With the U.S. presidential election fast approaching, Cambodian-Americans in Lowell, Massachusetts are split over whether to support the Democratic party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump of the Republican party.
Lowell has the second largest concentration of first-generation Cambodian migrants in the United States, after Long Beach, California. Some of the more than 30,000 Cambodians living in the city have already decided who they will vote for on election day in November.
Khun Hong, 55 years old, who has lived in Lowell for about two decades, said he will use his vote to elect the candidate who he hopes will become America’s first female president.
“For over 50 years you see men as president. For this election, I want to see change, and the first female president elected in U.S. history,” he told VOA Khmer.
Conversely, 51-year-old business owner Khon Sovann said he wanted a different kind of change, away from the Democratic party. The party of President Barack Obama has held the White House since 2009.
“The Democratic party has already been leading the country for many years, and even though I am happy with its administration, it is time for me to see new changes,” Khon Sovann said.
Independent voter Neang Sovanndara, an instructor in traditionnal Khmer music, said this election was different from other U.S. polls.
“It’s time to elect Republican party to lead the country. I personally don’t like the Republican candidate, but I don’t seem to have any other choice,” he said.
For some like Men Vannak, 41 years old, the policies of the parties are more important than the individual candidates.
“I am more into the policy of the Republican party, which is known for taking bold actions in its foreign policy. My heart is with my home country, Cambodia, where human rights abuses are rampant,” he said, adding that he hoped a future administration led by the right-wing party would take action on abuses committed by the Cambodian government.
Despite some people wanting a new government to lead the country, many voters remain loyal to the Democratic party, especially members of the elderly population in Lowell.
Luy Ou, 67, and Vat Savoeun, 82, both just registered to vote in the election.
Speaking to VOA Khmer at Lowell’s Metta Health Clinic, they said they are determined to get Clinton into office.
“The [Democratic] party pays tremendous efforts in improving the life and health of the older people and low-income families,” said Vat Savoeun.
Ly Phallin, 44 years old, a single mother looking after two daughters, said it would be an historic moment if a woman was elected president.
“As a single mother, I have received a lot of support in terms of income and my children’s education from the current government,” she said.
“Having a female candidate running for president means more hope and understanding of my situation and needs from the top leaders…so I’m voting for Hillary Clinton to become president.”