Ieng Thirith, Former Khmer Rouge Minister, Dies at 83

Ieng Thirith, Pol Pot’s former minister of social affairs, died on Saturday at the age of 83, according to a statement released by the Khmer Rouge tribunal, where she previously faced charges of crimes against humanity before being deemed unfit to stand trial.

Born on March 12, 1932, Ieng Thirith was indicted by the tribunal on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in September 2010, but proceedings against her were stayed in 2012 due to her failing health. 

“The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has been informed by the legal guardian that the accused person Ieng Thirith passed away at approximately 10:30 a.m. on 22 August 2015 in Pailin, Cambodia,” the statement said.

Ieng Thirith had been suffering from dementia and had sought medical treatment in Thailand last year after a series of minor strokes.

Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the court, said the cause of death had yet to be determined.

“The prosecutor will make an examination of Ieng Thirith’s body to know clearly whether her death was caused by nature and the prosecutor will hand a report to the Extraordinary Chamber about her death,” he said.

Former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary–Ieng Thirith’s husband, who was also accused in Case 002–died in 2013. Nuon Chea, 89, and Khieu Samphan, 84, are still facing trial, but are both dealing with their own health problems.

Ieng Thirith graduated from the Lycee Sisowath in Phnom Penh before going to France for university, where she studied Shakespeare, according to the ECCC. Upon coming back to Cambodia in 1957, she worked as a professor and then founded a private English school.

Appointed as the Khmer Rouge’s social affairs minister in 1975, she remained with the regime until her husband defected in 1998.

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