Murder and Mayhem in Seventeenth-Century Cambodia: Anthony van Diemen vs King Ramadhipati I tells the fascinating story of the origins, course, and consequences of the conflict in the 1630s and ’40s between Cambodia and the Dutch East India Company (VOC), a confrontation that has the dubious distinction of being history’s first between a mainland Southeast Asian state and a European power. Apart from its appeal as an extraordinary tale in its own right, this historical narrative affords a rare glimpse into a largely unknown period in Cambodian history, namely, the period between the fall of Angkor in the mid-fifteenth century and the arrival of the French in the late nineteenth century.
Based for the most part on unpublished Dutch archival sources, this monograph examines the relations between Cambodia and the Dutch East India Company over the years 1636 to 1645. It considers what led Anthony van Diemen, the newly appointed Dutch Governor-General at Batavia (present-day Jakarta), in 1636, to establish a new trading post in Cambodia and the concurrent rise to power of King Ramadhipati I. It examines the deterioration of relations between the king and Van Diemen and the circumstances that may have led the king to order the wholesale massacre of the Dutch embassy to Cambodia. The book recounts the preparations for the punitive 1644 military expedition in alliance with Siam and narrates the course of the expedition. Based on a rare contemporary map drawn on Japanese rice paper, it reconstructs the battle of June 12, 1644, at Phnom Penh. In closing, the author speculates on what might have happened if Van Diemen had not died prematurely in 1645.