Cambodian supporters of John McCain were left upset Wednesday, as his opponent, Barack Obama, won the next US presidency. Obama supporters, meanwhile, celebrated.
"I appreciate Barack Obama's win in the election, because he was determined to eliminate the American and global economic crisis, and strengthen peace in the world," said Sary Phirum, a 25-year-old university student.
She hoped the relationship between Cambodian and the US would improve under Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, and the administration would support education and democracy, "especially the poverty Cambodia has met."
Her support of Obama was tempered by the dejection of others who had hoped for McCain, who has particular importance in Cambodia thanks to his Vietnam War record and attention to Southeast Asian issues.
"I am very pitiful and regretful for John McCain's losing the White House," said Seng Rithy, 36, a staff member at an import-export company. "His loss of the White House is the loss of the man with experience in politics, economy and security for the United States and the world, because John McCain has the war experience in the history of Vietnam, especially the history of struggle of arms and opinion in the US senate and the military."
Ang Chanrith, president of the advocacy group Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights, said he was "very disappointed" at the loss of McCain.
"If John McCain had won the presidency, we think the respect of human rights and the freedom of the Kampuchea Krom people in south Vietnam would have been improved," he said. "John McCain has the war experience and experience in Vietnam, and he knows the Kampuchea Krom plight."
Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he would have preferred McCain.
"Barack Obama really has lower experience than John McCain, but when Barack Obama wins the presidency, he should really use his cleverness in political, economic and security affairs to lead the United States and the world to peace and prosperity."
There was little lamentation among foreign Obama supporters Wednesday, as they gathered to watch the race results at Phnom Penh's Foreign Correspondents Club. Loud cheers and screams erupted as Obama's victory—with 338 of a needed 270 electoral votes—was announced.
"We were expecting this, but to see it actual happen is a dream come true," said an elated Matt Grieger, an employee at a construction company. "Moving on after eight failed years of failed economic policy [and] the Republicans, we're now moving in the right direction, a new direction. It's all hope and change from here."