As the US deals with mass race riots that have shocked the world, businesses owned by Cambodian-Americans have not been spared as widespread rioting and looting damaged cities and towns.
The self-dubbed “Cambodia Town” area of Long Beach, California has been looted and ransacked during the rioting that resulted from the death of African-American George Floyd in the city of Minneapolis.
Anear two kilometre corridor, Cambodia Town, is host to a wide range of Cambodian businesses, including restaurants, jewellery stores, clothing shops, doughnut sellers and auto-repair outlets.
Many of the several hundred Cambodian-owned jewelry stores in Southern California are found in Cambodia Town. Phnom Pich Jewelry owned by prominent Cambodian-US businessman and political leader Charles Song is among them.
Song is a former president of the Cambodian Jewelry Association of Southern California.
Long Beach is a city within the Los Angeles metropolitan area and is host to the largest population of Cambodians in the US. Many of the Khmers that have settled are former refugees or descendants of people who escaped to the US at the height of the Cambodian Civil War.
There are currently more than 320,000 US Cambodian living in the country, 20,000 of which are residents of Long Beach.
A post on the Cambodia Town Facebook page said that more than 30 volunteers joined Long Beach Vice Mayor Dee Andrews yesterday in cleaning 17 businesses damaged by looters. Images posted on social media showed many of these businesses emptied and heavily damaged as a result of the violence. One that appears to be a restaurant had its glass walling smashed to bits.
“I’m so sorry that our community once again is affected by this. The Rodney King riot was the one I remembered and it was devastating,” a Facebook user named Kim Vironsak wrote.
The United Cambodian Community (UCC) of Long Beach described the looting and other violent acts as “heartbreaking”.
“As we survey the damage in our Cambodia Town and seeing all the hurt and destruction of our small family businesses is heartbreaking,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.
“This violent behaviour will not deter us from working together to rebuild our vulnerable community,” it added.
To help the businesses affected by the violence, the UCC has organised a GoFundMe fundraising campaign called “Cambodia Town Business Relief Fund”.
UCC has developed into a multi-service agency providing youth development, workforce development, gang prevention and mental health services to address the changing needs of the growing Cambodian population in Long Beach.
According to its website. UCC is led by Executive Director Susasa Sngiem, “Cambodia Town Business Relief Fund will support Cambodia Town businesses affected by the looting this past weekend,” a statement accompanying the funding drive said.
The UCC said it will provide micro-grants and business counselling to all affected businesses through its Cambodia Town Business Centre.
“We currently serve more than 70 minority-owned small businesses in Long Beach by providing one-on-one business counselling through our business navigator and business workshops on access to capital and other capacity buildings,” it said.
“All funds will be allocated directly to businesses and UCC will leverage other funds to multiply the resources,” it added.
So far, more than $10,000 has been raised out of the $50,000 goal.