A smiling mass murderer dies in Cambodia
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A smiling mass murderer dies in Cambodia

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.

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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