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For Jailed Khmer Rouge Leaders, a Catalogue of Ailments


None of the former Khmer Rogue leaders awaiting trial at a tribunal jail is perfectly healthy.

Former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith is possibly mentally ill; her husband, Ieng Sary, former foreign affairs minister, has back and heart problems. Prison chief Duch and ideologue Nuon Chea complain of high blood pressure. And the former nominal head of the regime, Khieu Samphan, just recovered from an apparent stroke, though his lawyer says he has recovered.

Observers worry that old age will claim the defendants before they are able to stand trial.

"We all want them to live longer, so that they have the opportunity to defend themselves in front of the court," said Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development.

Phath Touvesang, Ieng Thirith's lawyer, said her client has begun talking to herself, repeating words over and over many times, "losing her mind." "I think her mental illness has relapsed," Phath Touvesang said. Ieng Thirith is the sister of Khieu Ponnary, the deceased first wife of Pol Pot, who died in 2003 after suffering mental illness as well.

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