A number of Cambodian Muslims welcomed news that Osamba bin Laden was killed in Pakistan Monday, and some said they hoped it would improve religious rifts that followed the terror attacks in the US nearly a decade ago.
US President Barack Obama confirmed bin Laden’s death at the hands of an American strike team late Sunday night on the East Coast, as huge crowds gathered in jubilation in front of the White House in Washington and at Times Square and Ground Zero in New York.
The announcement came Monday morning in Cambodia, which has been a willing ally in US counter-terrorism efforts since 9/11 and after it was discovered a major Southeast Asian terrorist leader, Hambali, found haven here in 2003.
Cambodian Muslims have said in the years since they felt unfairly stigmatized, despite some US efforts to engage the community, particularly through radio programs and diplomatic efforts.
Les Sos, a 37-year-old Muslim living in the Russei Keo district of Phnom Penh, said he hoped bin Laden’s death would mark an end to the fear of terrorist attacks around the world and reduce violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
He also said he hoped it would mean a “stronger belief in each other” among Muslims and those of other faiths.
“The threat of terrorist acts under the leadership of Osama bin Laden can be reduced or eliminated,” said Rorni Atam, 26, a Muslim student at Preah Kussomak University. “With the architect of terrorism and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden dead, his organization will fade.”
Sun Dara, 23, said he worried the killing would bring on retributive strikes from Al Qaeda, which has not been eliminated.
Chhith Tok, a 24-year-old student, called the killing “real justice” for the terror acts committed under bin Laden’s banner.
The killing marked “a victory for the United States and the world for advancing peace and prosperity,” he said. “I think that the terror war happened greatly in Osama bin Laden’s time, but after Osama bin Laden’s death, the terror war will be reduced toward a low level.”
Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the loss of bid Laden would weaken global terrorism. “I hope that the United States will increase its respect of human rights more and more,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, head investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the US had restricted some freedoms in the wake of bin Laden-led terror attacks. With bin Laden’s death, he said, “I think the United States will largely reopen people’s rights and freedoms.”