Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea

PHNOM PENH: Khmer Rouge ‘brother number two’ Nuon Chea died on Sunday aged 93, a spokesman for the Cambodia tribunal where he was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity said.

“We can confirm that defendant Nuon Chea... passed away this evening on 4 August 2019 at Khmer Soviet Friendship hospital,” said Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the tribunal.

The cause of his death was not given but he had been in hospital since early last month.

Nuon Chea’s wife Ly Kim Seng said as she left hospital on Sunday that she was by his side until the “last breath”, and that his body would be taken to Pailin province for the funeral.

The reign of terror led by “Brother Number 1” Pol Pot left some two million Cambodians dead from overwork, starvation and mass executions from 1975 to 1979.

But Nuon Chea, considered the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologue, was not arrested until 2007. He and other senior members of the ultra-Maoist group were put on trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

The UN-backed court sentenced him to life in prison last year after he was found guilty of genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslim minority group.

His lawyers had informed the court that Nuon Chea would appeal, but prosecutors are now expected to ask the Supreme Court chamber to terminate his case following his death, according to a court official.

Nuon Chea and the sole surviving defendant on trial, Khieu Samphan, were previously handed life sentences in 2014 over the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in 1975, when Khmer Rouge troops drove the population of the capital into the countryside.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2019