Chea Sim, a key Cambodian political figure after the fall of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and an ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has died at age 82, the head of his bodyguard unit says. He had been in ill health for many years and hospitalized in recent months.

Chea Sim was president of the ruling Cambodian People's Party since it was formed in 1991, and president of the Senate since 1999. He became a revolutionary in the 1950s and like Hun Sen was a member of the communist Khmer Rouge when they seized power in 1975 after a civil war. Both men fled the group to join a resistance faction groomed by neighboring Vietnam, which installed them as Cambodia's new leaders after ousting the Khmer Rouge in 1979.