Nuon Chea, 82, who was arrested as part of a UN-backed genocide investigation, has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity and Cambodian and foreign judges at a special genocide tribunal.
Known as “Brother Number 2”, he was second-in-command to Pol Pot from 1975-79 - during this 1m people, possibly more, were butchered. He has spent the past few decades living freely in Pailin near the Thai border, the movement's former jungle headquarters.
Nuon Chea rose quickly through the ranks of the Khmer Rouge, as it grew from a small Maoist rebel group to a force capable of taking over the country. Analysts say he had an important decision-making role in the regime, which instituted radical policies aimed at creating an agrarian utopia, but in reality caused the deaths of more than a million people through hunger, illness, overwork and execution. Nuon Chea himself has consistently denied any responsibility for the deaths, but earlier this year he indicated he was ready to face the tribunal.
UN-backed trials are finally expected to begin next year. Only one other suspect, Kang Kek Ieu - also known as Duch - has so far been detained Duch, who was arrested in July, was in charge of the notorious S21 jail in Phnom Penh, where more than 17,000 men, women and children are thought to have been imprisoned and brutally tortured. Four other people are said to be under investigation.
Survivors have welcomed the charges against Nong Chea and Duch, but they have also expressed doubts about whether these elderly leaders will ever be brought to account for their deeds during the Khmer Rouge years.
Why did it take so long for This butcher to be arrested? Why was a Khmer Rouge apparatchik allowed to keep the Cambodian UN seat after the Fall of the Khmer Rouge? What part did the Thais play in protecting the Khmer Rouge after 1978? Did the US indirectly support the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s? The responsibility for the Killing Fields lies fairly and squarely with the Khmer Rouge butchers, there are no mitigating circumstances. I have a feeling though that the Khmer Rouge’s survival for years after their overthrow is a story that will make uncomfortable reading.........