Cambodians flock to village in Sungai Buloh

KAMPUNG Kubu Gajah in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, is a village with about 300 Cambodian familes, complete with a market and shops catering to the foreigners.

One of the residents Ta Sovan, 50, said he had been living in the village since 1985, adding that some families had moved in even before him.

Sovan said most of them were Cambodian Muslims, including his family.

He has been selected by the Malaysian authorities to be a representative of the Cambodian residents in the village.

Sovan is responsible for helping the residents solve domestic violence, renewing passports and seeking the aid of a legal adviser when they break the law.

His knowledge of Bahasa Malaysia also helps him in his work as an interpreter for the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia, where he helps to translate during meetings between Cambodian and Malaysian officials.

He is also responsible for teaching Cambodian maids arriving in Malaysia about the basic understanding of everyday words as well as how to live, work, and adapt themselves to Malaysia.

He said most people in the village worked in factories or as taxi drivers. Some, he added, sold agricultural products and other items at the market.

Sovan married his wife, Shamsiah, in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1984 before arriving in Malaysia.

The couple has seven children — two of whom are married.

The village has a row of about 20 shops built by the Malaysian authorities and rented out to the Cambodians for RM50 per month, excluding the water and electricity costs.

Shamsiah, who sells groceries at one of the shops, said there were not many customers during the week but it would be crowded at the weekend.

She goes to Kuala Lumpur often to buy supplies.

Other shops sell goods from Cambodia, especially food, clothes and magazines.

“People here still cook Cambodian food and wear Cambodian clothes,” said Shamsiah.

She said everyone still used the Cambodian language to communicate with each other, watched Cambodian TV programmes, read Cambodian magazines, and sang Cambodian karaoke songs.

“However, they have to know Bahasa Malaysia to communicate when they go outside the village,” she added.

Yosof Ahmad, 63, has been living in the village since 1981 and has changed many jobs.

He said when he first arrived, there were only four families in the village because the other families who came earlier had moved to another place after earning some money to start their own business.

Yosof said he had changed many jobs. “At first, I sold clothes that I bought from other markets and then switched to selling ice-cream.

“Later I worked as the market security guard and then became a Cambodian representative for the village in 1984 until 2010,” he said.

He now sells groceries, sausages and clothes, mostly sarong.

Man Kilab, who has been living in the village since 1980, fled Cambodia in 1979 after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

He spent a year in a refugee camp in Thailand before arriving in Malaysia.

The taxi driver said in Malaysia, he could earn money in whatever he did.

“If you are not lazy you can save some money for the future,” he said.

Even though these residents are no longer living in Cambodia, most of them still take an interest in what is happening in their homeland.

Sovan said he and his family visited relatives in Battambang province, Cambodia, at least once a year.

He said he kept in touch with the situation in his homeland through the Internet and watching Cambodian TV channels via a device they bought from Cambodia.

His wife added that she would buy Cambodian karaoke songs, and magazines when she returned from Cambodia and sold them in the village.

Sovan and his family will go to Cambodia again at the end of this year.

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