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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Wanted --Dead or Alive

The questions and rumors over Pol Pot

WILL POL POT EVER stand before a world tribunal for crimes against humanity? Could he even stand up if he were brought to trial? An over-abundance of damning evidence could probably be brought against the man whose 1975-79 reign of terror killed as many as 2 million Cambodians. The main question is whether the rebel leader can be extracted from his mountain lair, where he is said to be under house arrest. And even if Phnom Penh manages to gain custody, could he be kept alive long enough to receive a judgment?

For more than a week rumors have been circulating that the former Khmer Rouge leader -- reportedly so weak that he has to be carted around in a hammock with intravenous tubes sticking out of him -- was a prisoner of a rebel faction. Some emanated from tantalizing radio broadcasts from Anlong Veng in the northwestern part of the country, where Khmer Rouge hardliners are holding out. Others came from one side of the dual Cambo-dian leadership, the one run by Norodom Ranariddh, but they have not been denied by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Last week the U.N. took the first step toward setting up an international court to try Pol Pot for genocide after receiving an official Cambodian request, signed by both co-premiers. Yet there is some doubt whether such a trial would ever take place, even if the government managed to get its hands on Pol Pot. China announced it did not support such proceedings, and as a permanent member of the Security Council, it has the veto to make its opposition stick.

The Chinese attitude underscores the fundamental problem. Too many people can be implicated in Pol Pot's tyranny. "Maybe he would say something not very nice about them," said Ranariddh. He did not specify who, but Beijing was a longtime supporter of the Khmer Rouge, and Hun Sen was a cadre until his defection in 1977. A war crimes trial "is not realistic," admits a Phnom Penh official who belongs to Ranariddh's political party.

The Khmer Rouge have been weak and divided for some years now, and the end seems near for both the guerrillas and for Pol Pot, who is 69. But it is unclear what the denouement will be. Anything is possible. Pol Pot may well be led into Phnom Penh in chains. Then again, the world may simply be served up a gruesome photograph, a pile of ashes or a forensically inconclusive corpse.

-- By Todd Crowell and Dominic Faulder

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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