Khmer Rouge 'First Lady' hospitalised in Thailand: Son

Khmer Rouge 'First Lady' hospitalised in Thailand: Son
From left: Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

PHNOM PENH - The former "First Lady" of Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge regime has been hospitalised in neighbouring Thailand and is relying on a feeding tube and oxygen to survive, her son said Friday.

Ieng Thirith, 82, who experts say has Alzheimer's disease, was released in September 2012 from the purpose-built detention facility at the UN-backed war crime court where she had been held since 2007, after she was ruled unfit to stand trial.

She has been hospitalised in Thailand since March with heart, urinary bladder, and lung problem, said her son Ieng Vuth, the deputy governor of northwester Pailin province, which is former Khmer Rouge stronghold.

"She has been in ICU in Thailand for two months now.... And her health is not improving at all," he told AFP by telephone.

He added: "She is very old and is in serious condition. She relies only on a feeding tube and oxygen."

Her husband, former foreign minister Ieng Sary, died aged 87 in March last year while on trial for war crimes and genocide, cheating Cambodians of a verdict over his role in the regime's 1975-1979 reign of terror.

The case against Ieng Thirith - also a former social affairs minister and who was the sister-in-law of the late regime leader Pol Pot - was suspended after a court ruled dementia left her unfit to stand trial.

The release of Ieng Thirith, one of only a handful of people ever brought before a court over atrocities during the Khmer Rouge era, is a bitter blow to many who survived the regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge dismantled modern society and wiped out nearly a quarter of the population through starvation, overwork and execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

The regime's two most senior surviving leaders have been brought before a UN-backed court.

The hearing has been split into a series of smaller trials, initially focusing on the forced evacuation of people into rural labour camps and related charges of crimes against humanity.

The first trial against "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 87, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 82, was completed late last year.

A verdict is expected in the middle of this year.

After its first trial in 2010 the court sentenced former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, to 30 years in prison - increased to life on appeal - for overseeing the death of 15,000 people.

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