With US Midterm Vote, Massachusetts Cambodians Flex Local Power

LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS — For Cambodian American residents of Lowell, Massachusetts, the upcoming midterm vote is chance to voice concerns on a list of local concerns familiar throughout the U.S. — potholes, schools and housing costs.


Sreang Heng, the Cambodia-born owner of Heng Heng Auto Repair near Lowell’s Koumantzelis Park-Roberto Clemente Baseball Field, said potholes are taking a toll on his customers’ vehicles, which come to him with damaged tires and tie rods. While this means more work for auto repair shops like his, he’d rather not have it because of the social cost, especially to those who cannot afford to make all the repairs needed at one time.


“Most of them complain the spare parts are expensive because taxes are already included, so they bargain for the reduction of service charges,” said the 46-year-old who arrived in the U.S. in 2016.


Located on the Merrimack River, Lowell is 50 kilometers north of Boston. An early center of America’s once-thriving textile industry, Lowell has attracted European and Latin American immigrants since the 19th century. In the 1980s, Cambodian refugees fleeing civil war and the murderous regime of the Khmer Rouge began arriving. Today, the city of about 115,000 residents is nearly 25% Asian, home to the nation’s second-largest Cambodian community in America after Long Beach, California.


But in a city where minorities are close to the majority, according to U.S. Census data, white residents held most of elected positions until recently.


The change came when a coalition of Latino and Asian American residents filed a civil rights suit in 2017. Their attorney, Oren Sellstrom, argued Lowell violated his clients’ voting rights by electing officials on a citywide basis. The plaintiffs and the city settled in 2019, agreeing to establish districts that better represented the city’s diverse neighborhoods.


The changes in Lowell mirror those rippling through the U.S., which the Census has projected will have a population with a majority of minorities within decades. And the evolution of the Cambodian community as one that has progressed from nominal representation to exerting political power in the city and state is a path to assimilation well-worn by earlier immigrant groups.


Lowell now has eight districts, two of them with a majority of non-white voters. The city elected a Cambodian-born mayor, Sokhary Chau, in 2021. He took office in January along with two Cambodian American council members who were also born in Cambodia.

Mony Var, 56, is the first Cambodian to work for the Lowell Election Commission. In the 1990s, the city had 30,000 Cambodian residents, but only 123 Cambodians were registered to vote. Now, about 2,000 Cambodians are registered to vote. He said midterm and primary elections are as important for the community as the general election.


Mony Var, who arrived in the U.S. in 1980, said while voters may be disinterested in the midterms, “All elections are important. We must take the opportunity and fulfill the duty to vote in every election. Don’t only come to vote on the presidential election.”


The midterm focus of the Cambodian community on issues like potholes and schools suggests the validity of the oft-repeated maxim of U.S. life, “All politics is local.”


Sovann Khorn, who arrived in the U.S. from Cambodia via the Khao-i-Dang refugee camp in Thailand, runs a party-service business that also provides video and still photography for weddings, and dress rentals. The 57-year-old wants Lowell schools to crack down on students’ misbehavior and limit their video-gaming time.


Rodney Elliott, a former Lowell mayor and city council member, is a Democrat running to be state representative for the 16th Middlesex District against Republican Karla Miller. The district is home to many Cambodians.


Elliott, who is not Cambodian but who has visited Cambodia twice, said when he was mayor in 2014 he raised $300,000 for victims of a fatal fire, some of whom were Cambodians. He also commissioned a statue of Cambodian refugees for City Hall’s front yard.


Miller, a first-time office seeker, said there are few Cambodians in Chelmsford, her home base.


“I would love to reach out to the Cambodian community. … This is my first rodeo, so I don’t know a lot of people in different communities,” she said.


State representative for the 17th Middlesex District, Vanna Howard, 52, arrived from Cambodia in 1980.


In 2020, she was the first Cambodian woman elected to be a state representative in the U.S., motivated by “the need to give back to a place which has been so good to me,” according to her website.


Howard is running unopposed for reelection this year. She told VOA Khmer that voters ask her for help with a variety of issues, including unemployment, and improving schools, roads and bridges.


“And another one is housing,” said the Democrat. Lowell faces a housing shortage and the available options are expensive, she said, adding, “They want [my] help to keep prices on housing from going up too much, [to find] funds for housing.”


Insurance company owner Mony Var, 56, arrived in the U.S. in 1981 and now lives in the 18th Middlesex House District. He said local representatives “should listen to businessmen in the area to write high-standard business law that help local business[es] prosper and to bring in other businessmen to our area.”


Veteran state representative Rady Mom, 54, who arrived in 1982, is a Democrat and running unopposed after defeating two Cambodian-born challengers for the 18th Middlesex House District in the September 6 primary. According to U.S. Census data, the district population is about 41% white, 32% Asian, 17% Hispanic and 7% Black. Thirty-one percent of the residents are foreign-born.

John Cluverius, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, told the Boston public radio station WGBH before the primary that the race among three Cambodian-born candidates showed how the community was moving beyond just seeking representation.


“It’s not that this coalition and this community is fighting for its political existence anymore or its simple representation,” Cluverius told WGBH. “But, instead, you see a community that looks like any other community with political power, which is that the divisions within start emerging more, and so you start seeing challenges within that community to incumbent representatives in that community.”


Or as Rady Mom, who in 2014 became the first Cambodian American state lawmaker in the U.S., put it, “My role is listening to people, convey their messages. If I don’t work for them, every two years, voters can vote me out and pick my challenger. That is democracy.”


