Beats and Rhymes: Corruption

Prach Ly in Cambodiatown. Photo by Matt Cohn

Whether it be in Wall Street, our presidential election or international politics, corruption is everywhere on both the micro and macro level. I wrote this poem after Cambodiatown ambassador and international hip hop artist Prach Ly asked me a few years ago to listen to seven of his new songs and write a poem in response.

"Corruption" is the poem that emerged after I listened to his words and the stories he told me about Cambodia. Ly told me tales of Cambodian corruption and also compared it to the corrupt local politics of Long Beach. "Power lies in the hands of few. Those who start wars never fight them." Ly's stories about the killing fields and the resulting Cambodian diaspora are reminiscent of genocides early in the 20th Century committed in Armenia, Germany and the unnamed.

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Bagdad, Cambodia, London,
bribery, extortion, embezzlement,
nepotism, money laundering, genocide..
How many have died?


From the Constitution to the
Industrial Revolution,
political executions, starvation.
Forced labor became the daily flavor
for Cambodians under the
Khmer Rouge regime..
Damn near 2 Million civilians
were killed in cold blood..
The Killing Fields filled
Cambodian Country sides..
This goes down worldwide.


Many elder Cambodians have been afraid to talk about the Killing Fields and what they saw in the 1970s. Prach Ly speaks for all of the ancestors that are too tired to talk. He stays busy lecturing and performing at colleges. Next week he's home in Long Beach hosting a movie premiere.

Chhay Bora and Kauv Sotheary are a husband-and-wife team that wrote, produced and acted in "Lost Loves," the first feature film about the Khmer Rouge with an all Cambodian cast. The story takes place during Pol Pot's reign of terror. Presently touring North American film Festivals, the film's buzz has already made it the first Cambodian film in 18 years to be submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration.

"Lost Loves" is screening in Long Beach on Monday, October 1st at the Art Theater on Fourth Street. After the film's screening, Ly will moderate a Q&A with producer/director Chhay Bora. Ly says this is the warm up for the upcoming Cambodiatown Film Festival.

Ly and his comrade Chad Sammeth have big plans for their community. Furthermore, in spite of the rampant corruption he sees, Ly remains an optimist. He says, "To tell the truth can't erase the past, but it can stop it from happening again." Poetry turns pain into medicine. This poem "Corruption" is about telling the truth so these atrocities won't happen again.

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