Vietnam veteran and presidential hopeful John McCain has reached out to Cambodian-Americans, saying that his experience of war has left him with a lasting connection to Cambodia.
“Revolution and war in Southeast Asia changed my life, and [those] of many Cambodian-Americans, for ever,” McCain said in a statement circulated on the Internet.
It is the first time a US presidential candidate has made a direct appeal to Cambodian-American voters, US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said Thursday.
McCain, who has been campaigning for the Republican Party nomination against Texas Governor George W Bush, is reportedly ready to withdraw from the race after suffering a series of primary election defeats.
The Arizona senator has made several visits to Cambodia and pushed for Senate resolutions condemning the 1997 grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy-led rally and the ouster of Prince Norodom Ranariddh as first prime minister later that year, events which he described as a coup d’etat. He is chairman of the International Republican Institute, a pro-democracy group active in Cambodia.
“I continue to work to shine democracy’s light on Cambodia and to advance the cause of human rights for the Khmer people,” his statement said.
“The struggle for democracy and human rights in Cambodia reminds us, as Americans, of all we celebrate here and at home, and all we must accomplish.”
The statement may have been prompted by accusations by McCain’s opponents charging him with being a “Manchurian candidate,” Wiedemann said.
The remarks, which appeared in a political e-mail column, alleged that McCain had been brainwashed during his time as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, and that he had become an agent of communists in Hanoi. A naval aviator and son of a high-ranking admiral, McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years captured by North Vietnamese troops. He spent five-and-a-half years in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” as a prisoner of war, where he was interrogated and tortured.