The ZIN team
The DP Community
How many people do we need for each tour?
We organise tours with a minimum of 4 guests. If there are less than 4 guests booked on your chosen tour, we will charge an additional fee. Please get in touch with us for more information.
Who will be our group leader on the tour?
All trips are accompanied by a ZIN group leader who is trained in group dynamics and the rich history and culture of each tour destination. Your ZIN leader will be one of the founding members of ZIN and is keen to deliver a unique and enjoyable journey for you. Your leader will provide little known information about the places you’re going, offer suggestions for things to do and see, as well as recommend excellent local food options. Through the team’s self-directed training and lift experiences, we have learned a lot we’d love to share with you!
What language will the tours be in?
All tours are provided in English however, the team can also speak Khmer.
Can I tailor my package and itinerary?
Yes - absolutely! Please contact us to discuss your requirements.
The ZIN Team
Buck, Philadelphia, PA
What has ZIN done for you?
ZIN has given me the opportunity to be an owner and shareholder of a company that brings the DP community together. It has given me a chance to create job opportunities for us and for local Khmers.
What do you think the community could contribute to Cambodia over the next 20 years?
In 20 years we will be the mentors and role models for Cambodia. We would be teaching Cambodians about dreaming big and turning dreams in reality.
Bobby, Long Beach, CA
What were your first thoughts when you touched down in Cambodia?
I thought I’d landed on Mars - the people, the land and homes were so different and it was so hot and dry.
What makes ZIN unique and different from the other tours?
Our stories. The history we share with our guests has a lot to do with the Khmer Rouge and our history as refugees. It’s also original because it’s a way to support our community and work alongside locals too.
Looney, Long Beach, CA
What have you done for ZIN?
I’ve gathered stories from elders through oral histories and perfected the Khmer folktake about A Neak Tha - the protector of a large region of Cambodia.
Khan, Stockton, CA
What goals do you have from yourself?
A house with a stable job and to adopt a kid.
Kasper, South LA, CA
What makes ZIN unique?
Touring with the past Kings and warriors.
What is the most surprising thing about Cambodia?
I’m not a minority anymore, but in some kind of way I am.
The DP Community
Were Cambodian deportees without their immigration documents in the United States? Is that what made them deportable?
In general, Cambodian deportees had all proper documents to immigrate as refugees to the US. We were considered “Legal Permanent Residents”.
In the 1970s-1990s, approximately 260,000 Cambodian refugees were settled outside of Cambodia. Our full story of the refugee exodus has yet to be told and is one of the driving forces behind ZIN. Many of us trace our personal stories back to Site 2, Khao I Dang and Phanat Nikhom and other refugee camps. Many of us were born in the camps so many of us don’t see ourselves as being “returned” to Cambodia because we were born in camps outside of Cambodia.
If you had your documents, what laws or policies make you deportable?
A series of changes in the 1990s made us deportable. Two policies: Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IRAIRA) 1996 signed into law by President Clinton and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) tightened immigration restrictions especially for foreign nationals with criminal convictions. Together these laws expanded categories of crimes that led to mandatory deportations. They also removed a judge’s ability to use judicial discretion when sentencing. The third piece of policy that had severe impacts on the Cambodian American refugee community is the US-Cambodia repatriation agreement in which under pressure of sanctions by the US government, Cambodia agreed to accept repatriated Cambodians from the US.
Can the ZIN team or other deportees return to the US?
At this time, there is only one case in which a community member has been permitted to return to the US. We will hold on to hope and work through our community advocacy group, 1Love Cambodia.
So, if their parents pass away in the US they cannot attend the funeral?
Right. There is no precedent for one of us to return to the US for events such as funerals or to see our children or to attend to the ill health of loved ones.
Can’t you just get married to a US citizen and return to the US?
No. We are essentially deported for life. So many of us see this as unjust because all of us have served out our sentences and have paid our debt to society but cannot return to the place we called home.
What happens when you arrive in Cambodia?
We have many different arrival stories. In the past, we were processed at the Immigration office near the airport. But a recent change made it so we are processed by an NGO and Cambodian officials meet us there. Also in a recent change, the Cambodian government has committed to getting us our necessary documentation on arrival. This process in the past took weeks, months and sometimes years for our community.
Are you allowed to bring anything with you on the flight?
Technically, yes, one small bag. However, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will sometimes move us so quickly between detention centers and without giving our loved ones notice. This results in our families not knowing where to send items or our packages going to the wrong facility. So, many of us arrive with only the clothes we have on our backs.
Is there anything good about deportation? Like is it a start of a new life?
There are good things about being in Cambodia and not having to watch our backs in the ways we used to. But there is nothing good about deportation.
How successful has the “DP” community been in Cambodia?
We can point to many success stories in our community. Two of our brothers run one of the most positive spaces for youth in the country. Some of our community members are leading viable businesses, others are top level management in local companies. We can count among us one of the top performing marketing professionals in the country. Our community helped launch one of the first harm reduction NGOs in Cambodia and before the formalization of that, our community was doing grassroots outreach to sex workers and those struggling with addiction. Still others are contributing hundreds of volunteer and paid hours to local NGOs. And we are very proud of the tens of thousands of hours our community members spend each year teaching Cambodian youth.
Even still this doesn’t mean that all is well. Our community struggles to maintain overall health and wellness. ZIN looks forward to creating community spaces that improve the overall wellness in our community.