. Perry with the Black Ships of the US Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outside world with the convention of Kanagawa. After the arrival of the Americans and Europeans the Shogun's power declined.

Meiji Restoration 1868
In 1867 the last Tokugawa was forced to resign as the young Emperor Mutsuhito Meiji was declared the new leader of the country. This was called the Meiji Restoration when the imperial rule was restored. The Meiji Restoration transformed Japan into an industrialized world power that pursued military conflict to expand its sphere of influence.

Arrival of Commodore Perry and the black ships of the US Navy
Commodore Matthew C. Perry in the right

3. Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905

Shocking Japanese victory
Japan shocked the whole world by winning Russia in the war of 1904-1905. Japan's victory was the first military victory in the modern era of an Asian power over a European one. The result transformed the balance of power in East Asia, resulting in a reassessment of Japan's recent entry onto the world stage.

Background of the war
Both Russia and Japan wanted to expand the sphere of their influence in the region. Russia had demonstrated an expansionist policy in the Siberian Far East already since the reing of Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century. Japan feared that Russia was a threat to its plans to create a sphere of influence in Korea and Manchuria. Japan offered a deal to Russia, they were ready to recognize Russia's dominance in Manchuria in exchange for recognition of Korea being within the Japanese sphere of influence.

Beginning of war 1904
Russia refused the offer and demanded Korea north of the 39th parallel to be a neutral buffer zone between Russia and Japan. The Japanese government then decided to go to war with Russia, because they perceived Russia to be a threat to Japan's plans for expansion into Asia. In 1904 the Japanese Navy opened hostilities carried out a surprise attack against the Russian Eastern Fleet at Port Arthur, China. Russia had leased this naval base from China, because it was operational all year in the Pacific Ocean, unlike Russia's Vladivostok.

End of war 1905
Russia suffered several defeats, but Tsar Nicholas II was convinced that Russia would win the war in the end. In the end Russia had to conclude the war in a humiliating defeat with the Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by US President Theodore Roosevelt.

Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905

4. Japanese Colonial Empire 1895-1945

The Japanese colonial Empire lasted from 1895 until the end of World War II in 1945. Japan lost all its overseas colonies and areas that it occupied after the end of World War II, when Japan had to surrender unconditionally after the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Japanese acquisition of colonies: 

- 1870-1880s Japan established control over Nanpo, Ryukyu and Kurile Islands
- 1895-1945 Taiwan was a Japanese dependency after Qing China lost the war to Japan in 1895
- 1910-1945 Korea was officially annexed by Japan in 1910
- 1917-1925 Japan controlled Outer Manchuria
- 1919-1920 Treaty of Versailles formally recognized the Japanese occupation of former German in Micronesia north of the equator
- 1931-1945 Japanese puppet government ruled Manchuria
- 1941-1945 Japan occupied Hong Kong during World War II
- 1940-1945 Vietnam occupation
- 1940-1945 Cambodia occupation
- 1940-1945 Laos occupation
- 1941-1945 Thailand occupation
- 1941-1945 New Guinea occupation
- 1941-1945 Kiribati occupation
- 1942-1945 Guam occupation
- 1942-1945 Nauru occupation
- 1942-1945 Malaysia occupation
- 1942-1945 Philippines occupation
- 1942-1945 Indonesia occupatin
- 1942-1945 Singapore occupation
- 1942-1945 Myanmar occupation
- 1942-1945 East Timor occupation

Japanese Colonial Empire

5. Flag of Japan

The flag of Japan, commonly called as the Hinomaru (circle of the sun) embodies Japan's nickname as the Land of the Rising Sun. The flag was adopted in 1870. The use of a flag representing a sun had already been recorded in the court of Emperor Monmu's court in the year 701. The sun symbol was also in the military flags of many Samurais in the Sengoku period. When Commodore Perry with the US Navy fleet arrived to Japan and forced the country to end its isolation, they also demanded that the Japanese ships should have their own flag. The Japanese chose the ancient sun-disc symbol of the Yamato Dynasty, which was also the same as Emperor Monmu's symbol. During the Allied occupation of Japan in 1945-1952 the use of the flag was restricted.

