Nuon Chea

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Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea on 31 October 2013.jpg
President of the Standing Committee of the Kampuchean People's Representative Assembly
In office
April 13, 1976 – January 7, 1979
President Khieu Samphan
Prime Minister Pol Pot
Deputy Nguon Kang
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea
In office
September 27, 1976 – October 25, 1976
President Khieu Samphan
Preceded by Pol Pot
Succeeded by Pol Pot
Personal details
Born Lau Kim Lorn
(1926-07-07) July 7, 1926 (age 88)
Voat Kor, Battambang, French Indochina
Political party Communist Party
Spouse(s) Ly Kimseng[1]
Children Nuon Say,[2] 2 other children[1]
Religion Buddhism[3]

Nuon Chea (Khmer: នួន ជា; born 7 July 1926),[4] also known as Long Bunruot (Khmer: ឡុង ប៊ុនរត្ន), is a Cambodian former communist politician and former chief ideologist of Khmer Rouge. He was commonly known as "Brother Number Two" second in command to Pol Pot who was leader during the Cambodian Genocide 1975-1979. Nuon Chea is in detention awaiting a United Nations trial for crimes against humanity for his role in the genocide, alongside another top-tier Khmer Rouge leader: Khieu Samphan.[5] Nuon Chea is the oldest living former Prime Minister and the oldest of the last surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.

Early life[edit]

Nuon Chea was born as Lau Kim Lorn at Voat Kor, Battambang in 1926. Nuon's father, Lao Liv, worked as a trader as well as a corn farmer, while his mother, Dos Peanh, was a tailor. An interview by a Japanese researcher in 2003 with Nuon Chea quoted that Liv was of Chinese ethnicity while his Peanh was the daughter of a Chinese immigrant from Shantou and his Khmer wife,[6] while Chea had separately quoted that Liv was half-Chinese and Peanh was of pure Cambodian extraction during a trial proceeding in December 2011.[7] As a child, Nuon Chea was raised in both Chinese and Khmer customs. The family prayed at a Theravada Buddhist temple, but observed Chinese religious customs during the Lunar New Year and Qingming festival. Nuon Chea started school at seven, and was educated in Thai, French and Khmer.[6]

In the 1940s, Nuon Chea studied at Thammasat University in Bangkok and worked part-time for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He began his political activities in the Communist Party of Siam in Bangkok.[8] He was elected Deputy General Secretary of the Workers Party of Kampuchea (later renamed as the Communist Party of Kampuchea) in September 1960.[9] In Democratic Kampuchea, he was generally known as "Brother Number Two." Unlike most of the leaders of Khmer Rouge, Chea did not study in Paris.

As documented in the Soviet archives, Nuon Chea played a major role in negotiating the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1970, with the intent of forcing the collapse of Lon Nol's government: "In April–May 1970, many North Vietnamese forces entered Cambodia in response to the call for help addressed to Vietnam not by Pol Pot, but by his deputy Nuon Chea. Nguyen Co Thach recalls: "Nuon Chea has asked for help and we have liberated five provinces of Cambodia in ten days." In 1970, in fact, Vietnamese forces occupied almost a quarter of the territory of Cambodia, and the zone of communist control grew several times, as power in the so-called liberated regions was given to the CPK [Khmer Rouge]. At that time relations between Pol Pot and the North Vietnamese leaders were especially warm."[10] The North Vietnamese trusted Nuon Chea more than Pol Pot or Ieng Sary, although he "consistently and consciously deceived the Vietnamese principals concerning the real plans of the Khmer leadership." As a result, "Hanoi did not undertake any action to change the power pattern within the top ranks of the Communist Party to their own benefit."[10]


