An unknown number of former Cambodian Freedom Fighters, living in states across the US, were angered by a court’s guilty verdict in the case of Chhun Yasith, but many of them are now afraid to speak out, a friend of the leader said Friday.
“I spoke to them, and they are fearful they can’t speak about anything,” Kim Narin said. “They say maybe one day [authorities] might come and knock on the door and arrest us like the Khmer Rouge did.”
A second Long Beach resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said the US trial of Chhun Yasith, who was found guilty earlier this month on charges related to an attack on the government in 2000, was politically motivated.
“I’m also afraid that US government is going to make some arrests of the CFF, and then we will see some big reaction from Cambodian Americans,” he said. “If only Yasith [is sentenced] there may not be much reaction.”
US federal court spokesman Thom Mrozek denied politics were behind the conviction, for which Chhun Yasith faces up to life in prison.
“We were not being pressured by the US government in Washington, DC, to do this,” he said. “We did this because we thought that it was an appropriate case to bring.”
Richard Callahan, Chhun Yasith’s defense lawyer, said Friday he was “greatly disappointed” with the trial result.
“The United States has prosecuted a man trying to save his suffering homeland 8,207 miles away,” he said in an e-mail. “This was a war by refugees from Cambodia against an oppressive Cambodian dictator. This was not a war against the United States.”
He plans to appeal the verdict, he said.
Chhun Yasith will be sentenced in September.