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‘Freedom Fighter’ Leader Sentenced to Life

Cambodian officials on Wednesday welcomed the US life sentence of a man who organized an armed attack on Phnom Penh in late 2000.

Chhun Yasith, the head of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday, following his 2005 arrest in Long Beach and subsequent guilty verdict in 2008.

The attack, involving about 50 men in what the government labeled a coup attempt, left four CFF members dead and 14 people, including security forces and civilians, wounded.

In a statement to reporters Wednesday, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong hailed the sentencing as a “decision to eliminate terrorists.”

Chhun Yasith was a naturalized US citizen who fled Cambodia as a refugee in 1982. A Long Beach accountant, he worked to form the Cambodian Freedom Fighters and helped in planning the November 2000 attack from his office in the US and later from Thailand.

He was charged under US laws that prohibit the orchestration of violence against a US ally. He was arrested after years of pressure from the Cambodian government, which became a willing friend in US efforts to curb terrorism in Southeast Asia.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak told VOA Khmer Chhun Yasith was considered a “terrorist leader” and that the 2008 guilty verdict and Tuesday’s life sentence “provided justice, not only for Cambodians, but for people around the world.”