War Flag of the Imperial Japanese Army1870-1945

Yamato Dynasty symbol


30,000BC First known habitation of the Japanese archipelago
14,000BC Ainu and Yamato people inhabited the area
300BC The Yayoi people began to enter the Japanese islands
200s Yamataikoku was the most powerful kingdom in Japan
592-710 Asuka period, Buddhism got widespread acceptance
710-784 Nara period, emergence of the centralized Japanese state centered on the Imperial Court
735-737 Smallpox epidemy is believed to kill as much as a third of Japan's population
784 Emperor Kanmu moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyo
794 The capital was moved from Nagaoka-kyo to Heian-kyo
794-1185 Heian period, distinctly Japanese culture emerged, noted for its art, poetry and prose
1185 Samurai Minamoto Yoritomo was appointed shogun by Emperor Go-Toba
1192 Yoritomo defeated his rivals and established the Kamakura shogunate in which the shoguns had the real power instead of the emperor
1274 and 1281 the Kamakura shogunate repelled Mongol invasions
1333-1336 Kenmu restoration, the Kamakura shogunate was overthrown by Emperor Go-Daigo
1336-1575 Ashikaga or Muromachi period, Emperor Go-Daigo was overthrown by a new shogunate
1467-1603 Sengoku period or the Age of Warring States, when Japan was marked by social upheaval, political intrigue and near-constant military conflict
1500s Jesuit missionaries from Portugal reached Japan for the first time and started commercial and cultural exchange between Japan and the West
1590 Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified the country and launched the unsuccessful invasions of Korea in the years 1592 and 1597
1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated his rivals and reunified Japan and became the shogun
1600-1868 Tokugawa shogunate, Edo (Tokyo) became the new capital, Japan isolated itself from outside world, foreigners were expelled from the country and traveling abroad was banned
1854 Commodore Matthew C. Perry with US Navy forced Japan open itself to the world with the Convention of Kanagawa
1868-1869 Boshin War, a civil war in Japan between the forces of the Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the Imperial Court
1868 Meiji Restoration, imperial rule was restored 
1879 Ryukyu Islands were annexed to Japan 
1890 Meiji constitution was made
1894-1895 Japan won the Sino-Japanese War against China and got Taiwan
1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, Japan got the first military victory in the modern era over a European state
1910 Korea became a Japanese colony 
1914-1918 Japan was on the side of victorious Allies in World War I and after the war it got a lot of territories in the Pacific that were formerly ruled by Germany
1931 Japan invaded and occupied Manchuria
1933 Japan resigned from the League of Nations
1936 Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany
1937-1938 Nanking massare in China by the Japanese
1937-1945 Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese victory
1940 Tripartite Pact between Germany, Italy and Japan
1941 Japan started the war against USA by bombing Pearl Harbor
1945 USA launched atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which led Japan to agree an unconditional surrender
1947 Japan adopted a new constitution
1952 The Allied occupation in Japan ended with the Treaty of San Fransisco
1972 USA gave Japan back the Ryukyu Islands
2011 One of the largest earthquakes in Japan triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Indonesia, Cool Facts #187

<= 186. Brunei                                                                                                                188. Japan => 

- Monaco protested when Indonesia took a similar flag in use when the country got independence from the Netherlands in 1945
- The flag of Monaco had been adopted in 1881 and the colors had been heraldic colors of the Grimaldi family since at least 1339
- The proportion of the Indonesian flag is 2:3 and the proportion of the flag of Monaco is 4:5
- The colors of the Indonesian flag derive from the banner of the 13th century Majapahit Empire 
- It's suggested that the red and white symbolism has its origins in the older common Austronesian mythology of the duality of Mother Earth (red) and Father sky (white)
- That's maybe why the colors red and white are common in Austronesian flags from Tahiti to Madagascar
- The modern flag of Indonesia was first flown in Java in 1928, which was prohibited under Dutch rule
- Some nationalists tore the blue stripe of the Dutch flag to get the Indonesian red and white flag

