News / Asia

Ex-Khmer Rouge Leader Ieng Sary Dead at 87

In this Nov. 23, 2011 file photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary sits during the third day of a trial of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.In this Nov. 23, 2011 file photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary sits during the third day of a trial of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
x
In this Nov. 23, 2011 file photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary sits during the third day of a trial of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
In this Nov. 23, 2011 file photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary sits during the third day of a trial of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Robert Carmichael
The Khmer Rouge’s former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, has died in Phnom Penh at age 87.  He was one of three defendants in the genocide trial of the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge and his death highlights the problems the United Nations-backed tribunal has as it seeks to deliver some form of justice.

Since the start of the trial in late 2011, Ieng Sary has been seen as the most frail of the defendants. His heart condition and various other ailments meant the Khmer Rouge’s former foreign minister was often absent from court - either recuperating in hospital, where he spent more than two months last year, or watching proceedings from a holding cell.

International defense lawyer Michael Karanavas says that, although his health had long been poor his death was still a surprise.

“In the last ten days, his health deteriorated rather rapidly," said Karanavas.

  • Ieng Sary sits next to his wife during his defection ceremony, Pailin, Cambodia, November, 1996. (Youk Chhang/Documentation Center of Cambodia Archive)
  • Ieng Sary (fourth from left) poses with other Khmer Rouge members in Malai, a small town near Thai border, March 1988. (Documentation Center of Cambodia Archive)
  • Ieng Sary claps his hands while inspecting the railroad in Takeo province with Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Economics Affairs Vorn Vet and Chinese experts, 1977. (Documentation Center of Cambodia Archive)
  • Ieng Sary on a 1977 railroad inspection tour with Chinese advisers. (Documentation Center of Cambodia Archive)
  • This undated photo shows Ieng Sary with Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Documentation Center of Cambodia Archive)

Ieng Sary’s death raises questions about the pace at which the tribunal is proceeding. The court began Case Two - as the trial of the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge is known - in late 2011, with four defendants. But, last year Ieng Thirith - who was Ieng Sary’s wife and the former social affairs minister - was ruled unfit for trial after the court found she had dementia.

Now, with the death of Ieng Sary, who was the third-ranking person in the Cambodian Communist party, just two defendants remain: Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologue who is also known as Brother Number Two; and the former head of state, Khieu Samphan.

Nuon Chea is 86 and was hospitalized in January, although he has now recovered. Khieu Samphan, who is 81, is still in reasonable health.

Speaking at a news conference at the hospital in Phnom Penh where Ieng Sary died, tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen says the court - known formally as the ECCC - will formally terminate proceedings against Ieng Sary, as per Cambodian law.

“But it is also important to remember that Case 002 is not over. The charges against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the two co-accused in Case 002, are not affected by the passing of Ieng Sary," said Olsen. "The ECCC will continue its proceedings against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.”

But, there are more problems facing the court than simply the ailments of the defendants - funding for one.

None of the Cambodian staff has been paid since November and, on March 4, the translators went on strike in protest. The court has not managed to hear evidence since.

The government and the international donors are currently engaged in a standoff, one side waiting for the other to agree to pay.

Add to that allegations of political interference, corruption and the slow pace of proceedings and it is easy to understand why many Cambodians are frustrated, says Youk Chhang, the head of the genocide research organization called the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

Youk Chhang says Ieng Sary’s death is no victory for the Cambodian people, who deserve to see justice being done in court.

“I think that the government and the U.N. have the obligation - they made the promise since the Holocaust 60 years ago - to punish and prevent genocide. And, I think they need to work out their differences to allow the court to complete,” siad Chhang.

Youk Chhang, who survived the Khmer Rouge’s brutal rule, says administrative matters and political differences must not stand in the way of what he calls “this solemn oath”.

“Victims deserve to see the court also complete its work - and that is important for us,” he added.

The next step for the Khmer Rouge tribunal is a health hearing for Nuon Chea. That is scheduled for later this month.

Still, for many Cambodians the demise of Ieng Sary means yet another senior Khmer Rouge figure has escaped responsibility for some of the worst crimes of the 20th century.

You May Like

Video 2nd American Reportedly Killed in Syria

Minnesota television report says Abdirahman Muhumed left area to fight for Islamic State militants More

WHO Fears Ebola Outbreak Could Infect 20,000 People

World Health Organization says outbreak 'continues to accelerate' but that most cases are concentrated in a few local areas More

Angelina Jolie Marries Brad Pitt

Actors wed in small private ceremony Saturday in France More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid