My Quang Cao, a former officer in the army of South Vietnam and the father of U.S. Rep. Anh 'Joseph' Cao, has died in New Orleans at age 78, Cao's campaign said Thursday in a news release.

The cause of Cao's death on Wednesday was not listed but the statement said he had been battling diabetes, as well as post-traumatic stress syndrome resulting from his years as a prisoner following the fall of South Vietnam to the communists in 1975.

'Cao spent the next seven years shuffled between Communist 're-education' camps, where he was subjected to physical and psychological torture,' the statement said, adding that the congressman's mother, Khang Thi Tran, was allowed to visit her husband only four times a year.

Rep. Cao, R-New Orleans, came to the United States at age 8, having been sent by his parents as Saigon was falling. He did not see his parents again until 1991, after they moved to the United States, according to the statement.

Cao, an attorney, was elected the nation's first Vietnamese-American congressman two years ago.

A spokesman for Cao's Washington office said funeral arrangements for the congressman's father were pending.

The death comes as the younger Cao faces a tough re-election battle. Elected two years ago over indicted Democratic incumbent William Jefferson, Cao's chief opponent in the heavily Democratic district this year is state Rep. Cedric Richmond. Richmond has the backing of local and national Democratic leaders and has been endorsed by President Barack Obama.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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