Rebels Capture Pol Pot in Cambodia: U.S. Wants Him Tried for Genocide

By Barber, Ben | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 19, 1997 | Go to article overview

Rebels Capture Pol Pot in Cambodia: U.S. Wants Him Tried for Genocide


Barber, Ben, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader responsible for Cambodia's "killing fields," may finally be called to account before an international tribunal for the death of some 2 million people between 1975 and 1978, Cambodian officials said yesterday.

The military confirmed reports on Khmer Rouge radio that Pol Pot, who had been on the run in the jungles of western Cambodia for a week, was captured by a breakaway rebel faction that wants to turn him over for trial.

But excitement over the capture of one of the century's most notorious mass killers was tempered by rising violence in the capital, Phnom Penh, where followers of two rival prime ministers battled in the streets this week.

The fighting threatens to abort a planned trip to Phnom Penh next week by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

"We don't shed any tears for[Pol Pot] - he's a mass murderer," said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns yesterday. "He ought to be brought to justice and tried for his crime, which is genocide.

"He is a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of over - well over a million people in Cambodia in the killing fields."

Gen. Nhek Bunchhay, deputy Cambodian army chief of staff, told the Associated Press in Phnom Penh yesterday that Pol Pot had surrendered to a Khmer Rouge faction controlled by his former ally Ta Mok after a week on the run in the jungle near the Thai border.

The clandestine Khmer Rouge radio said earlier that Pol Pot was in rebel custody and "has already asked to confess."

"A new era has begun," the radio said.

The ailing Pol Pot, who was accompanied by his wife, may have been forced to give up because he had run out of food and medicine, said the general, who visited the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng yesterday to seal the defection of Ta Mok's 1,000-guerrilla faction.

"This evening, Pol Pot surrendered with 15 people," Gen. Nhek Bunchhay told the AP. "He appeared in Anlong Veng with [Khmer Rouge leaders] Khieu Samphan and Ta Mok. The Khmer Rouge says Pol Pot will be kept for an international tribunal."

But it was not clear who would try his case.

"No international judicial body currently exists with authority to try Pol Pot. One would have to be created," said Craig Etcheson, acting director of the Cambodia Genocide Program (CGP) at Yale University, which is funded by the State Department and other grants.

Mr. Etcheson said the CGP has identified hundreds of mass graves in Cambodia and is tracing the lines of control within the Khmer Rouge to determine "who killed whom." Its findings, with photos of many victims, are at http://www.yale.edu.cgp on the Internet.

Cambodia's co-premiers, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, met with a senior United Nations human rights official yesterday, who said he expected they will request that a U.N. tribunal be created to try Pol Pot.

"I have reason to believe . . . that such a request will be made," said Thomas Hammarberg, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for human rights in Cambodia.

Mr. Etcheson said Pol Pot can be tried for genocide because his Khmer Rouge systematically exterminated Buddhists, Christians and Muslims as well as ethnic Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Chams.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of the majority ethnic Khmers died through hunger, overwork and assassination with blows to the back of the head from heavy field hoes. …

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