More than three decades ago, war began to separate Cambodian people as they fled their home country and found new homes around the world, creating what is today called the Cambodian diaspora.
While families and friends have found various ways to reconnect since they departed from their homeland, the internet has created a new platform for Cambodians around the world to not only connect with their friends, but to connect with complete strangers and start a dialogue about issues and events that relate to Cambodians throughout the diaspora.
While there are a number of sites that encourage Cambodians to connect over the web, including khmerconnection.com and sabay.com.kh/talk, the most comprehensive and widely used platform for Cambodians to engage with one another is angkorone.com.
Angkor One claims to be a global Khmer online community that brings together Cambodians to “unite, inspire and share” in order to build up pride and resources for Cambodians everywhere.
“We want to reunite Khmer French, Khmer Australians, Khmer Americans and all Khmers as one race, Angkor One,” said Steven Kiriwuth Path, the founder and chief executive officer of angkorone.com, adding that he hopes to eventually bring together one million users on the site.
As a Khmer American himself, Steven Path understands how disconnected Khmers became when they moved overseas. “I never knew about Khmer celebrities. I knew only Britney Spears and watched only American Idol and American culture,” he said. “Our mission is to reunite Khmers all over the world and keep them up to date with
Khmer culture,” he said.
With nearly 10,000 members joining since its launch in 2009, Angkor One may have a long way to go to reach one million, but they are already the most used Khmer social networking portal in the world.
“With angkorone.com I have recently reunited with my long-lost friends from high school,” wrote Shawn Rath, a Cambodian living in America in an email to Lift. “I am able to interact with family, friends and businesses in Cambodia and worldwide. Together we can achieve, share new ideas and explore the world beyond what our eyes can see.”
Chheng Kannarath, deputy director of the Institute of Public Health, said that the Angor One forum, where members from different backgrounds come together to share ideas and comments on various topics, interested him the most. “It is beneficial and it gives me, as well as other users, more knowledge,” he said.
Considering that experts estimate that about one percent of Cambodia’s population uses the internet, it might be a while before social networking sites become a full-fledged phenomenon as they have in other countries, but Angkor One and other Khmer community sites have had a steadily growing number of people visiting their sites.
Perhaps a more immediate reality is creating a community over the phone, and last week Angkor One launched its mobile-phone application that allows users to connect to their site over the phone. However it happens, technology is bringing the Khmer diaspora closer together, and that is a good thing for everyone, at home and abroad.