Raising the flag of Indonesia in the national palace yard
Similar flags to Indonesia
How the Majapahit Empire naval banner inspired other flags

2. Geography of Indonesia  

- Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world
- Indonesia extends 5120km from east to west and 1760km from north to south 
- Indonesia has 13,466 islands and about 6000 of them are inhabited
- Indonesia's largest islands are Java, Sumatra, Borneo (shared with Brunei and Malaysia), Sulawesi and New Guinea (shared with Papua New Guinea) 
- Indonesia's highest peak is Puncak Jaya at 4884m in Papua 
- Lake Toba in Sumatra is the largest lake with an area of 1145 square km
- Indonesia lies in the Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates meet 
- Indonesia has at least 150 active volcanos, in total there are 400 volcanoes
- Krakatoa and Tambora are both famous volcanoes for their devastating eruptions in the 1800s 
- In 1815 Tambora erupted killing 92,000 people, which was the largest eruption known on the planet during the last 10,000 years
- The eruption in 1815 of Tambora caused the whole world a year without summer because of the volcanic ash that spread in the atmosphere 
- The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 was one of the most destructive volcanic events in recorder history as it killed nearly 40,000 people 
- The eruption of the supervolcano Toba about 70,000 years ago was one of the largest eruptions in world history and a global catastrophe
- The eruption is believed to cause a volcanic winter and cooling of the climate, which led to a genetic bottleneck in human evolution about 50,000 years ago

Mount Tambora

World's most explosive volcanic eruptions

- Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of Indonesia 
- There are almost 200 million speakers of Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia
- It's a standardized register of Malay, an Austronesian language 
- The language has been used as a lingua franca in the multilingual Indonesian archipelago for centuries 
- There are more than 700 local languages in Indonesia 
- After Bahasa Indonesia the most common languages are Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese
- Old Malay was already spoken in the 600s in the Srivijayan Empire
- Old Malay spread in the archipelago and was used as lingua franca in the region 
- Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean and Brunei standards of Malay are essentially the same language 
- However Bahasa Indonesia and Malaysian Malay have differences in their pronunciation and vocabulary 
- Bahasa Indonesia has been influenced by Dutch, Javanese and Melayu pasar ("market Malay")
- The Dutch adopted Malay as the administrative language of their trading post, when the Dutch East India Company arrived in the archipelago 
- Unlike the Spanish, Portuguese, French or British, the Dutch didn't attempt to spread their language among the indigenous population 
- Unlike many other post-colonial states, Indonesia didn't adopt the language with most native speakers (Javanese) nor the language of the former colonial power (Dutch), but rather the second most widely spoken language 
- Bahasa Indonesia functions as a symbol of national identity and pride and it's a unifying among the various Indonesian ethnic groups
- Indonesian words borrowed to English include orangutan, gong, bamboo, rattan and sarong

Indonesian language infographic

4. West New Guinea in Indonesia

Facts about West New Guinea
West New Guinea or Papua is an island shared by two states, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. This part of Indonesia is the only Indonesian territory in Oceania. The estimates of the languages in this region varies between 200-700. West New Guinea has been part of Indonesia since 1963. The Indonesian people don't have cultural links to the indigenous population.

Independence referendum of 1969
In 1969 the UN accepted the annexation if a referendum was arranged and the population agreed to join Indonesia. Under the terms of New York Agreement, all women and men in Western New Guinea were supposed to have one vote in the independence referendum. However the Indonesian government decided the people there to be to primitive so they used a different method, the musyawarah, which was traditional Indonesian consensus of elders to decide the region's status. So Indonesia then hand-picked 1026 elders who were pressured to vote for union with Indonesia. Soon after West New Guinea became the 26th province of Indonesia.

