Pol Pot `suicide' to avoid US trial

POL POT committed suicide last year after learning his Khmer Rouge rivals had offered to hand him over for trial on genocide charges, a Hong Kong magazine said.

But the US turned down the chance three weeks earlier to take the former Khmer Rouge leader into custody, because it had not prepared a legal basis on which to arrest and try him.

The former Cambodian leader, blamed for the deaths of 1 million of his countrymen, is said by the Far Eastern Economic Review to have taken an overdose of tranquillisers and anti-malarial pills at a Khmer Rouge stronghold on the Thai border. He died on 15 April 1998, aged 73.

His associates said he died of a heart attack but within days Thai intelligence sources said it was poison and that it "got into his body with his consent", according to a Reuters report at the time. No autopsy was done before the body was cremated and until now no one had come up with a detailed scenario of the circumstances surrounding the death. Before the cremation the Thai army took samples of hair, skin and fingerprints.

Yesterday's Far Eastern Economic Review article was by Nate Thayer, who has consistently scooped the world on Khmer Rouge reports. According to what he says are impeccable sources, Ta Mok, the one-legged rival Khmer Rouge military commander who captured the ailing Pol Pot and his entourage in 1997, offered to hand him over to the US for trial just before his death.

Mr Thayer said that on 25 March 1998 "the Khmer Rouge made a decision and contacted the Americans to turn him over but the Americans turned them down. They had no legal basis to arrest and detain him".

The Review said Washington scrambled to establish grounds for an arrest and to find a country where a trial could take place for the carnage during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule, but "Brother Number One" was dead before preparations were complete.

He had discovered Ta Mok's plan when listening to a Voice of America radio broadcast, and killed himself, said Mr Thayer. "Pol Pot died of a lethal dose of a combination of Valium and chloroquine."

In the days before the suicide US officials had been consulting Thailand and other countries about capturing him but did not itself plan such a move, according to reports at the time. However, Pol Pot presumably knew he was likely to be captured or handed over to face genocide charges.

The question of an international tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders is very much a live issue at the moment following the surrender last month of two Pol Pot henchmen, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.

Since they gave themselves up they have been given a VIP tour of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and appeared at a press conference at which they said they were sorry for their roles in the deaths under the Khmer Rouge. "Let bygones be bygones," said Khieu Samphan.

The Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, at first hinted that a trial of the two men might not be in the interests of national reconciliation but recently said he supported legal action against the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test