As the US presidential race heats up, Cambodians in the US say they are ready to vote, and urged their fellow expatriates to do the same.
"The election in America this year is very important, because it can not only change the domestic economy but the world's," said Uong Rithy, who served three terms as a city councilman in Lowell, Mass. "It is also important that more Cambodian-Americans participate in politics so they can draw the attention of American politicians to Cambodian communities and Cambodian issues."
The US presidential election, which will be held in November, pits US senators John McCain and Barrack Obama in a race of historical importance.
Obama is the first black candidate for a major political party, and the election comes as the US economy is faltering and a war in Iraq continues.
Teng Vanak, a US-Cambodian from Lowell and supporter of the Democratic Party, said recently she has registered to vote for the past ten years. A win for Obama will be a good sign for US diversity, she said.
"If he wins the election, it will be a green light for other diversity groups, including Cambodian-Americans and Latino-Americans born in the US, to compete for the presidential position," she said. "Here is a land of hope and a land of opportunity. I wish for many Cambodian-Americans to come out to vote more this year, so that we can empower our Cambodian community in Lowell and other places in America. I think it is very important."
Another Cambodian in Lowell, Chea Vicheavy, who supports the Republicans, said she hoped a win for McCain would draw more attention to Cambodian issues.
McCain is a veteran pilot of the Vietnam War who was a prisoner of war.
"I think that if John McCain succeeds in the election competition, he will be interested more in Cambodian issues, because he used to go to Cambodia and he used to fight in the Vietnam War," Chea Vicheavy said.
Not all Cambodians in the US will be able to vote. Livan Yary, a recent immigrant to Lowell, said he did not yet have the right to vote, but he said the elections in the US were much different than Cambodia.
"I always see the election campaign in Cambodia mixed with violence and cheating," he said. "It is not a kind of standard of democracy. But the election campaign in America is not like that. The election in America is safer and has more democratic standards. The election in Cambodia is just cheating international eyes."