Former Khmer Rouge leader and defendant at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Ieng Sary, died at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in this capital last Thursday morning. He was 87.
Sary was arrested in November 2007 by the Cambodian-UN tribunal accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity alongside his wife, former Minister of Social Affairs and Action Ieng Thirith. Both of them participated in the foundation of the Khmer Rouge movement that would take power in Cambodia after the War of Vietnam in 1975. In the short time of the regime, 1.7 million Cambodians disappeared before Vietnam occupied Cambodia in early 1979.
Ieng Sary was born on January 1, 1930 in Vinn Binh, Tra Vinh Province, south of Vietnam from a Khmer Krom father and a Chinese immigrant mother. He would change his Vietnamese name Kim Trang for a Khmer name when he founded the Khmer Rouge along with Pol Pot.
Ieng Sary and Pol Pot studied together in France shortly after World War II, and it was there that they met radical communist and began to figure the ideal state they would like for Cambodia. After their return, they became involved in the Communist Party with the intention of leading it, and a coup d’état in 1970 would become the historical opportunity to empower the small movement of the Khmer Rouge.
The Khmer Rouge Regime called Cambodia as Democratic Kampuchea and established a strict rural society, abolishing cities, markets, currency, schools and religions, while following a permanent purge of every element they considered a danger to their authoritarian State. Ieng Sary was also known as Brother No. 3, as a kind of hierarchic where Pol Pot was the Number One and Nuon Chea is the Number Two. He posed as Deputy Primer Minister and Foreign Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea.
Pol Pot died in 1998, but the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or ECCC is following the process against the surviving top leaders of the defeated Regime and those most responsible for atrocities. Ieng Thirith, Sary’s wife, was declared unfit to be prosecuted last year due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Nuon Chea, 86, and Khieu Samphan, 81, face the Tribunal for their participation as leaders of the murderous regime. So far, the Cambodian-UN Tribunal has declared sentence over Kang Kek Iew, alias Duch, who was the director of the infamous main torture and executing center S-21 or Tuol Sleng. Apart from Duch, the other accused denied any wrongdoing during the reign of the Khmer Rouge Era (1975 – 1979).
Ieng Sary was hospitalized different times while he was detained at the ECCC, creating worries he could not stand for the trial. An assessment on his fitness was going to be produced at the end of this month by a team of local and international medical experts, declared the ECCC official site.
Many have complained at the slow course of justice and the general failings of the ECCC. Since its inception in 2005, the court has spent $150 million, yet has only passed one ruling. It has been criticised for not being transparent and there have even been calls on the governments of Japan, Germany, France, the US and the UK to stop funding them.