Calls for a new and fair referendum
Several times after the event, there have been requests by different international organisations and for example Desmond Tutu. In 2011 the Federal Republic of West Papua was formed at the third West Papuan People's Congress and they declared the referendum of 1969 invalid and seeked recognition by the UN as an independent nation. Because of the referendum there were rebellions in remote mountainous areas in 1969, 1977 and mid 1980s. The area gained "'Special Autonomy" in 2001, although the implementation has been partial and often criticized. The Free Papua Movement still seeks independence in the area.

West New Guinea
Free West Papua Movement

5. Aceh Sultanate in Indonesia 

History of Aceh
The Sultanate of Aceh was a regional power in the 16th and 17th centuries, before experiencing a long period of decline. The Sultanate of Aceh was an enemy of the Sultanate of Johor and Portuguese-controlled Malacca, who all tried to control the trade through the Strait of Malacca. At the time the most important exports going through the strait were pepper and tin. In addition to its military strengths it was also a noted centre of Islamic scholarship and trade. Aceh is also thought to be the place where the spread of Islam in Indonesia began.

Dutch conquest in 1903
The Sultanate was established in 1496, when the first Sultan was coronated. The Sultanate of Aceh was the last part of the Indonesian archipelago, which the Dutch managed to conquer. The Sultanate of Aceh survived until 1903 with the support of the British, but in the end they weren't able to stop the Dutch conquest. After the Aceh War in 1903, the Sultanate of Aceh was annexed into the Dutch East Indies.

Rebellions after independence
After the independence of Indonesia Aceh was incorporated into the province of North Sumatra. This event led to the Aceh Rebellion between 1953-1959 after Daud Beureu'eh declared independent. The American gas and oil companies started exploiting Aceh's natural resources in the 1970s under an agreement by the Indonesian government. Aceh's oil and natural gas reserves are one of the largest in the world.

Free Aceh Movement
This resulted in the independence declaration of Aceh in 1976 and started the Free Aceh Movement. Aceh didn't get independence, but the movement got large support from the Acehnese people in the 1990s. As a result the Indonesian government broadened Aceh's autonomy in 2001. In 2003 after some repressive measures an offensive began in Aceh and the province was proclaimed in a state of emergency. The next year in 2004 the people of Aceh suffered greatly from the tsunami.

Peace Treaty in 2005
In 2005 the Acehnese rebel movement GAM signed a peace deal with the government after fighting for independence for 29 years. There was a perception that the tsunami was a punishment for insufficient piety in this proudly Muslim province. Aceh got broad autonomy and the former rebel leaders became the leaders of the Aceh administration.

Flag of Aceh Sultanate
Last Sultan of Aceh, Tuanku Muhammad Daud Syah Johan  Berdaulat
Free Aceh Movement women soldiers and GAM commander in 1999


45,000 Homo Sapiens reached the region around this time
2000BC Austronesian people arrived in Indonesia and pushed the indigenous Melanesian people to the far eastern regions
600s Srivijaya kingdom flourished as a result of trade
700s-900s Agricultural Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties thrived and declined in Java, leaving religious monuments like Borobudur, Sewu and Prambanan
914 Bali Kingdom was established
1200s Islam started spreading to Sumatra with Arab merchants
1293 Majapahit Kingdom was established, which was one of the last major empires in the region and one of the most powerful empires in the history of Indonesia and Southeast Asia
1512 Portuguese traders led by Fransisco Serrao sought to monopolize the sources of nutmeg, cloves and cubeb pepper in Maluku
1602 The Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and it gained foothold in Batavia and Ambonia in the following decades
1800 Following bankruptcy the VOC was formally dissolved and the Dutch East Indies became a Dutch colony 
1903 The Sultanate of Aceh was conquered by the Dutch
1922 Nationalistic students in the Netherlands formed the Perhimpoenan Indonesia movement to campaign for full independence of Indonesia from the Dutch
1942 Dutch rule in Indonesia ended when Japan occupied the country
1945 The Japanese withdrew from Indonesia, which was declared independent and Sukarno appointed as president 
1949 The Dutch recognized the independence of Indonesia after an armed struggle in which the Dutch tried to re-establish their rule in Indonesia
1965 An attempted coup by the the Communists against the authoritarian president Sukarno
1968 General Suharto was appointed president 
1969 The Dutch territory of West New Guinea was incorporated into Indonesia
1975 Indonesia occupied the Catholic East Timor, former Portuguese colony
1990s The Asian financial crisis in the end of the decade hit Indonesia the hardest
1998 Suharto resigned after popular protests around the country 
1999 East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia
2002 East Timor became independent from Indonesia under UN surveillance
2004 First direct presidential elections were won by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who won a second term in 2009
2005 A political settlement to the armed separatist conflict in Aceh was reached

