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US to Cambodia and Malaysia
Sep 5 - 18 2019 Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur
In September, ACYPL sent a 6-person delegation to Cambodia and Malaysia. Comprised of a state legislator, a mayor-elect, a deputy state attorney general, and government affairs professionals, this bipartisan group navigated national and local governments across Southeast Asia. This marked the first ACYPL delegation to Cambodia, with support with ACYPL Cambodian alumni and the US Embassy – Phnom Penh. In Malaysia, the group was hosted by longtime program partner, the KL Society.
Prior to departure, the delegation enjoyed a robust briefing day in Washington, DC, meeting with officials from the US State Department, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in addition to the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Malaysia and the Cambodian Ambassador to the US. The opportunity to explore both the governmental and academic perspective on US-Cambodian and US-Malaysian relations was an excellent primer for the delegates.
In Cambodia, the delegation explored the contrast between urban Phnom Penh and rural Siem Reap, meeting with national and local government officials. In between discussions on elections and the legislative process at the National Assembly of Cambodia and the National Election Committee, the delegation also met with representatives from political parties, grassroots political groups, agricultural institutions, and human rights organizations. Of notable impact was an in-depth discussion on Cambodia politics and political parties with a member of the Grassroots Democratic Party, leading to a finer appreciation of the ease of running for office in the US. Time with the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was an informative glimpse into Cambodia’s history and progress recovering from human rights tragedies decades earlier. In addition, an excursion to Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples was a highlight for the group.
The program in Malaysia spanned the state of Melaka and capital city Kuala Lumpur. Highlights in Melaka were a visit to the State Assembly and the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum to better understand the cultural and ethnic dynamics of the state. In Kuala Lumpur, much time was spent at the Parliament of Malaysia, meeting with elected members from three different political parties and ACYPL alumna Bee Yin Yeo, the Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change. The delegation also gained a better understanding of journalism in Malaysia with visits to The Star newspaper and a local radio station.
Overall, this delegation relished the opportunity to experience government and culture in two very different Southeast Asian countries. Reflecting on the exchange, one delegate remarked, “Words fail me when I consider how amazing this opportunity was. I feel like the curtain was pulled back on an entire part of the world I’ve never learned about…It inspires me to be more curious and to dig even deeper.”