The recent death of US Senator John McCain became a source of political rhetoric this week as Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) leader Sam Rainsy praised the late politician as a “great defender of liberty”.
Ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan fired back shortly that Rainsy was a “puppet of the imperialist” and called McCain a criminal for his active duty in the Vietnam War.
Paying tribute to the US legislator last week, Rainsy made three separate Facebook posts mourning the leader.
“He was, in my eyes, the perfect example of a man of principle. I owe John McCain an eternal debt for having supported the cause of democracy in Cambodia in its darkest moments,” he wrote.
Citing the former opposition’s links to the US’ International Republican Institute (IRI), Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Eysan said McCain was a “mastermind” behind training Khmer rebels to undertake a “colour revolution” in the Kingdom.
“The expression of convicted Sam Rainsy and outlawed Khmer rebels toward the death of John McCain obviously show that they are willing to be the puppets of world imperialists as they regarded John McCain as their hero and an outstanding democratic person,” he said.
He continued that while McCain was a soldier in the US Air Force in the 1960s, he was responsible for dropping bombs on innocent Vietnamese people.
After being shot down in 1967, McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years.
“Therefore, John McCain is an imperialist and a criminal for killing Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War and a violator of international democracy."
“As far as Cambodia is concerned, John McCain is a mastermind of the IRI, training Khmer rebels to organise a colour revolution aimed at destroying peace, political stability and democracy in the Kingdom,” he said.
Weighing in on the issue, political analyst Hang Vitou said both men were entitled to political opinions.
“If Sam Rainsy believes he [McCain] is a hero, maybe he has his own reasons. The CPP thinks that Sam Rainsy is a criminal and it has its reasons. I will not argue which side is right or wrong."
“But if we look at John McCain, an important figure who worked for American interests, he tried to share and promote democracy,” he said.
Regardless, Vitou said there should not be insults fired at those passed away.
Paul Chambers, a political analyst and international affairs adviser at Thailand’s Naresuan University, said: “Sok Eysan is simply spouting deceptive propaganda when he calls the late John McCain a mastermind of Cambodia’s opposition to Hun Sen.”