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Brunei, Cool Facts #186

<= 185. Afghanistan                                                                                                  187. Indonesia =>   

1. Bolkiah Dynasty in Brunei 

- The Bolkiah Dynasty is one of the world's oldest dynasties
- Since 1368 Brunei has had 30 Sultans
- The first Sultan was Muhammad Shah, who established the Sultanate and reigned in 1368-1402
- Hussin Kamaluddin reigned twice, in 1710-1730 and 1737-1740
- Only the 14th wasn't from the House of Bolkiah
- The 14th Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin killed his predecessor and thus started the civil war
- Abdul Hakkul Mubin ruled in 1660-1673, he was killed and followed as Sultan by Muhyiddin from the House of Bolkiah
- Brunei is the last of the several small Sultanates in Southeast Asia that still survives until this day
- The full title of the Sultan is "His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam"
- It's not certain if the House of Bolkiah was named after the current Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah or the 5th Sultan Bolkiah
- Brunei is one of the only 7 absolute monarchies in the world
- Currently the only absolute monarchies in the world are Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Vatican City and the United Arab Emirates

Personal Emblem of the Sultan of Brunei

Monarchies around the world

2. White Rajahs of the Sarawak Kingdom

- White Rajahs of Brunei were a dynastic monarchy of the English Brooke family
- James Brooke founded and ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak
- Six members of the Brooke family ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak between 1841-1946
- In 1841 James Brooke was granted a landmass in Sarawak as a reward for helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight piracy and insurgency among the indigenous people
- The landmass received independent kingdom status and James Brook was confirmed with the title of Rajah of the territory
- The Brooke administration leased or annexed more land from Brunei
- The Kingdom of Sarawak grew and developed during the first two Rajahs occupying much of the north region of the island of Borneo
- The second Rajah encouraged the migration of Chinese workers from China and Singapore to work in the agricultural fields of Sarawak
- Sarawak emerged as one of the world's major producers of black pepper, in addition to oil and the introduction of rubber plantations
- Sarawak and Borneo were occupied by Japan during World War II
- After World War II the Kingdom of Sarawak was ceded to Great Britain as a Crown Colony in 1946

James Brooke
Kingdom of Sarawak map

3. Only Elections in Brunei in 1962

In 1962 the only parliament elections in Brunei were held. The elections were won by the leftist Brunei People's Party, which opposed the authoritarian Sultan and favored joining the North Borneo Federation. The result of the elections was invalidated, which led into an uprising. The Sultan managed to suppress the uprising, the constitution was invalidated too and the country was declared to be in martial law. Opposition leader Yasin Affandy was imprisoned for 10 years without a trial. The revolt influenced the Sultan's decision of not joining Malaysia in 1963. This incident is seen as one of the first stages of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, which ended in 1966 when Indonesia finally accepted the formation of Malaysia.

Brunei Revolt 1962-1963

4. Living Conditions in Brunei 

- The government of Brunei ensures the citizens a free and high-class healthcare, free education, full employment of the population, fair pensions
- There's no income tax in Brunei
- The small country finances its welfare by oil revenues
- There will be potentially problems when the oil reserves of Brunei will end in a couple of decades
- Brunei is the only country in the world with a public debt of 0%
- Brunei's wealth has allured migrant workers especially from the Philippines and Indonesia, who form over one third of the work force
- Migrant workers don't get their share of the welfare, education and other benefits as the Bruneians
- Brunei has sharia law so it's banned to sell and consume alcohol
- The death penalty is still used for many crimes, because of the sharia law
- Non-Muslims are allowed to take a certain amount of alcohol from their point of embarcation overseas, but only for their own private consumption

