March 1, 2021

The Khmer Rouge ideologist convicted of genocide dies in Cambodia

Noun Chea, the brother "number 2" and ideologist of the Maoist regime of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), died today in a hospital in Nom Pen, less than a year after being convicted of genocide.

Nuon Chea, 93, was pronounced dead at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in the Cambodian capital where he had been admitted on July 2, according to the international court sponsored by the UN to judge the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

The former leader of the Khmer Rouge, who always defended his innocence, was arrested in September 2007 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014 for crimes against humanity, a sentence that was confirmed two years later.

On November 16, 2018, the ideologue was sentenced for genocide and other crimes with the former head of state of the Khieu Samphan regime and the court confirmed the life imprisonment of both.

The ruling recognized for the first time the commission of genocide by the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese minorities and the Muslim Cham and declared the two defendants guilty of that crime, although he exempted Khieu Samphan in the second case for lack of conclusive evidence on your intentionality

The Khmer Rouge ideologue and Khieu Samphan were the last members of the narrow circle of the "number 1" brother, Pol Pot, who had survived to hear a conviction.

Nuon Chea was born into a family of Chinese origin on July 7, 1926 in the village of Voat Kor, in Battambang province, according to international court data, although other documents date back to his birth in 1923.

Unlike other leaders such as Khieu Samphan, Pol Pot, Ieng Sary or Ieng Thirith, he did not study at a university in Paris, but in Bangkok, where he camouflaged his first name, Long Bunrout, under the pseudonym Nuon Chea to avoid military arrest in the illegal Communist Party of Thailand.

After returning to Nom Pen, he continued his communist militancy to be elected in 1960 as deputy secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, official name of the Khmer Rouge, which would allow him to control the political line.

According to the international tribunal, Nuon Chea also belonged to the Standing Committee of the Khmer Rouge, presided over the Parliament and possibly participated in its Military Committee.

Some historians believe that Nuon Chea led, from those charges, the prison network and maintained direct contact with the main responsible for the purges: Pol Pot and the defense minister, Son Sen, executed by the brother "number one" in 1997.

"We decided everything Pol Pot and I. We always agreed on everything," Nuon Chea confessed in the documentary "Enemies of the people" (2009), although he later denied his involvement in the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

Khieu Samphan's response in the documentary "Facing Genocide" (2010) was, on that occasion, different from that of his partner: "My personal responsibility? I had no power."

Some 1.7 million people died due to forced labor, illness, famine and political purges during the Khmer Rouge, which was defenestrated from power after the military invasion of Vietnam, which occupied the country for more than a decade.

In the intricate logic of the Cold War, the representatives of the Khmer Rouge would have the support of the United States and China at the UN, against the Soviet bloc of which the Vietnam regime was close.

Pol Pot died in 1998 at the last bastion of the Maoist guerrilla in the jungle of northern Cambodia, a prisoner of his own co-religionists and months before they agreed to dissolve with the Government of Nom Pen.

Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

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