Scoop of a lifetime: a Pol Pot interview

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The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Pol Pot may finally be over. An American journalist yesterday announced he had travelled to the Khmer Rouge's remote stronghold in northern Cambodia and had met - and filmed - Pol Pot himself, a figure not glimpsed by the outside world for past 18 years.

If his story is true, Nate Thayer is the first reporter to have met Cambodia's murderous former dictator since a Japanese television crew in 1979. That was shortly after the collapse of his genocidal regime in which about two million Cambodians were killed.

"I did see Pol Pot in Anlong Veng," said Mr Thayer, of the Far Eastern Economic Review. But that was all he would divulge. The world will have to wait for details of the thoughts, health and plans of one of this century's most hated figures.

Now, writing in his Bangkok hotel room and refusing to take calls, Mr Thayer is proving elusive. A statement from Dow Jones and Co, which owns the Review, said the story will be published in the next edition of the magazine on Thursday.

But television pictures of the historic encounter, shot by an accompanying cameraman, David McKaige, could be seen before then, as soon as deals with networks are finalised.

The decision to allow a reporter to walk out of Anlong Veng alive is in itself astonishing; the Khmer Rouge were infamous for kidnapping and eliminating Westerners who strayed into their territory.

It may be a sign that the movement is now willing to appease international curiosity, and even to hand over Pol Pot for trial for genocide, in exchange for a chance to return to mainstream politics.

For Mr Thayer, a Cambodia specialist, it was "the end of a long journey, full of dangers", he told friends. Voja Miladinovic, a photographer who has been stalking Pol Pot for 14 years, said: "Apart from the almost immediate recognition ... he's also about to get very rich. He stands certain to make hundreds of thousands of pounds, perhaps even millions."