Khmer Rouge 'first lady' Ieng Thirith dies: Cambodia tribunal

Khmer Rouge 'first lady' Ieng Thirith dies: Cambodia tribunal

PHNOM PENH - The former "first lady" of Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge regime, Ieng Thirith, died Saturday, according to a UN-backed tribunal which stayed its trial of her in 2012 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity due to her ill health.

"The accused passed away at approximately 10.30 am (0330 GMT) on 22 August in Pailin, Cambodia," the tribunal said in a statement. She was 83.

The case against her was suspended after the court ruled she was unfit to stand trial due to progressive dementia.

The suspension of the case against her, one of only a handful of people ever brought before a court over atrocities during the Khmer Rouge era, was a bitter blow to many who survived the regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people.

"She was released under a regime of judicial supervision. She remained under judicial supervision until her death," the statement from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) added.

She was the widow of Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary - and herself a social affairs minister under the regime.

Ieng Sary died aged 87 in March in 2013 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.

Heart, urinary, and lung problems left Ieng Thirith relying on a feeding tube and oxygen to survive, her son Ieng Vuth, the deputy governor of northwestern Pailin province - a former Khmer Rouge stronghold - said in May.

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.

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