Cambodia will open a consulate in the city of Philadelphia, Penn., later this month, aiming to provide services to Cambodians there and help draw investment back home.
Hor Namhong is expected to open the consulate, Cambodia's third in the US, on Sept. 25. Consulates already operate in Seattle, Wash., and Lowell, Mass.
“Our purpose in opening the consulate is first to facilitate paperwork for Cambodians, whether they hold US citizenship or still have Cambodian citizenship,” Cambodia's ambassador to the US, Hem Heng, told VOA Khmer. “Secondly, to protect their interests in the US. And thirdly, we want to expand trade and cultural relations and cooperation. We want to promote investment in Cambodia and attract US tourists to visit Cambodia.”
Sok Savoeun, a 48-year-old US-Cambodian, has been named consul for the office.
“This area is central to Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese communities and other ethnic groups who like to visit Cambodia,” he said. “As for the investment I have observed that the Korean community here likes to go to do business in Cambodia.”
The consulate will offer visa and passport services and certification of documents, such as marriage and birth certificates, he said.
However, supporters of Cambodia's opposition parties worry the consulate, located in a city of diverse political views and 18,000 Cambodians, will be used to further the interests of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.
“I don't expect much from the consulate,” said Ou Kimhuot, an activist for the minority opposition Human Rights Party. “In my view, the consulate will serve [CPP] political purposes rather than serving the people here. It is placed as their eyes and ears to keep vigilance over the opposition, to see how strong the opposition is, so they can devise a strategy to cope with that.”
Hem Heng rejected the idea. He said the consulate will serve people from all political walks, “so long as they are Cambodians.
“We'll help them all,” he said. “There is no discrimination. Once he begins performing his duties, the consul will be neutral, although he supports the government. It is not set up to counter the opposition.”