Proleung Khmer

Monday, April 25, 2005

New Year Parade in Long Beach

On April 24, 2005, the Khmer in Long Beach celebrated the Khmer New Year for the first time with a parade. It was a controversy when the organizing committee selected April 17, 2005, the darkest day of Khmer history with the take over of Cambodia by the radical Khmer Rouge that led to the killings of 1.7 million Khmers. After a public outcry, the parade was rescheduled.

Please click on COMMENTS below for more.


  • Long Beach Press Telegram
    Monday, April 25, 2005

    Parade appears successful
    Cambodian community catches its breath

    By Greg Mellen, Staff writer

    LONG BEACH - Sweety Chap was exhausted on Monday. After participating in
    Sunday's inaugural Cambodian New Year's parade, Chap was still soaking in
    the satisfaction of the event's outsized success and probably soaking his
    sore feet as well.

    That's because Chap spent a good part of Sunday bouncing down Anaheim
    Street shaking hands and exchanging "happy New Years" with many of the
    thousands of residents and onlookers lining the sidewalks.

    "My body is sore all over," Chap said.

    By most accounts, Sunday's event was a big hit. Given the animosity the
    parade engendered when it was first proposed, that was no small feat. "This
    is one of the best things I've ever been through," said Charles Song,
    chairman of the finance committee for the parade.

    "I, myself, was crying (at the parade)," Song said. "After all the
    hardships, this was one of the best days of my life."

    Although the final costs and fund-raising numbers were not in, Song said
    the committee had "pretty much covered" the bill.

    The main expense is $16,000 to $20,000 that goes to the city to stage and
    staff the event, according to David Ashman, manager of special events and
    filming for the city.

    Among the costs for staging the parade were paying for 29 police officers
    for traffic and crowd control, 20 public works employees and a fire

    The committee also paid for T-shirts for 300 volunteers, printing, postage,
    building floats and assorted other costs.

    Tim Lee, a staffer for 6th District Councilwoman Laura Richardson, whose
    office spearheaded much of the parade effort, said the parade committee was
    on target to cover all its costs and may have already done that.

    Ashman, who attended the event, said the cost of the parade was in line
    with what it costs to stage the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade.

    Like organizers, he said the event was a big success.

    "You saw 5,000 or 6,000 people out there. That's a great positive," Ashman

    Less than three weeks ago, that kind of success seemed unlikely. When the
    event was first set for April 17 to coincide with the traditional Cambodian
    New Year's festival at El Dorado Park the day before it was met with major
    dissent. Because April 17 marked the 30th anniversary of the day the Khmer
    Rouge took over Phnom Penh and launched a four-year reign that killed
    hundreds of thousands, many in the community felt it was improper to stage
    a celebration on that date.

    Large divisions developed over the issue, with more 2,000 people signing
    petitions against the April 17 date.

    Eventually, a deal was brokered to push back the event by a week.

    Not all were completely mollified.

    Paline Soth, a member of the Killing Fields Memorial Task Force that
    spearheaded the protest of the initial parade date, said although he was
    happy to see the event's date change, he was disappointed parade organizers
    didn't apologize for the original date.

    "We never heard from the Cambodian parade saying what they did was wrong,"
    Soth said. "I just don't think they were sincere."

    Soth said he didn't attend, although he heard the parade went well.

    He said in future parades, although members of the Killing Fields Memorial
    Task Force would participate in the parade individually, he didn't see a
    role for the group as a whole.

    He says the task force's mission, which is to preserve a grim history,
    would be at odds with the celebratory nature of a parade.

    Chap hopes any residual pain can be soothed over the coming year.

    "The past is the past," Chap said. "We all need one another."[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:23 AM  

  • Cambodian immigrants celebrate New Year amid divide over Pol Pot

    - By PAUL CHAVEZ, Associated Press Writer
    Sunday, April 24, 2005
    (04-24) 14:30 PDT Long Beach, Calif. (AP) --

    The city's first Cambodian New Year Parade kicked off a week later than
    planned Sunday with youths clad in red and white ceremonial dance outfits
    pounding drums in a flowing rhythm and prayers from Buddhist monks.

    The parade drew more than 5,000 people who clapped and cheered as the
    procession made its way down a street dotted with Cambodian markets,
    restaurants and other businesses.

    The celebration was in marked contrast to the weeks leading up to the
    festivities when elderly Cambodian immigrants threatened to boycott it.
    They were incensed because the parade's original April 17 date coincided
    with the anniversary of the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime - the
    darkest chapter in their homeland's history.

    The matter was resolved when community members decided to hold a killing
    fields memorial on April 17 and New Year parade organizers agreed to
    postpone it a week beyond its traditional mid-April observance.

    The debate, however, exposed a generational rift among the immigrants who
    survived the reign of communist leader Pol Pot and Cambodians born in the
    United States who know little of that history.

    Students who organized the parade endured taunts when tension was at its
    peak, with elders calling them communists and students of the Khmer Rouge,
    and some parade supporters had their car windows smashed.

    None of that animosity was apparent Sunday as young and old lined the
    parade route.

    Parade watcher Kevin Seng, 16, said he came to the celebration to "show my
    pride" and to see his fellow Cambodians.

    Seng said he was born and raised in Long Beach, which has the largest
    concentration of Cambodians in the United States, but he also lost two of
    his grandparents in Cambodia under Pol Pot.

    "The people who grew up here don't really know what happened," Seng said.
    "They should know more about their history and how their family got here."

    Navy Phim, 30, marched at the front of the parade with the drummers and
    other members of the Cambodian Student Society.

    Before the parade, she bowed her head and put her hands together as eight
    Buddhist monks gave a prayer chant before 25 kneeling elders. The chant
    honored the estimated 1.7 million Cambodians who died under Pol Pot from
    execution, starvation, and overwork during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979

    The monks also blessed the parade, everyone there and prayed for peace in
    the world, said Buddhist monk Masarin Visophea.

    "The elders think we don't know our own history," said Phim, a graduate
    student at California State University, Long Beach. "But when we showed up
    at the memorial, they apologized. We understand. It's an emotional issue
    and sometimes people don't think logically."

    City Councilwoman Laura Richardson, who helped sponsor and plan the event,
    rode in a convertible down the parade route and said she saw people who
    initially opposed it cheering along with everyone else.

    "This is what culture is all about," Richardson said. "Learning about what
    is important to someone else."

    The parade will return next year, Richardson vowed, but she's not sure
    exactly when it will take place.

    "We know it won't be on April 17th," she said.[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:25 AM  

  • New Compromise Date
    For Cambodian Parade

    By Harry Saltzgaver
    Executive Editor

    A last-minute compromise brokered by Sixth District Councilwoman Laura Richardson will allow Long Beach’s Cambodian community to host a New Year’s parade — a week after the New Year celebration.

    The compromise was announced last Thursday night after more than two weeks of acrimony and controversy. Richardson’s office had helped organize the first-ever parade, and had set it for April 17, the day after the annual Cambodian New Year Celebration at El Dorado Regional Park.

    But April 17, 2005, also marks the 30th anniversary of the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge, the brutal regime responsible for the “killing fields” that resulted in the death of nearly 2 million Cambodians.

    That regime’s violence and suppression also is a major reason for the many immigrant Cambodians in the United States in general and Long Beach in particular. Those refugees protested the scheduling of the parade, while organizers thought that it was the only day the city would allow the parade to take place.

    Organizers attempted to change the emphasis of the parade from one of celebration of the new year to a memorial for those who died. But that idea didn’t sit well with opponents, who organized a protest at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting and at first refused to meet Thursday to consider the compromise.

    Richardson and the parade committee had met Wednesday night and agreed to move the parade back a week. Thursday’s meeting was designed to bring the community back together.

    “This community still has a long way to go,” Richardson said. “People need to understand that they still need to sit down and talk, even when things aren’t going their way. But the good thing is we found some common ground, and we are moving forward.”

    The Cambodian community is no stranger to splits and controversy. In the mid-1990s, trouble at the new year’s festival in El Dorado Park caused temporary cancellation of the event and a move by a splinter group to host a separate festival at Willow Creek Dam. The Long Beach festival has since been revived and now hosts more than 10,000 people.

    That festival will go on as scheduled this Saturday. It will include games, food and traditional Cambodian dance.

    Tickets for the fiestival are $20 per vehicle in advance and $30 at the gate. That does not include the $5 park entry fee.

    The only entrance to the festival is off of Spring Street near the 605Freeway. For more information, call 212-2889.

    The New Year Parade now will start at 11 a.m. Sunday, April 24. The parade will begin at Junipero Avenue and Anaheim Boulevard and travel down Anaheim through the heart of the Cambodian business community to MacArthur Park. Events are expected at the park, as well

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 AM  

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