#250posts24hrsAAPI - 139: Random History: Cambodian American Politics Circa 2009

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Here's a link to an older article via the Lowellsun.com.

Meas says he wants to inspire the immigrant community. His vision: In five years, two Cambodians on the City Council, in 10 years, a Cambodian mayor.

"Cambodians, Vietnamese, Laotians, we all have a stake in this. The political process is not only open to Caucasian Americans."

Cambodian refugees who arrived in the 1980s and 1990s wanted survival in their new homeland, not necessarily a role in politics.

Cambodians in Lowell follow their homeland politics, particularly Cambodia's longtime prime minister, Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge officer before changing sides, and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who frequently visits Lowell to raise money.

But "to them it is not a priority to say 'I dictate the policy of this city," says Vong Ros of his community's political involvement in Lowell.

Many Cambodians are still not fluent in English. Perhaps most of all, the genocide ingrained deep mistrust of government.

Dahvy Tran recalls walking out of a Market Basket store in Lowell several years ago, where John Kerry was campaigning.

"It was the first time I realized we elected people like we do here," says Tran, 22, who works with the Asian Task Force.

Her mother's escape from Cambodia colored family perceptions of politics.

"In Cambodia, if you spoke out against the government they would kill you," she says. "Out of fear, you just kind of go with whatever happens. And people who came here were afraid that what happened with the Khmer Rouge would happen again. The Khmer Rouge kept endless lists of people, and the older generation gets nervous, and doesn't want information known."

Older refugees fear the government turning on them here, too, she says.