Matthew JagelMay 15, 2023
Sơn Ngc Thành, the CIA, and the Transformation of Cambodia
Northern Illinois University Press 2023
Khmer Nationalist: Sơn Ngc Thành, the CIA, and the Transformation of Cambodia (Northern Illinois UP, 2023) is a political history of Cambodia from World War II until 1975, examining the central role of Sõn Ngoc Thành. The book is a story of nationalist movements, political intrigue, coup attempts, war, and American intelligence operations. Matthew Jagel shows how central Sõn Ngoc Thành was to the rise of Cambodian nationalism, the brief period of Japanese dominance, the fight for independence from France, and the establishment of ties with the United States. Factoring Sõn Ngoc Thành into a discussion of Cambodian political history is a major contribution that will advance scholarly discourse about Cold War politics in Southeast Asia. Sõn Ngoc Thành’s career requires us to think about pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia with much greater nuance.
Dr. Matthew Jagel earned his MA at Northern Illinois University with a thesis entitled “PHILCAG: The History of Filipino Involvement in the Vietnam War” and his Ph.D. with a dissertation on Sõn Ngoc Thành (the source material for this book). Khmer Nationalist: Son Ngoc Thanh, the CIA, and the Transformation of Cambodia is his first book. He has taught at Northern Illinois University and worked for NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Dr. Jagel currently teaches at St. Xavier University in Chicago. When he’s not doing all this amazing academic work, he’s causing trouble with Dr. Eric Jones, his co-host and unindicted co-conspirator, on Napalm in the Morning: The Vietnam War through Film, a podcast that asks serious questions about why John Wayne is facing the wrong way at sunset in The Green Berets and praises the artistic triumph that is Operation Dumbo Drop.
Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.