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
Brunei exports map 2012

5. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei 

- The 29th Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei since 1967
- Hassanal Bolkiah's father abdicated in 1967 and Hassanal's coronation was held in 1968
- The 1st Prime Minister of Brunei since 1984
- Minister of Finance since 1984
- Minister of Defense and Commander in Chief of Royal Brunei Armed Forces since 1986
- Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Brunei since 2015
- The Sultan is also the religious leader of the country
- During his rule Brunei gained independence from Great Britain in 1984
- Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah appoints the parliament and picks the other members of the government from his family
- There are no parties and the law inforcement is dependent on the Sultan's will
- Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah was estimated to have a peak net worth of 20 billion USD in 2008 by Forbes
- In 2016 after the death of Thai King, the Sultan is the wealthiest monarch in the world
- As of 2012 Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has five sons and seven daughters with his three wives
- He also has 11 grandchildren
- The Sultan's primary residence, the 1800-room palace Istana Nurul Iman is considered the world's largest private residence
- The Sultan is passionate about cars, he has over 100 cars in the underground garage of his palace
- The Sultan's brother Prince Jefri Bolkiah used billions in different indulgences and landed him in trouble and the royal family in a financial crisis

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Istana Nurul Iman


1300s Brunei was part of the Majapahit Empire
1368 Sultanate of Brunei was created
1521 Portuguese navigator Fernao de Magalhaes was the first European in Brunei
1660-1673 Civil war in Brunei
1700s Dutch East Indies Company ruled islands in Southeast Asia including the southern parts of Borneo
1841 James Brooke was granted a landmass of Sarawak and received independent kingdom status after helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight piracy and insurgency among the indigenous people
1846 The British attacked Brunei due to internal conflicts over who was the rightful Sultan
1888 Brunei became a British Protectorate
1890 The Kingdom of Sarawak annexed Brunei's Pandaruan District and this led Brunei to its current borders
1906 Brunei's administration was reformed and British advisors were sent to help the sultan
1929 Petroleom was discovered in Brunei 
1941 The Japanese occupied Brunei in World War II
1945 Japanese occupation ended
1959 A new constitution was written declaring Brunei a self-governing state
1962 A rebellion against the monarchy erupted, which was suppressed with the help of the British
1963 Unlike Sarawak and Sabah, Brunei didn't join Malaysia
1967 Sir Muda Hassanal Bolkiah ascended into the throne
1984 Brunei got independence from Great Britain 
2013 Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced his intention to impose Sharia law on Brunei's Muslim population 

Afghanistan, Cool Facts #185

<= 184. Andorra                                                                                                             186. Brunei => 

- Afghanistan has the world record of having most different flags in the 1900s
- Afghanistan has had 19 different flags in the 20th century between 1900-2000
- Also the name of Afghanistan has changed several times as it has been an Emirate, a Kingdom, a Republic, Democratic Republic, Islamic State, Islamic Emirate and Islamic Republic at times 
- The current flag of Afghanistan was adopted in 2013 
- The flags of Afghanistan and Cambodia are the only two state flags in the world featuring a building 
- The building in the Afghan flag is a mosque with its mihrab facing Mecca

Flags of Afghanistan 1880-2004

2. Afghanistan Demographics 

The Afghan population is divided into several ethnolinguistic groups. 

Estimates of Afghan population: 

Pashtun 42%
Tajik 27%
Uzbek 9%
Hazara 9%
Aimaq 4%
Turkmen 3%
Baloch 2%
Others 4% (Pashayi, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri, Gurjar

Language of Afghanistan 

Dari 50%
Pashto 35%
Uzbek and Turkmen 11%
30 others including Balochi 4% 

Pashto and Dari are the official languages of Afghanistan. Dari is Afghanistan's Persian and it's the lingua franca in Kabul as well as in many northern and northwestern parts of the country. Pashto is spoken in the central and eastern parts of the country. Many people are bilingual in Pashto and Dari. Some Afghans are also fluent in Urdu, English and other foreign languages. The Pashtun and Baloch are largely connected to the culture of South Asia as the remaining Afghans are culturally Persian and Turkic. 

