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US Organization Seeks To Unify Cambodian Voice

Mr. Samkhan Khoeun, a board member of the National Cambodian American Organization, recites a Cambodian refugee poem from "Oh! Maha Mount Dangrek" during the organization's meeting in Chicago on July 29, 2011.

The National Cambodian American Organization wrapped up a major meeting in Chicago over the weekend, as members sought to better organize themselves to serve the needs of Cambodians living in the US.

The July meeting was to set a strategic plan for the organization for the next two to three years, including efforts to organize other Cambodian groups, improve living standards for Cambodians in the US and lobbying for support of issues faced by the immigrant community.

“We gathered in Chicago to build good relations with other organizations and to work closely with those organizations to share information, new laws and other activities that affect the benefits of Cambodian communities,” said Samkhan Khoeun, a board member of the national organization. “Therefore, we can help each other out from one community to another.”

The national organization seeks to help Cambodian-Americans through consultation, training and fundraising. Samkhan Khoeun said he believes that Cambodian communities benefit from having “one voice, like a bunch of chopsticks.”

The needs of Cambodian-Americans differ from those of other immigrant communities, such as the Vietnamese, Lao and Hmong, he said.

“We went through the killing fields, and we came across hardships more than other nations,” he said. “If we have no voice, if we don’t present our problems and we don’t claim our demands, nothing can benefit our communities.”