Mourners pay final respects to Khmer Rouge ‘Brother No 2’

PAILIN: Long lines of mourners joined a funeral procession for “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea on Friday, as huge crowds amassed to pay their final respects to a man considered the chief ideologue of Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime.
More than two million people were slaughtered under Pol Pot’s Marxist reign in the 1970s in Cambodia, where deep — and often unspoken — cleavages remain over the legacy of the Khmer Rouge.
Nuon Chea, who died on Sunday in hospital at age 93, was one of Pol Pot’s most trusted deputies. Last year, he was sentenced to life in prison by a UN-backed tribunal for genocide against ethnic minority groups.
The former law student remained unrepentant up until the end of his life, and in 2013 told the tribunal that his “treacherous” subordinates were to blame for the killings.
On Friday, hundreds of relatives and former cadres lit incense and prayed as robed monks chanted at a temple in western Pailin province, where he will be cremated later on Friday.
The area was the last holdout of the Khmer Rouge after the regime collapsed.
Mourners followed his coffin as it was carried to a crematorium next to a table of offerings and a portrait of the elderly Nuon Chea wearing his trademark oversized sunglasses.
“He is my hero. I love him because his leadership was protecting the country’s territory from invasion by neighbouring countries,” Keo, an ex-Khmer Rouge fighter, said.
“He is a real nationalist,” he said, speaking at the Buddhist temple that Nuon Chea helped to build in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold near the Thai border.
Former Khmer Rouge naval chief Meas Muth, who has also been accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in a stalled criminal case, also attended Friday’s hours-long ceremony, saying he had come to “bid a final farewell” to his former superior.
The reign of terror led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot left some two million Cambodians dead from overwork, starvation and mass executions from 1975 to 1979.
— AFP