Nuon Chea Biography

(Chief Ideologist of the Khmer Rouge)

Birthday: July 7, 1926 (Cancer)

Born In: Voat Kor, Battambang, Cambodia, French Indochina

Nuon Chea was a former Cambodian communist politician. He was second in command to the Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot during the bloody Cambodian Genocide, and was therefore known as “Brother Number Two”. A highly secretive and cruel man who played a major role in inciting violent crimes against humanity causing grave infringement of human rights, he was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for life in 2014. Even though the verdict came decades after the Khmer Rouge had fallen, the wounds of the past are still fresh in the minds of the Cambodians, many of whom lost everything they had in the genocide. In his eighties, he was the oldest among the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders and his arrest offered little solace to the families of the victims who lost their lives because of him. Born into a humble family, he had a normal upbringing and studied law as a young man at a prestigious university. However, the course of his life changed when he joined the Thai Communist Party and underwent a drastic conversion in his ideologies. He became closely associated with Pol Pot and soon rose to become one of the top-most leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Brother Number Two

Also Known As: Long Bunruot, Lau Ben Kon, Rungloet Laodi, Brother Number Two

Died At Age: 93


Spouse/Ex-: Ly Kimseng

father: Lao Liv

mother: Dos Peanh

children: Nuon Say

Born Country: Cambodia

Criminals Cambodian Men

Died on: August 4, 2019

place of death: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

More Facts

education: Thammasat University

Childhood & Early Life

Nuon Chea was born as Lau Kim Lorn at Voat Kor, Battambang on 7 July 1926, at the home of Lao Liv and his wife Dos Peanh. His father was a corn farmer cum trader while his mother worked as a tailor.

His mother was the daughter of a Chinese immigrant and he was raised in both Chinese and Khmer customs. He received his early education in Thai, French and Khmer. He joined the Thammasat University in Bangkok during the 1940s to study law.
In 1947, he joined the leftist Thai Youth Organization. Many of the members of this organization were already members of the Thai communist party, but he personally did not join the party until 1950.

In January 1950, Nuon Chea joined the Thai communist party and also started working part-time at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Around this time something took over him and he abandoned his studies and job to join the anti-colonial struggle in Cambodia.

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In September 1960, Nuon Chea was elected Deputy General Secretary of the Workers Party of Kampuchea (later renamed as the Communist Party of Kampuchea). Closely associated with Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, he was the second in command which earned him the nickname “Brother Number two”.

In 1970, he played a major role in negotiating the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. The activities of the Khmer Rouge were aimed to bring down the administration of the then Prime Minister of Cambodia, Lon Nol.

Nuon Chea asked for help from North Vietnamese forces, who entered Cambodia in massive numbers in April-May 1970, in response to his request. With the help of the North Vietnamese, five provinces of Cambodia were liberated in ten days.

The Vietnamese forces occupied a major portion of the territory of Cambodia in 1970—in fact, almost a quarter, and communist control over the region expanded considerably during the period.
Pol Pot and Nuon Chea enjoyed very good relations with the North Vietnamese leaders. The North Vietnamese had more trust in Chea although he consistently deceived them and misled them about the real intentions of the Khmer Rouge.

The Kampuchean People's Representative Assembly, consisting of 250 members, was established as the official legislature of Kampuchea on January 5, 1976. Its first plenary session was held in April 1976 and Chea was elected as the President of its Standing Committee.

Chea also served as the acting Prime Minister briefly when Pol Pot resigned for one month because of health reasons. At that time the Vietnamese still believed that Chea was on their side and would lead an uprising against Pol Pot.
A revolt did take place in 1978 in which the former first secretary of the Eastern Zone, So Phim, a sympathizer of Vietnam, died. But Chea did not defect to the Vietnamese side as some had expected. On the contrary, he emerged as one of the most devoted followers of Pol Pot.

The Vietnamese captured Phnom Penh in January 1979, and he was forced to abandon his position as President of the Assembly.

Between 1975 and 1979, he is believed to have been responsible for planning, ordering, instigating and abetting crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, enslavement, and other inhumane acts. Under the regime, up to two million Cambodians died from execution, overwork and starvation and millions of others suffered grievous injuries and health hazards.

Personal Life, Legacy & Death

Nuon Chea married Ly Kimseng and he had four children.

He was arrested at his home in Pailin on September 19, 2007, and was taken to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Phnom Penh. He was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. In August 2014, he was convicted by Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.


Nuon Chea died at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, on August 4, 2019. He was 93.

See the events in life of Nuon Chea in Chronological Order

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