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To Help Homeland, Unify, Ambassador Tells US-Cambodians

Cambodian-Americans would be able to do more for their homeland if they unified, following the model of other immigrant groups, the US ambassador to Cambodia said Saturday.

"If all the Cambodian-Americans would work in a more unified fashion, like Cuban-Americans, Jewish-Americans or even Italian, and others, when there is the problem, I think that you could do more for Cambodia and you could at least work better and be more effective politically," Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said. "But right now the Cambodian groups in Long Beach, Lowell and Chicago and Atlanta, while there is some communication, is not as cohesive as it should be."

Mussomeli spoke to nearly 200 Cambodian-Americans at a dinner in Atlanta, Ga., Saturday, while visiting the US.

"The reason I really wanted to come to talk to you tonight is because I really think Cambodian communities are fractious and disassociated from one another and it would be good if Cambodian communities throughout the US would work more closely together," Mussomeli told the gathered Cambodians.

About 500,000 Cambodians live in the US, networking through temples, churches and aid organizations, as well as shared workplaces.

Chhay Huor, a Cambodian-American who invited the ambassador to speak at the dinner, later himself stressed the importance of unity within the communities.

"Supposedly if we have any problems we can go to lobby in Washington, DC, if we can work closely together as one," he said. "This is because customarily in the US lobbying is the most necessary act in Congress."

Another Cambodian-American at the meeting, Franklin Ly, said Cambodians working together would make it easier to meet their goals.

"Foreigners, such as Americans, or other nationals, they do have more unification than the Khmer, as I understand, because I have associated businesses with Chinese, Vietnamese," he said. "I have not seen Khmer hand-in-hand doing business together, trusting each other, no."