Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) spokesman Neth Pheaktra announced on Sunday that former Khmer Rouge Brother Number Two Nuon Chea has passed away.
“We can confirm that Nuon Chea, 93, passed away on Sunday evening at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital. He had been treated at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia’s detention centre before being transferred to the hospital for medical treatment on July 2,” Pheaktra said.Chea’s family has been informed.
The ECCC, commonly known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, found Chea guilty in November of genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese, the Cham Muslim minority group and former officials in the previous Khmer Republic government.
Pheaktra said he could not reveal what Chea, who was second-in-command only to Pol Pot, had died of as information on his health was confidential.
Chea was the president of the Khmer Rouge’s state legislature.
He was sentenced to life in prison by the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Case 002/02, along with Khieu Samphan, the ultra-Maoist regime’s head of state.
“On Sunday afternoon, Nuon Chea passed away due to his illness,” Fresh News quoted a doctor who asked not to be named as saying.
Dr Ngy Meng, the director of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, declined to comment, referring questions to Pheaktra.
Doreen Chen, a lawyer representing Chea, also declined to comment on the cause of death, saying it was confidential. “Nuon Chea’s health was considered by the ECCC to be confidential,” Chen said.
Chhang Youk, the director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said a lot of people who had suffered under the Khmer Rouge had wanted justice for the crimes Chea had committed and the many who were killed.
He said he considered Chea’s illness to represent all he had done to victims during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.
“We have not yet received closure for what he did because millions died. Many who suffered did not get closure when he received life imprisonment for his crimes. But he could not avoid the consequences of his actions and all he did to the victims. His illness signified his sin,” Youk said.
Media early last month quoted a doctor who asked not to be named as saying Chea had been taken to hospital with an ulcer on his toe that had turned black.
Due to his advancing years, blood did not circulate to his extremities, which had caused the ulcer. He also had a painful trapped nerve, the doctor said.
“Nuon Chea’s ailment shows no signs of threatening his life. Doctors are ready to treat the ulcer,” he said after Chea was admitted to hospital.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal ruled on Case 002/02 at a public hearing on November 16 last year, sentencing Chea and Samphan to life imprisonment.
Samphan was also found guilty of genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese. Both were charged with offences carried out between 1977 and 1979.