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Obituaries

Ex-Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea dies at 93

Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's right hand man of the Khmer Rouge regime, sits in the dock during his first public appearance at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh February 2008.   © Reuters

PHNOM PENH (Kyodo) -- Nuon Chea, who was the chief ideologist and No. 2 leader of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, died Sunday, according to his daughter. He was 93.

Neth Pheaktra, press officer at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, confirmed that Nuon Chea, who suffered a number of health issues, died in the evening at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, a public hospital in the capital Phnom Penh.

He was on July 2 transferred from the court's detention center, where he had been held since 2007, to the hospital for medical treatment, Neth Pheaktra added.

In 2010, Nuon Chea, along with Khieu Samphan, former head of state of the Khmer Rouge, were charged with a series of crimes committed during the Maoist-inspired regime's 1975-79 reign of terror that left more than 1 million people dead.

On Aug. 7, 2014, the Trial Chamber of the ECCC found both men guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced them to life in prison. The sentences were upheld on appeal in 2016.

In November 2018, the same tribunal convicted them of genocide and other crimes against humanity, sentencing them to life in prison. In July this year they both appealed their life sentences.

Since the hybrid court's inception in 2006, it has tried and convicted only three Khmer Rouge figures, the third being chief jailer Kaing Guek Eav.

Born Lao Kim Lorn in 1926, he went to Thailand in 1942 to study law at Bangkok's prestigious Thammasat University, where he became a member of the Thai Communist Party.

In 1960, he was appointed deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, the No. 2 position behind Pol Pot. He retained this position and his membership in the CPK's Standing Committee throughout the period of Democratic Kampuchea, the name of the Khmer Rouge-controlled state, from 1975 to 1979.

Nuon Chea remained with the Khmer Rouge until reaching a deal with Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1998. The de facto surrender allowed him to live in Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold near the Thai border, until his arrest in 2007.

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