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Phnom Penh’s family expands

A view of Lowell city and the Merrimack River in Massachusetts in 2009
A view of Lowell city and the Merrimack River in Massachusetts in 2009. Lowell and Phnom Penh are set to become sister cities next week. CREATIVE COMMONS

Phnom Penh’s family expands

Cambodia's capital city is expecting a younger sister next week.

Flying in from the United States, officials from Lowell, Massachusetts, will next week sign a “sister city” agreement with Phnom Penh. But sibling rivalry is not a concern for Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman, Long Dimanche.

“The city is happy to have Lowell as a sister city,” Dimanche said yesterday. “We anticipate meeting [Lowell city officials] next week.”

Lowell, Massachusetts’ fourth-largest city, boasts the second-largest Khmer community in the US, the city’s website says. Of Lowell’s more than 100,000 residents, 12.5 per cent are from Cambodia or of Cambodian descent, according to the US’s 2010 census. Long Beach, California, has the largest Cambodian-American population in the US.

The family resemblance is evident. Phnom Penh is the capital of a country in which garments are the largest export, while Lowell saw its heyday during the American Industrial Revolution of the 19th century as a textile mill town. However, Phnom Penh is centuries older.

Lowell Mayor Rodney Elliott and Sovanna Pouv, executive director of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, are among the eight-person delegation travelling to the Kingdom’s capital, according to The Lowell Sun.

The sister city agreement will come the week after Rady Mom, the first Khmer-American legislative representative, was sworn in at the Massachusetts State House on Wednesday.

“The US Embassy in Cambodia would welcome a sister city agreement between Phnom Penh and Lowell, which is home to a large and active Cambodian community,” Courtney Woods, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, said in an email yesterday.

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