Religion of Afghanistan

Over 99% are Muslims in Afghanistan. It's estimated that up to 90% of the people are Sunni Muslims. The remaining 7-15% adhere to Shia Islam.

Ethnolinguistic Groups in Afghanistan

3. Afghanistan Drug Trade

- Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the heroin used worldwide
- In 2007 a staggering 93% of the non-pharmaceutical-grade opiates in the world market were from Afghanistan 
- Afghanistan is also the largest producer of cannabis in the world- About 80% of the Opium plantations of the world are located in Afghanistan 
- Opium production has been in rise since the U.S. occupation started in 2001
- Before the U.S. occupation the Taliban had succeeded to eradicate poppy farming 99% in Taliban-controlled areas, which was one of the world's most successful anti-drug campaigns
- All Afghan warlords have financed their wars with drug trade 
- In 2013 it was estimated in a report that up to 3 million people were involved in the illegal drug business in Afghanistan, from a population of over 33 million people
- It's estimated that about 11% of the country's economy is derived from the cultivation and sale of opium 

4. War in Afghanistan 1978-

Saur Revolution 1978
Since 1978 there has been a constant war in Afghanistan. In 1978 there was a Communist insurrection called the Saur revolution. The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan seized power in Afghanistan, which expanded into a civil war within months. The Communists installed Nur Mohammed Taraki as president and started widely unpopular modernization reforms. Anti-government forces were formed and the government itself was unstable. There was rivalry inside the party. 

Soviet involvement 1979-1989
In 1979 Nur Mohammed Taraki was assassinated in a coup led by Hafizullah Amin, who became the president. In December 1979 the Soviet Army was involved in the war and the Soviet special forces assassinated Hafizullah Amin and installed a Soviet loyalist as president. The anti-Soviet insurgents started getting a massive amount of aid and training from Pakistan and China. USA and Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf funded the mujahideens a lot. The mujahideen waged a guerrilla war in small groups operating in 80% of the country that was outside the control of the government and the Soviet forces. In 1989 Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan because the diplomatic and military cost of the war was too high and they couldn't win the American supported mujahideens.

Islamic State of Afghanistan 1992 
The Soviet backed Afghan Communist government survived until the fall of Kabul in 1992. The Islamic State of Afghanistan was established then by the Peshawar Accord. Militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar opposed the agreement and with Pakistani support he started the bombardment campaign against Kabul. Additionally three militias who occupied some suburbs in Kabul started a violent war against each other. Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India and Uzbekistan each supported and even controlled one of those militias in some point as they were seeking influence in Afghanistan. In the early 1995 the Islamic State was able to defeat most of the militias and restore some calm to the capital. However the Taliban emerged as a new faction threatening Kabul.

Rise of the Taliban
The Taliban had conquered many southern and central provinces in 1994, that were not controlled by the government. In 1995 they launched a failed attack against the government in Kabul, but by 1996 they had regrouped with massive military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia. In September 1996 the Taliban took power in Kabul and established the Islamic State of Afghanistan. The United Islamic Front (Northern Alliance) was created then as a military-political resistance force against the Taliban Emirate.

US invasion in Afghanistan
After the 9/11 attacks USA invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power, because the US forces had the objective of defeating the Al-Qaeda operating inside Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgency 2001-present-day
The Taliban insurgency has been on-going in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban government was deposed by USA. In 2010 president Hamid Karzai attempted to hold peace negotiations with the Taliban leaders. In 2014 Ashraf Ghani followed Karzai as president. In 2014 the USA war in Afghanistan ended as well, however thousands US-led Nato troops have remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces. As a result of the war up to 2 million people have died and over 6 million Afghans have left the country, but some of them have returned.

