Again, thank you everyone for your many responses to my “Ask the Ambassador” column. I am truly honored that it is one of the most read items on The Cambodia Herald website. Don’t forget that you can continue to dialogue with me by e-mailing AskAMBToddPP@state.gov.
One interesting question that I recently received is, “Where can you find Cambodians in America?” with many people curious to know about the Cambodian community in the United States. One of the strengths of American society is its diverse range of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and the United States is, without a doubt, proud to be the home of a sizable Cambodian-American population and the rich Khmer culture that comes with it.
Long Beach, California, is known as the “Cambodian capital of the United States” because it has the largest population of Cambodians in America, many of whom immigrated in the late 1970s as refugees escaping the Khmer Rouge regime. Along a one-mile strip on the east side of Long Beach called “Cambodia Town” and “Little Phnom Penh,” you can find stores selling all types of Cambodian goods, including clothing, jewelry, videos, and music. But the main attraction for most people is the food! I will be visiting Long Beach next week and can’t wait to compare the food there to the wonderful cuisine here in Phnom Penh. Several of my friends have recommended that I try the beef skewers and the fish amok on Anaheim Street.
California State University Long Beach also has an impressive number of Cambodian students. In fact there are so many Cambodian students that they have formed their own Cambodian Student Society on campus. It’s wonderful that these young people have come together to celebrate their culture and the unique blend of Cambodian-American values and traditions. The preservation and celebration of Cambodian culture in Long Beach makes it an incredibly special place. I’ve heard that there is an authenticity to Cambodia Town that can’t be found in other places, and I am really looking forward to experiencing it firsthand myself.
I’ve also received lots of questions regarding U.S. visas. Many of you have asked why it seems so difficult to get a visa to go to the United States. I would like to assure you that we very much welcome and encourage legitimate visitors to go to the United States for tourism, business, and education. The Embassy’s consular officers work very hard to ensure that the visa application process is fair and equitable and that everyone who qualifies for a visa under U.S. law is granted one. Under U.S. law, each applicant – regardless of status, rank, or position – is required to show sufficient ties to Cambodia, both social and economic, to compel their return home. This is sometimes a difficult burden of proof for applicants to meet, especially young people, but it is our law. If you have questions about the visa process, I encourage you to visit http://cambodia.usembassy.gov/visas.html for additional information. We want to welcome you to the United States!
Please reach out to me at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov and let me know if you’ve ever visited the United States, especially Cambodia Town in Long Beach. If not, tell me what you’d expect to find there. I look forward to hearing from you soon on this and any other issue you’d like to ask me. Keep those questions coming, in either English or Khmer!
The writer is U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia