Top Khmer Rouge leader arrested in Cambodia

Nuon Chea, the top surviving leader of Cambodia's notorious Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, was arrested today and put in the custody of an UN-supported genocide tribunal.





Police surrounded his home in Pailin in northwestern Cambodia near the Thai border and served him with an arrest warrant in connection with atrocities carried out by the communist group when it held power in the late 1970s.



Officers later took the 82-year-old Nuon Chea — who denies any wrongdoing — into custody and put him into a car and then a helicopter for the capital, Phnom Penh, as his son and dozens of onlookers gathered to watch the historic scene in silence, witnesses said.



"My father is happy to shed light on the Khmer Rouge regime for the world and people to understand," Nuon Say said afterward.



Nuon Say said his mother fainted after seeing her husband taken away by police. He said Nuon Chea rolled down the window of the car and took one last look at his son, and said nothing.



In Phnom Penh, a convoy transported Nuon Chea from a military airport in the capital to the offices of the tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.



"An initial appearance will be held today during which he will informed of the charges which have been brought against him," the tribunal said in a statement.



"Now the time has come for him to share his version of the history of Khmer Rouge before the court of law," Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, an independent group researching Khmer Rouge crimes, said today.



"So many people have died. The facts are everywhere. There are plenty of mass graves, prisons, documents, photographs that can show what he did at that time," Youk Chhang said.



Nuon Chea joined the Khmer Rouge in the 1950s in its formative stages as the country's underground communist party, later becoming its chief political ideologue.



Prosecutors for the UN-backed genocide tribunal have said there are five senior Khmer Rouge figures they have recommended for trial in connection with the group's policies causing people's deaths through hunger, illnesses, overwork and execution. Nuon Chea is the second, and highest-ranking, Khmer Rouge leader detained to appear before the panel.



Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch who headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison, was the first suspect detained by the tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity. He was charged last month. The other suspects have not been publicly named.



Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the co-investigating judges were expected to question Nuon Chea later today.



Critics have warned that Nuon Chea and the other former Khmer Rouge leaders may die before ever seeing a courtroom.



Nuon Chea, considered the right-hand man to Pol Pot, has consistently denied any responsibility for the regime's mass brutality, though he said in an interview with the AP last month that he was ready to face the tribunal.



"I was president of the National Assembly and had nothing to do with the operation of the government," he said in the interview. "Sometimes I didn't know what they were doing because I was in the assembly."



Theary Seng, the director of Centre for Social Development, a nonprofit group monitoring development of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, said Nuon Chea's arrest was "a very good starting point" and "will definitely increase the engagement of the Cambodian people," who have been waiting to see justice done for so long already.



"Even if we don't see a conviction, at least we have witnessed a process" of searching for justice, Theary Seng said.



The late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998 and his former military chief, Ta Mok, died in 2006 in government custody.



Their senior-level colleagues, Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health. They are also widely believed to be on the prosecutors' list.



The tribunal was created last year after seven years of contentious negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia. The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen - a former Khmer Rouge soldier - constantly bullied the world body for control of the joint venture.



Trials are expected to begin early next years after countless delays.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?