US troops combat footage in Afghanistan

5. Taliban in Afghanistan  

- Between 1996-2001 held power in Afghanistan 
- Means "students" in Pashto
- The Taliban refers itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 
- The Taliban emerged in 1994 as one of the most prominent factions of the Afghan Civil War
- During their control of Afghanistan they enforced a strict interpretation of Sharia law
- People committing adultery were stoned, the limbs of the thieves were amputated, women were forced to stay at home and the schools of girls were closed
- Flying a kite, playing cards or chess, watching television and listening to music were forbidden and people who did these were punished
- The Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues in 2000, because human pictures and statues were forbidden according to Islam
- The Taliban succeeded to eradicate poppy farming 99% in Taliban-controlled areas, which was one of the world's most successful anti-drug campaigns
- Most Taliban are Pashtun tribesmen
- Pakistan supported the Taliban, but it states that it stopped supporting Taliban after the 9/11 terrorist attacks
- Taliban got financial support by Saudi Arabia
- Al-Qaeda supported the Taliban with fighters from Arab countries and Central Asia

The life of women under the Taliban 
Taliban laws


2000BC Semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan
500s BC Achaemenid incorporated Arachosia, Aria and Bactria after overthrowing the Medes
330BC Alexander the Great and his Macedonian forces arrived a year after defeating Darius III of Persia
305BC Maurya Empire got much of the territory from the Seleucid Empire as part of an alliance treaty
185BC The Mauryans were overthrown
0-100 Kushan Empire conquered the area and introduced Buddhism
642 Arab Muslims brought Islam to Herat and Zaranj
870 The Saffarid dynasty conquered the area
977 Ghaznavid Empire was established and it conquered and Islamized Afghanistan, but the Ghaznavid dynasty was later overthrown by the Ghurids
1219 Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region
1370 Timur Lenk established the Timurid Empire, which conquered Afghanistan and other areas
1500s The Khanate of Bukhara, Safavids and Mughals ruled parts of the territory
1709 Mirwais Hotak of successfully rebelled against the Safavids and made Afghanistan independent
1722 Mahmud Hotak captured Isfahan and proclaimed himself King of Persia
1729 The Hotak dynasty was ousted from Persia by Nader Shah
1738 Persians conquered Afghanistan and ended the Hotak dynasty rule
1747 Ahmad Shah Durrani became the leader of Afghanistan and his dynasty ruled until the 1970s
1776 The capital of the Durrani Empire was transferred from Kandahar to Kabul
1826 Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir and ended the turbulent time period with many temporary rulers
1834 The city of Peshawar was captured by Ranjit Singh
1839-1842 First Anglo-Afghan war
1878-1880 Second Anglo-Afghan war
1893 Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign an agreement to divide ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories by the Durand Line
1919 After the Third Anglo-Afghan war, King Amanullah declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state
1923 Slavery was abolished
1926 Afghanistan became a kingdom  
1929 Amanullah was forced to abdicate after rebel force leader Habibullah Katakana assumed power, who was later killed by Amanullah's cousin, who declared himself King Nadir Shah
1933 King Nadir Shah was killed by a Hazara school student after which his son Mohammed Zahir Shah succeeded to the throne
1973 King Zahir Shah was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Daoud Khan, who became the first President of Afghanistan 
1978 Saur revolution, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan seized power in Afghanistan, which expanded into a civil war within months
1979 Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup led by Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency but was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December
1989 Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan after failing to win the American supported mujahideens
1989-1996 Afghan civil war
1992 After the fall of Najibullah's government, the post-communist Islamic State of Afghanistan was established by the Peshawar Accord
1994 The Taliban took control of southern Afghanistan 
1996 The Talibans seized Kabul and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
1996-2001 Al-Qaeda operated inside Afghanistan 
2001 USA invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power 
2010 Hamid Karzai attempted to hold peace negotiations with the Taliban leaders
2014 Ashraf Ghani became President after Karzai
2014 US war in Afghanistan ended however thousands US-led Nato troops have remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces