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Gaining Support for the Cambodian People's Party in Long Beach, California

Sat, September 1, 10:00 to 11:30am, Marriott, Regis

Abstract

This paper will present findings from an interdisciplinary study conducted in Long Beach, California on the history and political structure of the Cambodian People’s Party Youth Organization (CPPYO); a formal transnational network of Cambodians in Australia, Canada, the European Union, and the United States which actively supports the current Cambodian ruling party (the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)), headed by Prime Minister, Hun Sen. In some respects the creation of the CPPYO is in keeping with a trend among developing countries to recognize and facilitate ties with their diasporas. However while most countries seek to harness the economic and human capital of their emigrants for development projects in the homeland, the CPP’s purpose in creating the CPPYO has been to 1) consolidate the political power of the ruling party by extending their patron-client networks and 2) weaken the opposition parties by interfering with and curtailing overseas economic and political support. Since the arrival of the first Cambodian evacuees to Long Beach in 1975, the community’s members have been actively engaged in the country’s political developments while steadfastly opposing the ruling governments, which include the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (aka the Khmer Rouge) and its offshoot, the CPP. Many of the Long Beach community’s leaders returned to Cambodia following the 1991 Paris Peace Accords to participate in the transition process to a democratic system and the first elections held in 1993. The existence of an organization which supports, rather than opposes, the current authoritarian government is a strikingly new phenomenon in Long Beach, the largest Cambodian community outside Southeast Asia. What economic, political, social, technological (in the form of social media), and generational factors have contributed to this dramatic shift in perspective? This paper traces the history of the CPPYO’s development in Cambodia and Long Beach, and considers the organization’s possible contributions to the deterioration of the democratic process in Cambodia.

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