Khmer Rouge mastermind Nuon Chea dies aged 93
NUON Chea, the chief ideologue of the communist Khmer Rouge regime that destroyed a generation of Cambodians, died yesterday, the country's UN-assisted genocide tribunal said. He was 93.
Nuon Chea was known as Brother Number 2, the right-hand man of Pol Pot, the leader of the regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. The group's fanatical efforts to realise a utopian society led to the deaths of some 1.7 million people - more than a quarter of the country's population at the time - from starvation, disease, overwork and executions.
Researchers believe Nuon Chea was responsible for the extremist policies of the Khmer Rouge and was directly involved in its purges and executions.
He was serving life in prison after convictions by the UN-backed tribunal on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
But Nuon Chea never admitted his guilt.
At the long-awaited Khmer Rouge trials, he told a court that he and his comrades were not "bad people", denying responsibility for any deaths.
For decades after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea lived quietly with his family in a wooden house in Pailin, a former guerrilla stronghold near the border with Thailand.
"I wasn't a war criminal," he said in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press. "I admit that there was a mistake. But I had my ideology. I wanted to free my country. I wanted people to have well-being."
He was arrested in 2007 to face trial along with other surviving but ailing top Khmer Rouge leaders, and charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture.
During his testimony, he insisted the regime was not responsible for any atrocities.