Conflict & Justice

Khmer Rogue chief still thinks he's a hero


Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea in the courtroom at the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. Four top Khmer Rouge regime leaders face charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes over the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork or execution during the communist movement's brutal 1975-79 rule.



Relatives of the nearly two million Cambodians killed during the communist Khmer Rogue's reign can give up on hearing an apology from the regime's highest-ranking leader still alive.

The world has long decided that the 1975-79 regime was brutal and murderous. But Nuon Chea, its former second in command, still sees himself as a revolutionary hero.

"I had to leave my family behind to liberate my motherland from colonialism and aggression, and oppression by the thieves who wished to steal our land and wipe Cambodia off the face of the Earth," he said in an ongoing trial in the capital, Phnom Penh, according to the BBC.

Nuon Chea, 85, explained that Khmer Rogue's torture and mass killings were necessary.

In a 90-minute speech, he blamed Vietnamese agitators for much of the violence. Vietnamese forces ultimately toppled the Khmer Rogue in a 1979 invasion. Its decade-long occupation that followed installed leaders still in power today.

The man known as "Brother No. 2" justified the Khmer Rogue's brutality with a metaphor.

"“I must say only the body of the crocodile is to be discussed, not its head or tail, which are the important parts of its daily activities,” he said, according to the New York Times. 

“We only killed the bad people, not the good.”