Cambodia stops ex-Khmer Rouge chief from leaving

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PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 (Reuters) Khieu Samphan, a member of the Khmer Rouge's top leadership and Cambodian president during their reign of terror, will be flown to Phnom Penh today for medical care after police stopped him going to Thailand.

Chea Chandin, deputy police chief in the border town of Pailin where Khieu Samphan lives, said the ex-Khmer Rouge leader was not under arrest by the UN-backed ''Killing Fields'' court.

''We are preparing to send him for medical treatment. This does not mean he is under house arrest or has been arrested,'' he told Reuters by telephone.

Khieu Samphan denies any responsibility for the deaths of 1.7 million people from overwork, starvation or execution during the Khmer Rouge's back-to-the-land revolution but is expected to face trial at a United Nations tribunal.

Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife -- both life-long friends of ''Brother Number One'' Pol Pot -- were arrested and charged on Monday with crimes against humanity for their role in the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979.

''Brother Number Two'' Nuon Chea, who had also lived in Pailin, is in the custody of the 56 million dollars court on similar charges, as is the Beijing-backed ultra-Maoist movement's chief jailer, Duch, who ran Phnom Penh's ''S-21'' torture and interrogation centre.

Speaking to students in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he had ordered a helicopter to Pailin after hearing reports that Khieu Samphan was ill.

''If he dies, people will blame the government,'' Hun Sen said.

Khieu Samphan's 24-year-old daughter said her father injured himself falling out of a hammock at his small wooden house in the jungle.

''My dad asked authorities for permission to leave for treatment, but they refused,'' she said.

Khieu Samphan was the leading intellectual among the small group of Cambodian students in 1950s Paris who became imbued with communism and went on to form the backbone of the Khmer Rouge.

He has published a book portraying himself as a virtual prisoner of the regime during its reign of terror and denying any personal role in or knowledge of the mass killings.

REUTERS SV RAI1055

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