Nuon Chea Biography

Nuon Chea, also known as “Brother Number Two,” was a former Cambodian communist politician who played a major role in the brutal Cambodian Genocide. As second in command to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, he incited violent crimes against humanity and caused grave infringement of human rights. Despite being arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014, the wounds of the past still haunt the Cambodian people who lost everything in the genocide. Born into a humble family, Nuon Chea’s life took a drastic turn when he joined the Thai Communist Party and became closely associated with Pol Pot, eventually rising to become one of the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

Quick Facts

  • Nick Name: Brother Number Two
  • Also Known As: Long Bunruot, Lau Ben Kon, Rungloet Laodi
  • Died At Age: 93
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Ly Kimseng
    • Father: Lao Liv
    • Mother: Dos Peanh
    • Children: Nuon Say
  • Born Country: Cambodia
  • 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. His father was a corn farmer cum trader and his mother worked as a tailor. He was raised in both Chinese and Khmer customs as his mother was the daughter of a Chinese immigrant. Nuon Chea received his early education in Thai, French, and Khmer. He later joined Thammasat University in Bangkok to study law.


In 1947, Nuon Chea joined the leftist Thai Youth Organization, which had many members who were already part of the Thai communist party. However, he personally did not join the party until 1950. He also started working part-time at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, he abandoned his studies and job to join the anti-colonial struggle in Cambodia.

In September 1960, Nuon Chea was elected Deputy General Secretary of the Workers Party of Kampuchea, later renamed as the Communist Party of Kampuchea. He became the second in command and earned the nickname “Brother Number Two” for his close association with Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

During his career, Nuon Chea played a major role in negotiating the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1970. He asked for help from North Vietnamese forces, who entered Cambodia and helped liberate five provinces. The Khmer Rouge’s control over the region expanded during this period.

Nuon Chea also served as the acting Prime Minister briefly when Pol Pot resigned for health reasons. However, he remained a devoted follower of Pol Pot and did not defect to the Vietnamese side.

Between 1975 and 1979, Nuon Chea is believed to have been responsible for planning and ordering crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, enslavement, and other inhumane acts. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, millions of Cambodians died from execution, overwork, and starvation.

Personal Life, Legacy & Death

Nuon Chea married Ly Kimseng and had four children. He was arrested in 2007 and charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2014, he was convicted by Cambodia’s UN-backed tribunal and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.

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

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