An Ieng Sary memoir

Ieng Sary, the luxury-loving and almost invariably smiling former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, who was standing trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Khmer Rouge tribunal here, died yesterday at age 88, before he could be brought to justice.

Ieng Sary

In this photo taken, Thursday, March 14, 2013, Ieng Vuth, left, a son of Ieng Sary, former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, prays with his family members near the body of his father at their home in former stronghold of Malai near the Cambodian-Thai border, some 420 kilometers (260 miles) northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ieng Sary, who co-founded the communist Khmer Rouge regime responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s, and who decades later became one of its few leaders to be put on trial, died Thursday before his case could be finished. He was 87. (AP Photo)

His wife, Ieng Thirith, a one-time university lecturer in English literature, specializing in William Shakespeare, and an epicurean chef – specialty: boneless chicken – was also originally on trial. But the so-called ‘social action minister’ of the Khmer Rouge was released last year from a holding center at the court, after having been found to be suffering from alleged dementia.

Certainly, Shakespeare would have produced splendid work from the years of drama and heartbreak here. Bizarrely, Ieng Thirith used to tell friends that she always liked to travel on Swissair because of its flag of a white cross on a red background, similar to the red cross on a white background used by the Red Cross. She maintained that Swissair was ‘less likely to be attacked by terrorists’ – ironic for an organization that seemed to specialize in mass murder.

Ieng Sary was a brother-in-law of Pol Pot, ‘Brother Number One’ of the Khmer Rouge, and they married two sisters. (Pol Pot’s wife went insane, and he re-married). Ieng Sary was thus part of an inner circle, many related by marriage, of the Paris-educated elite of the Khmer Rouge who studied Marxism at a time the creed was prominent in French universities.

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