The fifth-highest ranked member of the Cambodian People’s Party’s politburo, Say Phouthang, an influential member of the country’s government in the 1980s, died yesterday while receiving treatment in Bangkok.
Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed the 96-year-old’s death in a Facebook post calling Phouthang one of the CPP’s “main heroes who sacrificed everything to liberate the country from the Khmer Rouge regime”.
According to historian Margaret Slocomb’s The People’s Republic of Kampuchea – which details the regime which ran Cambodia in the 1980s – Phouthang fought French colonial forces as a Khmer Issarak commander before receiving training in Vietnam.
He returned to Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge, but was among the first to rebel against Pol Pot, Slocomb writes.
Following the Khmer Rouge’s toppling, Phouthang was “unarguably the most influential leader of the PRK” though the party elder’s influence began to wane as the decade continued and powerbases surrounding Hun Sen and late party president Chea Sim grew stronger.