Commander of Khmer Rouge's most notorious prison in intensive care in hospital

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A senior Khmer Rouge figure who ran Cambodia’s most notorious prison during the genocidal regime is in intensive care in hospital, but his health has stabilized, the director of a prison where he is serving a life sentence said on Thursday.

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Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch, was the first Khmer Rouge commander convicted of crimes against humanity in 2010, and sentenced in 2012 after a UN-backed tribunal rejected his appeal claim that he was a junior official following orders.

He was hooked up to an intravenous drip after being admitted to hospital at the weekend, but was able to talk, said Chat Sineang, the director of the Kandal Provincial Prison where Duch is serving his sentence.

“I asked him whether he wanted us to let his family know

about his sickness and he said there was no need,” Chat Sineang told Reuters.

“He was able to talk. He’s still in an emergency unit attached to an IV drip.”

The 75-year-old Duch was taken to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in the capital Phnom Penh on Saturday, following diarrhea and breathing problems, he added.

Up to 2 million people, or about a third of the population, are believed to have been killed or died of overwork and starvation during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-1979 reign of terror in Cambodia. Many were bludgeoned to death in mass executions.

The Supreme Court ruled that Duch, as the commander of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, codenamed S-21, should take full responsibility for the estimated 14,000 people killed there during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Two other accused, Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan, are on trial for war crimes and genocide.

Now in their 80s and in declining health, they were sentenced to life in prison in 2014 for crimes against humanity.

Most Cambodians now alive were born after the bloody era.

Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez