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Cambodian Court Upholds Life Sentence of Former Khmer Rouge for Killing Western Tourists

A Cambodian court has upheld the life sentence of a former Khmer Rouge commander convicted of murdering three Western tourists.

A Phnom Penh appeals court judge (Um Sarith) said he sustained a 2002 verdict against Sam Bith because the former guerilla did not provide new evidence to reverse the decision.

The 73-year-old has been convicted of masterminding the abduction and murder of an Australian, a Briton and a Frenchman in 1994.

The backpackers were kidnapped by Khmer Rouge fighters when their train was ambushed on the way to Cambodia's southwestern coast. They were killed about three months after their abduction.

Thirteen Cambodians were killed in the train ambush.

Sam Bith did not attend the trial. His lawyer (Nou Chantha) says his client is seriously ill. He said they would discuss whether to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

Two other former Khmer Rouge (Nuon Paet and commander Chhouk Rin) are serving life prison sentences for their role in the killings.

The Khmer Rouge seized control of Cambodia in 1975 and launched an ultra-Maoist campaign to create a peasant society. Nearly two million people died from execution, overwork, starvation and disease under Khmer Rouge rule. Vietnamese troops pushed the group from power in 1979, but guerilla fighters continued to terrorize the country from mountain hideouts until the 1990s.