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Cambodian Organizations Join Together for ‘Healthy Community’ Plan

Neth Monorom, seen here, encourages Cambodian Americans to vote as the number of Cambodian American voters are still low.

Five organizations in Southern California have joined into an umbrella group in an effort to better address the needs of Cambodian-Americans in the city of Long Beach.

The United Cambodian Community, the Khmer Parents Association, Khmer Girls in Action, the Cambodian Association of America, and Families in Good Health will meet frequently to discuss a “healthy community” initiative in the state.

Members met last week to discuss potential development projects.

Helene Ansel, a special assistant to the Senator Alen Lowenthal of California’s 27th district, discussed her plan for a walking loop through school district, commercial zones and neighborhoods, “to promote walking on a regular basis.” This helps people “to be fit, to meet their neighbors, and to look for places that are unsafe or safer,” she said.

Monorom Neth, who works in voter outreach for Los Angeles, said Cambodian-American voter registration remains low.

“Within LA County, there are 88 cities and about 40,000 to 60,000 Cambodians, but we only have about 4,000 of them registered to vote,” he said. This is important, he said, because it is hard to get the attention of officials if they know you don’t vote.

Another issue facing the Cambodian-American community here is deportation under strict US laws. Convicted felons without legal citizenship can be sent back to Cambodia, even if they’ve never lived there, or only knew it for a short time.

“People still misunderstand the issues,” said David Ros, an advocate for One Love Movement. Many former felons “have already reformed their lives,” he said. “They are taxpayers, have families and mortgages, and some are even activists in the community.”

Free immigration and health services were also introduced to the community by organization such as Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Children’s Clinic. The organizations strongly encouraged people to use these services as they now have Khmer translators to help with language barrier.