Accessibility links

Breaking News

Nuon Chea's Wife: 'I Miss Him'

The worried wife of the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue arrived in Phnom Penh Friday, expecting next week to meet her husband, who is being held by the tribunal courts on atrocity crimes.

"I miss him," Ly Kimseng told VOA Khmer. "When we are apart for the first time like this, I am sad about him living this way, about his eating food, his sleep."

Under the policies of the Khmer Rouge, hundreds of thousands of families were separated into various agricultural work camps—children cut off from their parents, husbands kept from their wives, all made to work for the Angkar, the Organization. Nuon Chea faces charges that he helped design these policies.

Ly Kimseng said she had been given permission to visit her husband on Monday. She planned to bring him religious books and "some shirts." She was concerned over his reportedly high blood pressure and his overall health, a concern shared by tribunal observers, who fear the aging leaders of the regime will never see trial.

"He usually does not feel well," Ly Kimseng said. "He often chokes [on his food] and I am worried about this. When he is by himself, no one helps him, and if I could stay near him, I would see and would leap up and help him."

Nuon Chea has been receiving top medical care since his Sept. 19 detention. But the general health of the 82-year-old man is failing. His high blood pressure prevented a session of questioning by investigating judges in September.

"We have never been separated before, and I miss him because he is old, and he has difficulty walking," Ly Kimseng said. "I am concerned that when he has to go to the bathroom, he might fall down. I miss him. We lived in our house, just the two of us.... Since our marriage, this is the first time we have been apart."

Nuon Chea is still seeking a foreign lawyer, preferably one who speaks Thai, Ly Kimseng said, adding that she wanted to see a hearing for her husband as soon as possible.

"It all depends on his health," she said. "I would like for it to happen soon, so that it will be over soon too, to be over right away, to see black and white, so that it will be clear. At the hearing, he will speak the truth, and he will not say something just to get off the hook."