Who were the Cambodian Freedom Fighters 1999 – 2001

Cambodian Freedom Fighters

The Cambodian Freedom Fighters were and to an extent still are an overseas sponsored terrorist organization trying to overthrow the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Most of their funding has come either from Khmer-Americans, or so called pro-democracy anti-Communist American citizens and groups. It was formed in 1999 in part to fill the vacuum created by the surrender of Ta Mok and the Khmer Rouge.

Background to the Cambodian Freedom Fighters

After the fall of Democratic Kampuchea and formation of the socialist Peoples Republic of Kampuchea, a rebel group was formed to overthrow them.

Despite being led by the Khmer Rouge the so called Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea was not only ultra-nationalist, but was perversely funded and led by ardent anti-communists.

These groups largely drifted away following the peace of 1993, with most throwing their lot with the royalist FUNCINPEC (link). FUNCINPEC would though lose out in the Cambodian Civil War of 1997. This led to the Cambodian Peoples Party becoming the sole governing party within the Kingdom.

In early 1999 the Khmer Rouge were also finally defeated, which meant that no rebel group could ally with them.

Formation of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters

The Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF; Khmer: ចលនាកងទ័ពសេរីជាតិកម្ពុជា) were founded in October 1998 by Chhun Yasith in Poipet near the Thai border. Tellingly the main offices of the group were in Long Beach, California. They were registered officially in the US as a political organization “to fight against communists to protect the interests of Cambodian people.”

In this respects they had similarities with the former Khmer Bleu, who fought against the former King Sihanouk.

They reported 500 members with the US, which is quite probable, as well as 20,000 in Cambodia. This is quite unlikely as even the Khmer Rouge at their end had but a mere few thousand.

Military attacks by the Cambodian Freedom Fighters

From its base in Poipet and fouled by soldier formerly aligned with FUNCINPEC, as well as the Khmer Rouge they tried to begin an insurgency.

Initially this consisted of dozens of poorly trained troops throwing grenades in Phnom Penh on the 24th November 2000 which left a number of people dead or injured and resulted in a number of arrests.

The next major attack courted one year later in Pursat when 4 improvised devices were set off, with no one dying and only limited damage being caused.

Fowling these attacks Chhun Yasith was jailed for life in absentia by Cambodia, but remained free in the US until 2008 when he was arrested. Despite claiming to be a “political prisoner” he was given life imprisonment without the chance of parole in Los Angeles.

Within the Kingdom 25 Cambodian Freedom Fighter ,members were found guilty of various crimes and sentenced for terms varying from 3-20 years. Among them were two prominent former Khmer Rouge commanders, Seng Narin and Tumlap Mil. They were not only sentenced to 16 years in prison, but also seriously harmed the “anti-communist” credentials of the group.

It is estimated that the group never had more than around 500 poorly trained militants.

Power behind the Cambodian Freedom Fighters

While never having been officially wound up the group for all intents no longer exists as a formal organization. They do though share much in common with modern opposition groups within and outside of Cambodia.

These include direct links with Sam Rainsy himself, as well as pseudo-anti-communism and xenophobia. This usually consists of accusing Hun Sen of being a “communist”, as well as anti-Vietnamese actions, sentiment and rhetoric.