Saturday, September 26, 2009

AP: Cambodians Coming Forward To Testify In War Trials

by Ryan ZumMallen
Long Beach News

(CAAI News Media)

Native Cambodians who survived the deadly Khmer Rouge of the 1970s have been coming out in droves in recent months to testify against their oppressors as they stand trial, and the Associated Press today has a story on how the trials have progressed and how some victims are able to speak about the atrocities they experienced. Long Beach plays a central role, because it is home to the nation's largest Cambodian population and some of those quoted in the AP article live in Long Beach. From the article:

From Virginia to California, refugees have spent the past few months pouring out long-suppressed memories to volunteers who fill notebooks with reports of gang rapes, execution, starvation, forced labor and brutal beatings. They attach names of dead relatives, sometimes a half-dozen per person, and scrawl out names of labor camps and far-flung villages where they lived for years on the edge of starvation.

Hopefully these trials will begin to bring closure to a community obviously still haunted by the events of the past. The vibrant Cambodia Town in this city is one of the neighborhoods that makes Long Beach so significantly different from other large, diverse cities.

Here is a success story about Cambodian refugees that found a home and eventual success here in Long Beach.

Bopha Song (left) and Kathy Lor address the crowd as they introduce their shopping center.

In what city officials called a victory for small business in the Sixth District, the Phnom Pich shopping center debuted three new stores at its grand opening yesterday on the corner of Anaheim and Martin Luther King Drive, as the new owners welcomed family and friends in the community to celebrate the culmination of five years of their hard work.
“Our family had a dream that one day we would be able to contribute to the community that has given so much to us,” said Kathy Lor, who co-owns the center along with her sister, Bopha Song. “It stands as a testament to the opportunities available to immigrants in the city of Long Beach. Long Beach is truly the international city.”

The center consists of a Roma Pizza shop, a jewelry store (owned by Song), and a laundromat (owned by Lor). The sisters are Cambodian immigrants who came to America twenty-six years ago with their parents and siblings, in order to escape the terror of the Khmer Rouge. The family settled - and still reside - right down the street from the shopping center they now own.

“From what you came from, you struggled and strived and look what you can do for yourselves,” said Sixth District Councilmember Dee Andrews, who worked with Lor and Song throughout the five-year process of acquiring and developing the property. Andrews repeatedly referred to the center as a “jewel” of the community.

“With this project, they could’ve easily gotten discouraged. But these are very dedicated and persistent women. I even got worried at night but this lady and her sister, don’t tell them what they can’t do.”

City Manager Pat West was also in attendance.

"This is a wonderful center in this busy corridor," he said. "The whole Anaheim corridor is changing before our eyes because of people like Kathy and her family."

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