Arizona senator John McCain is no stranger to Cambodians. But will they know him as president? His reputation and experience have earned the senator a lot of attention from American voters, and many are convinced he will be next in the White House.
“Don’t tell me we cannot make our country stronger and the world safer,” he said recently, having secured the nomination of the Republican party to run for president. “We can. We must. And when I am president, we will.”
McCain’s messages of democracy hit home for many, and Cambodians remember his strong stance against the regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy called McCain a good man, and said he could push for the FBI to release a report on the 1997 grenade attack on opposition supporters, a report that has been mired in secrecy.
McCain was also likely to push for human rights, Sam Rainsy said.
“Mr. John McCain is a candidate who understands well the democratic process in Cambodia and always supports democrats in Cambodia,” Sam Rainsy said. “I understand that if Mr. John McCain becomes president, the US really will pay more attention to Cambodia than ever.”
Cambodians recognize him above the other two candidates, senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, said Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec’s secretary-general.
“He knows Cambodia very well and has a good connection with Cambodian leaders,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said.
Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep applauded McCain’s reputation and said he was the most likely to help people in Southeast Asia.
Chanly Kuch, a Cambodian voter in Maryland, said McCain may know about Cambodia, but he has not shown yet how his policies differ from the current president, George W. Bush.
Dr. Samuel Nuon, a Cambodian voter in Virginia, called McCain a hero of the nation.
“I believe he will continue to help protect Cambodian freedom,” Nuon said. “Frankly speaking,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, “in foreign policy, in intervening to help countries achieve democracy, freedom, to get out of dictatorships and communism, he has done a lot.”