In his most recent photos, Nuon Chea looks like somebody’s grandfather, wearing big dark glasses that suggest a sensitivity to light possibly tied to other medical problems.
Not that long ago, he’d gone from tottering as he walked to using a wheelchair. There were whispers of liver problems and kidney troubles and whatever else happens as a human body passes through its ninth decade.
That longevity eluded some 1.7 million Cambodians who died between 1975 to 1979, as the Khmer Rouge tried, and failed, to turn Cambodia into a self-sufficient agrarian utopia. Nuon Chea, known as Brother No. 2, is widely believed to have been the mastermind behind the development of a Maoist society without money, religion or intellectuals envisioned by the regime’s founder, Pol Pot, who died in 1998.