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Chea Sim, Major Political Figure, Dead at 82

Supporters of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party dance under portraits of the party leaders, from left, Chea Sim, Hun Sen and Heng Samrin, during an election campaign in Phnom Penh, file photo.

Officials have confirmed that Chea Sim, the president of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, has died after a long battle with illness.

Chea Sim, 82, was the head of the Senate, the head of his party and served as interim leader of Cambodia in the early 1990s, before it became a constitutional monarchy.

He had been a member of the Khmer Rouge, along with Prime Minister Hun Sen, but both men fled the country and returned with the backing of Vietnamese troops to oust the regime in 1979.

Chea Sim died at his home on Monday afternoon. The cause of death has not been announced. His chief bodyguard, Yim Leang, confirmed his death, but declined to comment further.

“He was very old,” Oum Sarith, secretary-general of the Senate and close aide to Chea Sim, told VOA Khmer. “He passed away because of old age.”

The Senate has established a committee to handle Chea Sim’s funeral, Oum Sarith said. “He was an important Cambodian leader, who, along with other Cambodian leaders, helped Cambodia get out of its genocidal regime, the Khmer Rouge.”

Hun Sen is expected to take over presidency of the CPP.