Khmer Post USA gala celebration

Nearly 300 people gathered last night at a community celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month sponsored by the Khmer Post USA, the Lowell-based Cambodian language newspaper that has circulation throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic states. Held at the Hong Kong Restaurant at 308 Westford Street in the heart of Cupples Square, the keynote speaker was the Honorable Sichan Siv, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and the author of Golden Bones, an account of his captivity and escape from the Killing Fields to a new life in the United States that took him to the White House and the United Nations.

Ambassador Siv began his remarks by describing last night’s event and AAPI Heritage Month as a “celebration of America” in which we all come from many into one but also that our greatest strength as a country is our ability to maintain our heritage. He next gave an autobiographical account of his life. His father died when he was young but his mother made sure he attended the top school in Cambodia. In 1969, Siv became a flight attendant which permitted him to travel around the world. In China, he saw the horrors of the Cultural Revolution but never imagined that in just a few years the same violence and brutality would consume Cambodia. That happened in 1975 when the United States was powerless to intervene in Southeast Asia as the Communists took control of Vietnam and Cambodia. Soon the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia and sought to eradicate all connections to modernity and the west which put anyone with education in peril. Siv’s mother persuaded him to flee. He did so on a bicycle with minimal provisions. After three weeks of cycling as he neared the Thai border, he was captured, almost executed, but sentenced to a labor camp. He finally escaped and made a harrowing journey into Thailand. There, it was incarceration in a refugee camp until he was permitted to go to the United States where he ended up in Connecticut. He worked in a series of entry level jobs – Friendly’s Ice Cream, New York City cabdriver – but eventually won acceptance to Columbia University where he obtained a Masters in Public Policy. Connections made there led him to the Reagen White House and a series of high level jobs in the American government under both Bush Administrations. Ambassador Siv closed by saying he was pleased to hear that Cambodian-Americans in Lowell are becoming involved in the political life of the community and ended with the advice to “be well, be wise, be worthy, be flexible, and always be able to adapt to difficult circumstances.”

Mayor Elliott presenting Key to City to Ambassador Siv

Lowell Mayor Rodney Elliott, after first making some remarks about the important role played by the Southeast Asian community in the city of Lowell, then presented Ambassador Siv with an official Mayoral Citation and a key to the city. Other elected officials in attendance at the event were City Councilors Rita Mercier, Corey Belanger and Bill Samaras; School Committee member Dave Conway; former City Councilors Rithy Uong, Vesna Nuon and Marty Lorrey; candidates for the 18th Middlesex District representative seat, Ratha Paul Yem and Rady Mom; and Lynn City Councilor Hong Net and Cambridge City Councilor and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Leland Cheung.

Roger Pin, Bill Samaras, Rithy Uong, Rodney Elliott, Soben Pin, Ambassador Siv, Corey Belanger, Rita Mercier, Dave Conway

The event also included an excellent multi-course dinner, music by Khemarak Band, traditional Cambodian dances by members of the Angkor Dance Troupe, a Community Service Award to Tim Thou, the founder of the Angkor Dance Troupe, and a fashion show of traditional Cambodian and Laotian clothing.

Attendees applauding Rita Mercier

2 Responses to Khmer Post USA gala celebration

  1. Linda Copp says:

    The Khmer Post Gala last night was a joyful and well attended event. Carol Carbonell and I were pleased to be there. It is fitting that the Mayor, himself, presented the Key to the City and a citation of recognition to this humble yet, courageous man, The Honorable Sichan Siv. It was also very fitting that others in our local government were also able to attend and share this celebratory time with the Cambodian people. Their presence was not lost on many of the guests who as always, so gracious themselves, were both pleased and happy to see our local leaders amongst them, a sign of respect for their heritage and their culture. One gentleman at my table was happy not only to see The Former US Ambassador Siv, but, Mayor Elliott and Council Woman Mercier, as well. He nodded and said, “Mercier, she is a very powerful woman!” I said “she is indeed, the number one votegetter! If you have a problem you call her.” He smiled.

    The life story of Sichan Siv is as compelling as it is inspiring. His fight to survive, his forbearance, his will to go on in the face of immense adversity as he struggled to leave the desolation and brutality of his captors behind and to ultimately succeed in America to become a United States Ambassador to the United Nations, is a profoundly stirring one. It speaks to the soul, the human spirit we all share and it moves us beyond what we think we can do, to do what we did not think possible. This intangible thing called, will, resides beyond the boundaries of hope as we know it and goes to a depth of yearning only true survivors of physical and emotional devastation can understand. The fact that so, many guests there in that room, last night have endured and suffered much the same kind of cruelties and anguish as Ambassador Sichan Siv and yet, have over come the monstrous things done to them is a profoundly moving testament to the indomitable spirit of this great and gracious people. I was happy to share in their joy and celebration.

  2. Vladimir Batrin, AccuCare Inc. says:

    Special thanks to Roger and Soben Pin for their extraordinary efforts in organizing such an amazing and inspiring events
    Great event and huge success