As the recently proclaimed state legislature, the Kampuchean People's Representative Assembly held its first plenary session during April 11–13, 1976, Chea was elected President of its Standing Committee. He briefly held office as acting Prime minister when Pol Pot resigned for one month, citing health reasons.[11] According to Dmitry Mosyakov, "In October 1978, Hanoi still believed that "there were two prominent party figures in Phnom Penh who sympathized with Vietnam--Nuon Chea and the former first secretary of the Eastern Zone, So Phim."....Vietnamese hopes that these figures would head an uprising against Pol Pot turned out to be groundless: So Phim perished during the revolt in June 1978, while Nuon Chea, as it is known, turned out to be one of the most devoted followers of Pol Pot—he did not defect to the Vietnamese side....It is difficult to understand why until the end of 1978 it was believed in Hanoi that Nuon Chea was "their man" in spite of the fact that all previous experience should have proved quite the contrary. Was Hanoi unaware of his permanent siding with Pol Pot, his demands that "the Vietnamese minority should not be allowed to reside in Kampuchea", his extreme cruelty, as well as of the fact that, "in comparison with Nuon Chea, people considered Pol Pot a paragon of kindness"?"[10] Nuon Chea was forced to abandon his position as President of the Assembly, along with all others as the Vietnamese captured Phnom Penh in January 1979.

On December 29, 1998, following a bargain with the government, Chea surrendered as part of the last remnants of Khmer Rouge resistance and in a press conference after the deal expressed a terse statement of sorrow for the suffering of Cambodians. The government under Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former member of the Khmer Rouge, agreed to forsake attempts to prosecute Chea; a decision that was condemned by sections of Cambodians and the international community. Although implicated by former subordinates and documents in crimes against humanity, he lived for years as a free man in a modest home in Pailin with his wife near the Thailand border.

Arrest and Trial[edit]

Chea on trial at the Cambodia Tribunal 2011.

On September 19, 2007, Nuon Chea was arrested at his home in Pailin and flown to the Cambodia Tribunal in Phnom Penh where he was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.[12] He has since been held in detention, from which he has sought to be released. Speaking in court in early February 2008, he said that his case should be handled according to international standards, arguing that the proceedings should be delayed because his Dutch lawyer, Michiel Pestman, had not yet arrived.[13] In May 2013, Nuon Chea stated to the tribunal and to victims' families: "I feel remorseful for the crimes that were committed intentionally or unintentionally, whether or not I had known about it or not known about it."[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Provisional Detention Order (Ordonnance de placement en détention provisoire), Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, retrieved August 7, 2009
  2. ^ Top Khmer Rouge leader arrested in Cambodia, 19 September 2007, The Independent
  3. ^ "ជនជាប់ចោទ នួន ជា និង ខៀវ សំផន ក៏ទទួលទេវតាឆ្នាំថ្មីដែរ" (in Khmer). Radio France Internationale. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "NUON Chea". Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Associated Press, U.N. court likely to try Khmer Rouge leaders in mid 2011,Archived June 12, 2011 at the Wayback Machine, September 7, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Eiji Murashima, The Young Nuon Chea in Bangkok (1942 1950)and the Communist Party of Thailand: The Life in Bangkok of the Man Who Became “Brother No. 2” in the Khmer Rouge, Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (Waseda University) No. 12 (March 2009), retrieved 29 October 2013
  7. ^ Sann Rada, Transcript of Trial Proceedings–Case File Nº 002/19-09-2007-ECCC/TC, Day 4–5 December 2011, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, retrieved 29 October 2013
  8. ^ Frings, K. Viviane. Rewriting Cambodian History to 'Adapt' It to a New Political Context: The Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party's Historiography (1979-1991) in Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 4. (Oct., 1997), pp. 807-846.
  9. ^ Chandler, David P., Revising the Past in Democratic Kampuchea: When Was the Birthday of the Party?: Notes and Comments, in Pacific Affairs, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Summer, 1983), pp. 288-300.
  10. ^ a b c Dmitry Mosyakov, "The Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese Communists: A History of Their Relations as Told in the Soviet Archives," in Susan E. Cook, ed., Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda Yale Genocide Studies Program Monograph Series No. 1, 2004, p54ff. Available online at:
  11. ^ Susan E. Cook, Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: new perspectives, Transaction Publishers, 2005, page 62
  12. ^ "Top former Khmer Rouge leader arrested in Cambodia", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), September 18, 2007.
  13. ^ "Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, detained for trial, taken to hospital", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), February 4, 2008.
  14. ^ "Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea expresses 'remorse'", BBC News, May 31, 2013.
  • Lynch, David J. (March 21, 2005). "Cambodians hope justice will close dark chapter". USA Today, p. 14A - 15A
  • Watkin, Huw (December 30, 1998). "Guerillas 'sorry' for genocide". The Australian, p. 8

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