Cambodia Town business owners receive thousands in checks after May 31 vandalism, looting

A group of Khmer heroes ventured across the Anaheim Corridor. They didn’t wear capes, have laser vision nor could they fly. Their superpower? Pure kindness.

After Cambodia Town storefronts were vandalized and looted on May 31, following a peaceful protest, fundraising organizers brought joy to business owners with thousands of dollars of money to assist with financial hardships.

The Cambodia Town Relief Fund, originally organized by concerned resident Malyanne Bunma, raised more than $72,000 and organizers are handing out checks to 31 approved recipients who applied for the funds. The distribution of checks launched last weekend and continues to reach business owners whenever they’re available to pick them up.

On Thursday, organizers gave out six more checks. While the workers or owners wore masks, their smiles poked through. You could see it in their eyes. Some were surprised to receive the money, and others seemed to be overwhelmed with emotion, giving thanks in the palms-together Khmer way.

Malyanne Bunma, left, shows Serina Lim, right, a check to help with financial hardships in a parking lot outside the K-H Supermarket on July 16, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

Serina Lim and her husband, owners of Phnom Pich Jewelry, considered packing their bags to relocate their business to another city or close down completely after the May 31 devastation. She had a change of heart the next morning when friends, family and complete strangers united in cleaning up the affected areas, including her store.

“And I think that’s when I realized I need to stay,” Lim said, who took over her family’s business, which has been around for 30 years. “It’s why I fell in love with Long Beach. It’s why I’ve been here all my life.”

Lim was given a check for $7,050.

Giash Uddim, a worker at the A & Cherry Liquor Market, gazes upon an enclosed check passed along by organizers before signing for it on July 16, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

Recipients were evaluated based on their insurance coverage—if they had any—as well as the cost of replacing equipment and stolen merchandise and fixing property damages. In Lim’s case, looters ripped off the front door from the store’s building frame, pried open the metal bars, sledgehammered jewelry showcases and stole expensive tools.

Days after that night, Bunma and Monorom Neth, the executive director of the Midtown Business Improvement District, which oversees Cambodia Town, coordinated business outreach to streamline the funds to owners as soon as they could.

Rompo Chim from Roma Pizza thanks fund distributors, Richer San, left, and Sithea San, far right, after receiving a $3,000 check outside the restaurant on Anaheim Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on July 16, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

Bunma feels motivated to continue to help, joining forces with Neth and Sithea and Richer San from Cambodia Town Inc., who say they’ve been trying to help the Cambodian community for years.

In addition to the $72,000, the local nonprofit United Cambodian Community raised $28,000 more for the businesses through a separate GoFundMe.

“We know that if we work together, we can always make something happen,” Richer said.

Editor’s note: This story had been updated to include the additional amount raised by United Cambodian Community for impacted businesses.

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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