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Former Khmer Rouge Cadre Dies at 70

As the tribunal prepares for Duch’s initial hearing, scheduled for Feb. 17, meanwhile, an ex-Khmer Rouge official has died in Kandal province.

Van Rith, who was 70, was a close ally of Pol Pot and was in charge of commerce and military activities under the Khmer Rouge.

The death of Van Rith highlights one of the main concerns for the slow-moving tribunal: that aging leaders, witnesses and other participants in the justice process will die before trials are held.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, faces atrocity charges for his role as chief of Tuol Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge. He is the youngest member of the regime in tribunal custody, at 66.

His trial, the very first for the tribunal, opens Feb. 17 with an initial hearing over witnesses and evidence.

A villager who attended his funeral said Van Rith died from illness at his home in Khpop commune, Sa Ang district, late in 2008. Van Rith, sometimes called Ta Moeun, had reintegrated into the government, the villager said.