Khmer Rouge 'brother number 2' Nuon Chea dies

Khmer Rouge 'brother number two' Nuon Chea died on Sunday, a spokesman for the Cambodian court where he was convicted said.

"We can confirm that defendant Nuon Chea ... passed away this evening on 4 August, 2019 at Khmer Soviet Friendship hospital," Neth Pheaktra said. No details on the cause of death was given, however Pheaktra added that Chea had been in hospital since early July.

Chea, aged 93 at his death, had been serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity that centered around the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and sending people into rural labor camps and for murders at an execution site. A separate trial last year found Chea guilty of genocide.

Read more: Khmer Rouge verdict 'a milestone'

'Killing Fields'

Chea was among a small clique — led by 'Brother Number One', Pol Pot — of mostly French-educated communists who rose to lead a bloody revolution against a US-backed government after their country was engulfed by the Vietnam War.

Nuon Chea studied law in Bangkok where he became a member of the Thai Communist Party. He was appointed deputy secretary of the Communist Party in Cambodia in 1960 where he took charge of party and state security, and Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 interrogation and torture center.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died of starvation, disease, overwork and execution during the Khmer Rouge regime's three years, eight months and 20 days in power.

After taking over Phnom Penh in April 1975, the Khmer Rouge sought to install a Maoist-inspired agrarian society by forcing millions into forced labor. To create its collectives and dissolve any sense of ownership or family ties, the regime moved virtually the entire population from their homes to elsewhere.

Read more: Life sentences for the Khmer Rouge regime's last surviving senior leaders

kw/jlw (AP, AFP)

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