Unconfirmed report: Pol Pot captured
Cambodian politics plays role in hunt for Khmer Rouge leader
June 20, 1997
Web posted at: 9:51 a.m. EDT (1351 GMT)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- Pol Pot, who led Cambodia's notorious Khmer Rouge rebel movement during its brutal "killing fields" days in the 1970s and went on the run earlier this month, has been captured by guerrillas formerly loyal to him, Khmer Rouge radio reported on Friday.
The broadcast, which could not be immediately verified, followed earlier reports of clashes between former comrades of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge fighters protecting him in a remote northern jungle.
|Reports of Pol Pot's capture "should be taken very cautiously" says Evan Williams of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporting from Phnom Penh
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The unconfirmed report also comes amid a backdrop of political maneuvering between Cambodia's rival co-leaders.
Earlier Friday, Cambodian First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh said that a final assault on Pol Pot and a handful of his loyalists was imminent. The prince said he was hopeful Pol Pot would be caught alive and brought to justice.
But Ranariddh's co-premier and political rival,
Hun Sen, dismissed as a political ploy the report that Pol Pot might be captured alive.
"This is a political game," Hun Sen told reporters, implying that so far unfounded stories of Pol Pot's capture or surrender are fabrications to help Ranariddh's royalist party win support from Khmer Rouge defectors.
Hun Sen said all top Khmer Rouge leaders should be arrested and imprisoned.
The two premiers, who share power in a rocky coalition formed after U.N.-sponsored elections in 1993, appeared headed for a showdown over policy toward the rebels.
Ranariddh's royalist party wants to strike a deal with more moderate elements in the crumbling guerrilla force, a move that Hun Sen sees as a threat to his strength in advance of elections next year, political analysts said.
Pol Pot, 69, is wanted by the Cambodian government as well as former allies who've turned against him.
Prior to the unconfirmed report of his capture, he was said to be surrounded by 1,000 of his former guerrillas about 10 miles east of Anlong Veng near Cambodia's northern border with Thailand.
However, with no access to the isolated area, it was impossible for outsiders to verify conflicting reports about Pol Pot's fate that have emerged during the past week.
In addition, rivalry within Cambodia's coalition government has led it to dispense sometimes contradictory information about the disintegrating Khmer Rouge movement for partisan political gain.
Ranariddh has said Pol Pot should be brought before an international tribunal to answer for the death of as many as 2 million Cambodians during his 1975-79 "killing fields" rule.
"There is a great difference between surrender and capture," Ranariddh said earlier on Friday, when asked why Khmer Rouge defectors hunting for Pol Pot would not accept a surrender. "Surrender means we have to give Pol Pot safe conduct. We have to capture him alive."
Hun Sen, meanwhile, said he didn't believe reports that "Pol Pot will surrender, be captured or commit suicide."
"I still think that Pol Pot is the top leader of the Khmer Rouge," he said.
There was no immediate comment from the two co-leaders after the Khmer Rouge radio broadcast reporting Pol Pot's capture.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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