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The Accidental Terrorist: A California Accountant's Coup d'Etat (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition

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Length: 42 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews Review

Meet Yasith Chhun, the least likely of revolutionaries. As a young man, he was captured, enslaved, and trained by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, whose thugs killed his father. After escaping to the United States in the early 1980s and becoming a successful accountant (and polygamist) in Southern California, Chhun grew "doughy"--physically and, it seems, emotionally. He became a slight, soft man who wore thick glasses above his chubby cheeks. Then, at the age of 42, something clicked: Chhun decided his former countrymen deserved the freedom he had achieved. When diplomacy and protests failed, he turned to weaponry and force. Like a character out of a Graham Greene novel, the accountant became the "Thumb," the enigmatic head of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, whose guerillas Chhun recruited to join in his attempted coup of the Cambodian government. As told by former Newsweek correspondent Adam Piore, Chhun's story is that of a willful man haunted by survivor's guilt and by "the demons of his past." He is idealistic, headstrong, charismatic—and naïve. In 2000, dozens of Chhun's armed Freedom Fighters attacked the Ministry of Defense building and military police headquarters. Chhun, stationed at a secret base near the Thai border, waited to learn whether his small band of fighters had overthrown the government, which he hoped would soon need a new leader--himself. -–Neal Thompson

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Product Details

  • File Size: 141 KB
  • Print Length: 42 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: The Atavist (April 26, 2012)
  • Publication Date: April 26, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007Y6WYMU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,854 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Victoria K. on May 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In "The Accidental Terrorist," Adam Piore captivates the attention of the audience in the first chapter with a very specific account of an inexplicable and mysterious grenade attack. Piore sets up a vivid, peaceful scene in the city of Phnom Penhn in Cambodia on the evening of February 12, 1999 to contrast the actual state of upheaval and political discontent. He reveals a myriad of attacks--all building up on one another in intensity and violence--to expose the obscure revolutionary group behind these acts of rebellion: the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. Piore specifically brings to light the group leader,Yasith Chhun, the man who struggled to launch a revolution in Cambodia from his modest accounting office thousands of miles away in Long Beach, California.

I really enjoyed the way in which Piore zooms in on the drama of the Cambodian grenade attacks to get the reader into the political context, but then offers a background history on the personal life of Chhun. The childhood accounts of Chhun, particularly in Chapter 4, concerning the genocide, upheavals, youth camp, and the death of his father in the hands of Pol Pot's army are alarming and thought provoking. However, Piore also paints Chhun as a man entirely consumed with an extremist fervor motivated by freedom in America to single-handedly right the wrongs of his native country. The way in which Chhun draws inspiration primarily from American movies and views himself as a Moses-like savior figure bring to question the authenticity behind his obsessive idealism.
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By Jen on May 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"There is no such thing as a person who is completely good or completely bad."
- Shawn Hubler, Orange Coast Magazine.

In Adam Piore's "The Accidental Terrorist, the background of Yasith Chhun's life in Chapter 4 was the most compelling part to me because it chronicled his journey as a coerced anti-vietnamese guerilla fighter into an assimilated American who later earned his accounting license in Long Beach, California. Without the nut graph in this chapter, I wouldn't of engaged with the text or cared who Yasith Chhun was. The narrative painted a picture of an innocent man who established a successful life for himself but still felt the vengeful desire overthrow the Cambodian government, which Piore did a great job in making Chhun a dimensional person by adding anecdotes of Chhun watching films like Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan to mentally prepare himself for battle. Hershman's subjective take helped tell another tale of a disturbed man that established the Cambodian Freedom Fighters for his own personal benefit to be bigger than he really was. Although Chhun's intentions were good, his tactics inevitably labeled him a terrorist.
Author David Wolman's "The Instigators" discussed the evolution of Ahmed Maher's Egyptian revolution which began on Facebook, which according to Maher, was a great tool for mobilization of his movement called April 6 Youth [A6Y]. Chapter 3 dug deeper into the background of Maher as a young engineer, which helped humanize him by including moments of him reading comic books and developing a passion for political activism. Unfortunately, I felt emotionally unsatisfied after reading this narrative.
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"Democracy, capitalism, and peace" was all Yasith Chhun had wanted for his homeland. In order to recreate the American dream in Cambodia, Chhun had formed the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. The accountant from Long Beach had created a fighting force (along with other Cambodian-American refugees) meant to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government. What was meant to be a recreation of Washington's Potomac, Chhun and the CFFs had done nothing more than tint the walls of Cambodian communism. In "The Accidental Terrorist" Adam Piorre reports on Chhun's journey from accountant to combatant strategist and how Chhun's efforts had landed him in an American jail cell.

In traditional news stories readers can grasp the basics W's: when, where, what and why. Piorre goes beyond the traditional reporting and takes long-form non-fiction writing styles to unveil how Chhun's ambitions accidentally formed his figure into a terrorist. A majority of the story is told in chronological order in which we are able to see the oppression Chhun faced. Even with a peaceful life in America Chhun still thinks back to the days of trying to survive Pol Pot's idea of a collectivist agrarian utopia. His struggles drive him to form the CFF. Piorre even reports ideal figures Chhun sees himself channeling (such as Mel Gibson's role in Brave Heart and in Passion of Christ). What may seem like a tactic to allow readers to sympathize with the self-proclaimed messiah is balanced out by the other perspectives shared in the piece (US Attorney Brian Hershman). Through Hershman, Chhun's actions are justified as acts of terrorism. This is proved through the evidence Hershman's crew finds and what Piorre reports.

Overall, this piece is a model of what successful long-form journalism should be like.
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