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Chams Gather for International Conference in California

Scholars of the Champa people, who are descended from a kingdom representing the farthest reach of the Indian-Hindu civilization, will meet in California next month in an effort to improve the relationship of the descendants of the culture in their respective home countries.

The conference, "Socio-cultural Issues of Champa 175 Years After Its Disappearance," was organized by Champa Communities in America with support from the International Office of Champa and the Champaka Journal. It will be held in San Jose July 7 and July 8.

"The goal and purpose of this conference is to assess the sociocultural issues of the people of Champa, in terms of education, economic and social standing in their host countries," said Nhuong Tu, a conference organizer.

The kingdom of Champa, which covered much of modern-day southern Vietnam, flourished from the 7th Century through 1832. Descendants include the Cambodian Chams, the only Muslim group to emerge from the empire.

So Farina, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia's Cham Muslim Oral History Project, said in an interview at VOA Khmer this week she would attend the conference to search for ways to help Cambodian Chams improve their lot and to mitigate negative perceptions toward their community.

Chams were targeted for persecution and execution by the Khmer Rouge for their religious beliefs.

About 400,000 Cham remain in Cambodia, 150,000 in Vietnam and 20,000 in Malaysia, in a diaspora fueled by the spread of communism in Indochina.