This Article is From Aug 22, 2015

'First Lady' of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Dies at 83

'First Lady' of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Dies at 83

Ieng Thirith was among a handful of suspects charged by a UN-backed war crimes court, but was freed in 2012. (AFP File)

Phnom Penh: The former "first lady" of Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge regime passed away today, according to a UN-backed tribunal, without victims ever seeing her face trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Ieng Thirith, a French-educated revolutionary who was 83 when she died, was one of the few women in the leadership of the communist movement behind the horrors of the "Killing Fields" era.

She was among just a handful of suspects charged by Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, but was freed in 2012 when the case against her was suspended after the court ruled she was unfit to stand trial due to progressive dementia.

Family ties helped her reach the upper echelons of power in a murderous totalitarian regime that tore children from parents and husbands from wives.

The sister-in-law of late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, she served as the regime's social affairs minister alongside her husband, former foreign minister Ieng Sary.

She had been hospitalised this year in Thailand with heart, bladder and lung problems.

She passed away in a former Khmer Rouge stronghold on the Thai border where many regime leaders settled after they were ousted by the Vietnamese.

"Her body will be cremated on Monday evening," her son Ieng Vuth said.

Ieng Thirith was not a member of the regime's powerful standing committee but did sit on its council of ministers, according to court documents.

As social affairs minister, she oversaw the regime's tight control of medicine supplies.

"Ieng Thirith was personally and directly involved in denying Cambodians even the most basic of healthcare during the regime's years in power," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia which researches the atrocities.

She ordered purges of suspected traitors in her ministry who were sent to re-education camps, and was aware of the regime's killing of perceived enemies, according to court documents.

She allegedly participated in the regime's regulation of marriage -- including its orchestration of mass forced marriages -- and remained a staunch defender of the Khmer Rouge long after its demise in the 1990s.