གཟའ་སྤེན་པ། ༢༠༢༤/༠༧/༢༠

Former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister, Wife Arrested

Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife have been arrested for their part in the deaths of almost two million Cambodians in the 1970s. The arrests come as an international court prepares to try its first Khmer Rouge case next week. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Police brought Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, also a former Khmer Rouge minister, before Cambodia's international genocide tribunal in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh Monday.

Reach Sambath, a court spokesman, said they were arrested for their part in the Khmer Rouge's brutal rule of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

"It's for crimes against humanity and war crimes in regard to Ieng Sary and crimes against humanity concerning his wife Ieng Thirith," said Sambath.

The communist Khmer Rouge wanted to turn Cambodia into a classless agrarian utopia. But as it emptied out cities and moved people to the countryside, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were executed or died of torture, disease and starvation.

Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith are the latest former Khmer Rouge leaders to be arrested and charged by the United Nations-backed tribunal.

Noun Chea, the group's second in command, was detained in September. In July, the court arrested Duch, who ran a prison and torture center in Phnom Penh. Ieng Sary, Noun Chea and Duch have repeatedly denied committing any crimes.

The international tribunal opened in June, after years of delay caused by disagreements between the United Nations and the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge commander.

Many survivors and rights groups have said that time is running out for the trials because the surviving leaders are now in their 70s and are in poor health. Khmer Rouge's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

The court said Duch's trial, the first to be heard by the Tribunal, would start on November 20.