Nuon Chea: Pol Pot's second in command

Nuon Chea


Nuon Chea (brother number two) was born on July 7, 1926 in Wat Kor village, Wat Kor commune, Sangke district, Battambang province. He went to high school and took law classes in Bangkok, where he joined the Communist Party of Thailand. When he returned to Cambodia in 1950, he joined the local Communist Party and by 1960 he was a
senior member. Nuon Chea was a senior leader of the Democratic Kampuchea regime and held important positions including Chairman of the People’s Assembly and Acting Prime Minister. He was the second most powerful member of the DK regime, after Pol Pot. It is believed that Nuon Chea was in charge of the DK regime’s prisons, including S-21 (Tuol Sleng). After Pol Pot’s death in 1998, Nuon Chea started discussions with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who convinced him to leave the Khmer Rouge.

Ieng Thirith


Ieng Thirith was born in Sangkat No. 5, Phnom Penh on March 10, 1932. She studied at the Lycée Sisowath in Phnom Penh and then obtained a degree in English Literature in France. She married Ieng Sary in 1951; her sister married Pol Pot. Ieng Thirith returned to Cambodia in 1957 to work as an English professor. During the DK period, Ieng Thirith was a senior member of the government and held the position of Minister of Social Affairs and Action. She was sent to investigate and report on health issues in the Northwest Zone and therefore probably knew that many Cambodians were starving under the DK regime. Ieng Thirith is also accused of involvement in the arrest and killing of staff from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Action. In 1996, along with her husband, she left the Khmer Rouge regime.

Ieng Sary


Ieng Sary was born on October 24, 1925, in Loeung Va village, Loeung Va commune, Tra Vinh province, Vietnam. He studied at Collège Sisowath in Phnom Penh and then in France. Ieng Sary returned to Cambodia and became a history professor in 1957. He is alleged to have joined the Khmer Rouge in 1963.
During the DK period Ieng Sary was a senior member of the government and held the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is believed to have played an important role in transferring many members of the Foreign Ministry to the S-21 prison where they were interrogated and executed.
After the DK government fell in 1979 Ieng Sary was convicted of "genocide" and sentenced to death in absentia by the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal. In 1996, he left the Khmer Rouge with thousands of his followers in exchange for a pardon from the King for the death sentence and a promise that he would not be punished under a 1994 law that said that the Khmer Rouge organization was illegal. At that time Ieng Sary moved to Phnom Penh with his wife, Ieng Thirith, who will also be tried in Case 002.

Ieng Sary at his pre-trial hearing in the ECCC courtroom, Phnom Penh. Photo by Heng Sinith. Source: DC-Cam Archives.

Above and Opposite Page: Swords used by the Cham Muslim minority in their rebellion against the Khmer Rouge during Democratic Kampuchea. The sword on the right was donated to DC-Cam by Ms. Kup Aishah in 2008 from Trapeang Chhouk village, Boeng commune, Baray district, Kampong Thom province. The sword on the left was donated by Sos Ponyamin in 2002 from Svay Khleang village, Svay Khleang commune, Kroch Chhmar district, Kampong Cham province. Photo by Jim Mizerski. Source:
DC-Cam Archives.

Khieu Samphan at his pre-trial hearing in the ECCC courtroom, Phnom Penh. Source: DC-Cam Archives.

Khieu Samphan


Khieu Samphan was born in Svay Rieng province on July 27, 1931. He went to France to study in 1955 before returning to Cambodia to become a professor. In 1962 he was appointed Secretary of State for Commerce in Prince Sihanouk’s government. Threatened with arrest, he went into hiding in 1967 and by the early 1970s had
joined the Khmer Rouge. During the DK period Khieu Samphan served as the head of state (President of the State Presidium. After Pol Pot retired as the official head of the Khmer Rouge in 1987, he became the head of the Khmer Rouge and represented the organization at the 1989 Paris Peace Conference. After Pol Pot’s death in 1998, Khieu Samphan left the Khmer Rouge.

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Original content by Youk Chhang - Director, Documentation Center of Cambodia
Photo: Heng Sinith, DC-Cam Archieves