Saturday, first lady of Khmer Rouge, Ieng Thirith, died at the age of 83, her family and U.N. officials said.
- Her son, Ieng Vuth, said she had been suffering from dementia, heart troubles and other health problems.
- A leader who was the highest-ranking woman in the genocidal regime that oversaw the death of nearly 2 million Cambodians in the late 1970s.
According to Mr. Youk Chhang, director of Documentation Center of Cambodia,“Ieng Thirith has passed away, but the crimes she has directly involved in are still with us. It is the truth. Her death is a victory of evil and a losing battle of God.“
The body was cremated late on Monday in Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold on the Thai border where many regime leaders settled after they were ousted by a Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979. First Lady of Khmer Rouge Ieng Thirith was among only a handful of people ever brought to court over atrocities during the Khmer Rouge era. The suspension of her trial was a bitter blow to many who survived the regime.
Between 200-300 people attended religious rites and prayers for First Lady of Khmer Rouge Ieng Thirith, who was charged but never fully prosecuted for crimes against humanity by a UN-backed tribunal.
“We must continue to educate our children about what happened and document crimes that continue to harm our society. The crimes of genocide do not stop at a tribunal,” said Youk Chhang.
Ieng Thirith (10 March 1932 – 22 August 2015) was an influential figure in the Khmer Rouge, although she was neither a member of the Khmer Rouge Standing Committee nor of the Central Committee. Ieng Thirith was the wife of Ieng Sary, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea’s Khmer Rouge regime. She served as Minister of Social Affairs from October 1975 until the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
She was the sister of Khieu Ponnary, who was the first wife of Pol Pot. She was arrested by the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in November 2007 with her husband, Ieng Sary, on suspicion of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Thirith lived with her husband, Ieng Sary, in a luxurious villa on Street 21, in southern Phnom Penh. Until her arrest, she was rarely seen in public.
By 2006, Ieng Thirith and her husband had retained foreign legal counsel to assist with their defence as the Cambodia Tribunal made progress with courtroom preparation and judge selection. She was arrested, along with ailing Ieng Sary, on November 12, 2007, at their home in Phnom Penh, after being indicted by the Cambodia Tribunal.
She was arrested for crimes against humanity: “planning, direction, coordination and ordering of widespread purges … and the unlawful killing or murder of staff members from within the Ministry of Social Affairs.” On November 17, 2011, Thirith was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial, due to her severe case of Alzheimer’s Disease, and was ordered to be released. Prosecutors appealed against her release. On December 13, 2011, appeals judges reversed the ruling to release Thirith and ordered new medical exams to see how mentally fit she was to stand trial. In September 2012, the November 2011 ruling of her mental incompetence was put back into place, and she was released from prison.
First Lady of Khmer Rouge Ieng Thirith died on 22 August 2015 at the age of 83 from complications of the disease.
Khmers rouges (French for “Red Khmers”;Khmer Kraham), more commonly known in English as ‘Khmer Rouge’ (corruption of ‘Khmers rouges’), was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia. It was formed in 1968 as an offshoot of the Vietnam People’s Army fromNorth Vietnam. It was the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, andKhieu Samphan. Democratic Kampuchea was the name of the state as controlled by the government of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. It allied with North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and Pathet Lao during the Vietnam War against the anti-Communist forces.
The organization is remembered especially for orchestrating the Cambodian genocide, which resulted from the enforcement of its social engineering policies. Its attempts at agricultural reform led to widespread famine, while its insistence on absolute self-sufficiency, even in the supply of medicine, led to the death of thousands from treatable diseases such as malaria. Arbitrary executions and torture carried out by its cadres against perceived subversive elements, or during purges of its own ranks between 1975 and 1978, are considered to have constituted genocide.
The governments-in-exile (including the Khmer Rouge) still had a seat in the UN in 1979, but it was later taken away, in 1993, as the monarchy was restored and the country underwent a name change to the Kingdom of Cambodia. A year later thousands of Khmer Rouge guerrillas surrendered themselves in a government amnesty. In 1996, a new political party, the Democratic National Union Movement, was formed by Ieng Sary, who was granted amnesty for all of his roles as the deputy leader of the Khmer Rouge. The organization (Khmer Rouge) was largely dissolved by the mid-1990s, and finally surrendered completely in 1999. In 2014 two Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Kheiu Samphan were jailed by a UN backed court for life, which found them guilty of crimes against humanity and responsible for the deaths of up to 2,000,000 Cambodians (Khmer), nearly a quarter of the country’s then population, during the “Killing Fields” era between 1975-1979.IMAGE/AFP/Getty Images