“Lowell” a Cambodian town within USA

Lowell, March 1, 2024

“Lowell” is a small town in the northeastern part of the United States. The city is gaining popularity in Cambodia as more and more people come to visit and live there. For more than 50 years, only a handful of Cambodian Americans in the United States have come to live together on this town, forming a large community of about 30,000 Cambodians.

Why is Lowell so popular?

Because those who have relatives living in Lowell have described about better life here to the Cambodian people. They also want to come to adventure in the country again, to live a better life … but coming to America is always an obstacle, unable to transit. And still some people could make their journey into America. This time there is no more “refugees but immigrants”. The two words are different in law because the situation is not the same in Cambodia, first people get out of Cambodia by force and second people get out of Cambodia voluntarily, but both cases come to the United States to seek a better livelihood.

Lowell has a high capacity to support the general population to be able to live decently, have a house, have enough social resources, have a job, payment for medical treatment, etc. Equally, if the citizen has the right to live legally under American law. The prime reason for people who take risk to get out of Cambodia is to settle in the United States.

The next cause is “Can its culture be used for living in a new area?” People need to learn English to communicate, they rely on families who have arrived earlier to support the new arrival of immigrants to find temporary accommodation, there is training on how to live in a new place and job preparation. This is what the local people have been proud of for a long time because Lowell has a Khmer market, a Khmer pagoda, a health administration, or business. All Cambodians work there as equals to Americans or other nationalities which make newcomers feel warm and the environment is a real “Khmer city” like in Cambodia. The difference from Cambodia is that the law applied here is a law of justice, equality, equal freedom, equal rights, no one can violate anyone, not even the national authorities. “The United States is an immigrant country”. Some have tens of thousands of dollars in savings, some have dozens of homes for rent, some run small or large enterprises to earn countless incomes without having to steal or exploit anyone, which is the dream of every immigrant. Have tasted the unequal regime and all kinds of injustice in the Cambodia … now in this new country they see the support of their people under the law “from birth to death” whether you are a child or an old man or a disabled person, a woman, or an educated man, high or little knowledge of anything. 

Why did Cambodian Americans gather to live here?

 About 5 or 6 families of Cambodians came to live in this Lowell during the 1980s, when it was an old tropical remnant of a US military garment factory built during World War I and World War II. When the country had peace, Lowell was abandoned, the rest of the big buildings became shelters for homeless people, smokers smoke, sell opium, marijuana, alcohol, the police did not arrest them. Some of our Cambodians have come to build a life in that hot place but think that “it is not hot enough for the heat that the Democratic Kampuchea treated us-killer”. They can live there. Shortly afterwards, there was a small business that was reminiscent of the modern Asian restaurant named “Pailin”, which had been robbed and burned several times by criminals. Khmer food shops were the first reason to bring Khmer or Lao people together in this small area, but another important reason was that a large computer assembly plant called “Wang” was in the center of the city. Middle School brings a lot of high-paying jobs.

There are two reasons why Lowell that brought more Cambodians to live during 2000, that changed Lowell’s face to become even more modern and secure in the city, in schools, in villages and better suburbs. The city of 10 to 20 families has become more than 30,000 in the blink of an eye, and the Khmer-born city council has been around ever since.

How did Cambodians rise to the top in America?

 Experienced Cambodian American, deeply educated in American schools, willing to help develop their own community, gain the favor of the Cambodian electorate, and be a legitimate representative of the citizens of the city with plenty of Khmer people live there.

Those laws are enshrined in the American Constitution, which is strictly enforced by the federal government. At that level, there was a Cambodian named Siv Sichan who worked at the White House and was the US Ambassador to the United Nations during the time of President George W. Bush, who was welcomed by the Khmer Post USA.

At the state level in Massachusetts, there are two Cambodians, Vanna Howard and Rady Mom, who are currently working in the Boston State Assembly. As for law enforcement in the city of Lowell, there was a Cambodian who used to be the first member of the board of Lowell, Mr. Rithy Ung, and now there are three other Cambodians, Mr. Phal Ratha Yem as the Deputy Mayor, Sokary Chao, a member of the City Council, was the former Mayor of Lowell, and Veasna Nuon, another member, was also the first Deputy Mayor in Lowell. They are fully involved in American politics, holding high positions in direct control for the prosperity of American families, including the Cambodian family. They are the pride of the “modern Khmer officials” who represent the Cambodian community for a truly democratic country, unlike Cambodia, which has suffered tragedy from generations of governing the country, which those Cambodian Americans can emulate and shine to some of Cambodia today. There are still negative causes in the community that need to be cleared up.

The Khmer community in Lowell, despite having “complete freedom”, has not yet been united. That division has not harmed human society or damaged property in the slightest, and the United States remains strong in democracy, with law-abiding United States a sufficient force to protect “privacy.”

Newcomers often think of “those who came from the past are too old, too prejudiced, less educated, poor community …” But those who came before often said, “Many newcomers are you, there is a lot of knowledge, but many of the children of adults can have hands stained with Khmer blood …” which is the cause of looking at each other dishonestly. But in fact, those who came before and came later, if there was no major crisis in the country, they might have not decided to live in this “land of fortune”.

However, this despair will be gone in the generation of our children or grandchildren who will not understand or believe in us as elders on both sides, that is the result of the “education” of the United States, in name of the “Land of Fortune”.

Lowell, also known as “Cambodia Town”, intends to connect the memories and honor of the United States to Cambodia, but has not achieved its goal yet, so the mission of “modern community” must continue or leave it to the next generation to decide that.