Source: Voice of America

Pheu Thai Party opposes land ownership by foreigners

The opposition Pheu Thai Party voiced its strong opposition today (Saturday) to the government’s plan to allow certain foreigners to buy up to 0.16 hectares (one rai) of land for residential purposes, hoping that the scheme will  boost foreign investment and spur the economy.


In its statement, the Pheu Thai Party warned that the foreign ownership of land will have extensive implications for the Thai people, at a time when many do not have a house or a piece of land of their own.


In the future, the party said that Thai people will have to pay more to buy land, because this policy of allowing foreigners to buy land in Thailand will lead to speculation.


On Tuesday, the cabinet approved an edict from the Interior Ministry, allowing certain qualified foreigners to buy up to 0.16 hectares in Bangkok, Pattaya and other municipalities and areas specified by law. The edict will be reviewed in five years.


Citing a similar edict issued in 2003, during the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of the Thai Rak Thai Party, predecessor of Pheu Thai Party, the party said that the two edicts were issued in contexts.


In the case of the Thaksin government, the opposition party explained that the administration was bound by several conditions imposed on Thailand by the International Monetary Fund, after the country accepted help from the IMF following the so called “Tom Yum Kung” financial crisis.


The current edict has, however, been issued by the government to address economic problems caused by the failures of the government itself, according to the statement.


Under the edict, foreigners who want to buy and own 0.16 hectares of land in Thailand must invest at least 40 million baht for three years in securities, real estate, infrastructure funds or trusts.


The Pheu Thai Party said that such investments will not help to create more jobs or generate more income for the Thai people, but will benefit the capital markets in the short term because, after three years, they will withdraw their investments.


Foreigners who will be able to buy the 0.16 hectares include wealthy global citizens, wealthy pensioners, highly skilled professionals and those who want to work from Thailand.


“Every Thai has the duty to protect the land for their children in the future, but this government has done the opposite,” said the party in its statement.


Other more nationalistic critics accuse the government of selling off the country.


In the USA, UK and the EU, among other places, there is no citizenship requirement for the purchase of land.


Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Thailand eases restrictions on import of cannabis or hemp seeds

A new edict has been issued by the Department of Agriculture to ease restrictions on the import of cannabis and hemp seeds.


Effective today (Saturday), cannabis and hemp seeds can be shipped to Thailand from abroad by air, sea or overland, instead of by air alone, as previously stipulated.


There is no longer a requirement for the seeds to be treated with fungicide and, hence, there is no need to specify the fungicide or the amount used in the disinfection process in the plant safety certificate.


Deputy Government Spokesperson Traisuree Traisoranakul said that other restrictions previously stipulated remain enforceable, such importers being required to apply for an import permit from the Department of Agriculture.


The cannabis and hemp seeds to be imported must not be genetically-modified and must be in clean containers, which are free from insects, other seeds, soil, plant or animal remains.


Most importantly, she said, the imported seeds must be accompanied by a plant safety certificate, issued by the national plant protection agency of the exporting country.


On arrival at Thailand’s ports of entry, the cannabis and hemp seeds will be subject to inspection, to ensure that they correspond with the information specified in the documentation, failing that the authorities are empowered to have the seeds destroyed.


Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Small embankment built to prevent overflows from Chao Phraya River

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s Department of Public Works hastily erected a small embankment today (Saturday), using asphalt and pebbles in three side roads off of the Rama III Road, to block overflows from the swollen Chao Phraya River from flooding roads and communities.


High tides, expected between October 26th and November 9th, are predicted to raise the level of the water in the river, causing water to spill into lanes 54, 52 and 56 off the Rama III Road.


The embankment is about 50cm high, which is sufficient to prevent flooding of the main road, residences and commercial areas around the three lanes.


City officials say that they could not use sand bags to block the three lanes, because they are frequently used by motorists.


Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service

Iveco Group N.V. announces successful signing of a euro 400 million syndicated term facility

Turin, 28 October, 2022. Today Iveco Group (MI: IVG) (the “Company”) has signed a euro 400 million syndicated term facility with Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Banco Santander, Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, Mediobanca – Banca di Credito Finanziario, Mizuho Bank, Rabobank, Société Générale and Unicredit as Bookrunners and Mandated Lead Arrangers.
The facility has a 2-year tenor extendable for up to an additional 12 months at the Company’s sole option.

The proceeds will be used to refinance the current term facility, ahead of the final maturity which would fall in January 2024.

This new facility confirms the firm support to Iveco Group from its key international relationship banks.

Iveco Group N.V. (MI: IVG) is the home of unique people and brands that power your business and mission to advance a more sustainable society. The eight brands are each a major force in its specific business: IVECO, a pioneering commercial vehicles brand that designs, manufactures, and markets heavy, medium, and light-duty trucks; FPT Industrial, a global leader in a vast array of advanced powertrain technologies in the agriculture, construction, marine, power generation, and commercial vehicles sectors; IVECO BUS and HEULIEZ, mass-transit and premium bus and coach brands; IDV, for highly-specialised defence and civil protection equipment; ASTRA, a leader in large-scale heavy-duty quarry and construction vehicles; MAGIRUS, the industry-reputed firefighting vehicle and equipment manufacturer; and IVECO CAPITAL, the financing arm which supports them all. Iveco Group employs approximately 34,000 people around the world and has 28 manufacturing plants and 29 R&D centres. Further information is available on the Company’s website www.ivecogroup.com

Media Contacts:
Francesco Polsinelli, Tel: +39 335 1776091
Fabio Lepore, Tel: +39 335 7469007
E-mail: mediarelations@ivecogroup.com

Investor Relations:
Federico Donati, Tel: +39 011 0073539
E-mail: investor.relations@ivecogroup.com


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