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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Health issues continue to dog hearings at the Khmer Rouge court

Health issues continue to dog hearings at the Khmer Rouge court

Nuon Chea was discharged from the hospital yesterday following two-and-a-half weeks of treatment for acute bronchitis but ordered to rest completely for another two weeks, Khmer Rouge tribunal judges announced.

Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn abruptly interrupted yesterday’s document hearings near the end, stating that the judges had to confer.

After several minutes’ discussion, Judge Silvia Cartwright revealed that the 86-year-old co-accused – who had been released just hours earlier – would be unable to follow proceedings for another 14 days.

“Following a request for clarification, this was confirmed to be that he must rest completely – that he cannot follow from the holding cell,” Cartwright said.

The announcement was in marked contrast to orders given recently to co-defendants Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan – both of whom face health problems – to follow the past week’s proceedings remotely. Ieng Sary’s lawyers have repeatedly maintained that their client is not adequately alert to do so.  

In light of the update on Nuon Chea, judge Cartwright asked his lawyers to find out whether their client would waive his right to be present for a witness and a civil party’s testimony scheduled for next week.

Nuon Chea co-defence counsel Victor Koppe told the court he would have to consult with his client but suspected the waiver would be issued for the civil party but not the witness.

After court, Koppe declined to discuss the waiver, the identity of the witness or his client’s health.  

Co-defence counsel Son Arun said after court that Nuon Chea was “a little better than yesterday” but that his condition had not improved much.

“He still can’t get up from the bed,” he said, adding that Nuon Chea’s wife and daughter might visit him today at the court’s detention centre.

Arun was unable to comment on the afternoon’s proceedings because he had been visiting Nuon Chea and had not yet conferred with Koppe.

Before the interruption, the prosecution presented more documents relating to Khieu Samphan’s role in the Khmer Rouge regime, including that of head of the State Presidium and the Ministry of Commerce.

Amid documents discussing purges, executions and starvation, the prosecution quoted from communications in which Khieu Samphan’s Commerce Ministry promised in 1978 to export thousands of tonnes of rice, coffee, pepper and peanuts to Madagascar, Yugoslavia and China – fellow non-aligned communist countries.

Judge Nonn said when court resumed on Tuesday Khieu Samphan would be expected to be present in the chamber for the rest of the document hearings relating to him, while Ieng Sary would be ordered to follow from the holding cell.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at



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