Hundreds of people attended the annual Khmer New Year celebrations at the Cambodian Embassy in Washington, D.C., late last month, where Cambodian-Americans and friends were reminded of the country’s ancient roots.
Chum Bunrong, Cambodia’s ambassador, gave his thanks to attendees.
“Today, as a Cambodian Ambassador to the U.S., I am very honored to meet with everyone coming from everywhere in the U.S. during this 2017 Khmer New Year celebration,” he said.
He added that the celebration was held on April 30 because he had been busy attending other Khmer New Year events across the country.
Hor Chou, president of the Cambodian Business Association of Greater Philadelphia, said the event was a good opportunity “to show the public about Cambodian pride that we, as Khmer, celebrate traditional national New Year.”
Phearom Mey, a housewife from Maryland, said the annual event, which she has attended for the past three years, helped Cambodians born in the United States understand their heritage.
“I am very happy. Such an occasion happens only once a year. We always join this New Year event at the embassy. This is a very good gathering.”
For Peter Khlen, a Cambodian-American school bus driver from Arlington, VA, it was the first time he attended.
“I am very excited. I have never joined this event. This is my first time. Next year, I will bring my wife and children with me to join such a happy event again,” he said.
At the event, traditional dancers were joined by ther performers and popular Khmer games were played. Saroeum Tes, founder of The Cambodian-American Heritage, an NGO, said the arts showcase was aimed at helping Americans understand the beauty of the ancient Khmer culture.
“The Cambodian American Heritage is pleased to participate in this Khmer New Year event, even though we are not paid, because we want to particularly show the splendor of Khmer ancient culture to American people,” he said.
Funds were raised at the event by Friends Without A Border, a group supporting the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Many Americans in attendance said they felt a part of Khmer culture.
“I am Cambodian. I am not legally adopted, but I am Cambodian in my heart,” said Ken Washington, one of the attendees. “I have been adopted by my Cambodian brothers and sisters in Philadelphia, and I participate in every event they have, every each and every one.”
In his opening speech, Ambassador Bunrong said that the U.S.-Cambodia relationship was “very strong,” mentioning that more than 300,000 American tourists visit Cambodia each year, while some 50 American companies are invested in Cambodia.