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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More