Clinton orders plans for arrest of Pol Pot
April 9, 1998
Web posted at: 10:53 a.m. EDT (1453 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton has ordered the Departments of Defense, State and Justice to devise plans for
the arrest and trial of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader
responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of
Cambodians in the 1970s, CNN confirmed Thursday.
Clinton issued the written order Monday to organize logistics
for Pol Pot's capture and trial, officials said after a New York Times story first reported the development. While
administration officials cautioned that there was no
guarantee that Pol Pot would be apprehended, they said the
time appeared to be ripe, as infighting and mass defections
seemed to be bringing the Khmer Rouge near collapse.
From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot, who is now in his 70s and in poor
health, led the Khmer Rouge in turning Cambodia into a vast
labor camp. Millions of Cambodians, especially
city-dwellers, were driven from their homes and forced to
work in the fields under primitive conditions.
Pol Pot labeled anyone with money or education an enemy of
the revolution. Much of the middle class was killed or
starved to death during his four-year reign of terror.
Khmer Rouge fighters
The Khmer Rouge were toppled by a Vietnamese invasion in
1979, but they resumed their guerrilla struggle in the
jungle, where they have remained for two decades.
Thailand may help
Senior U.S. military officials, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said that intelligence reports from Southeast Asia
showed that the Thai military had actually taken Pol Pot into
custody late last week, but then freed him.
The Thai military, the officials said, may have feared that
his capture would antagonize China, a longtime Khmer Rouge
supporter, and would complicate the international policy of
Thailand's recently installed government, already struggling
with an economic crisis.
The Thai government has
suggested it would be willing to take Pol Pot into custody as
long as the United States agreed to get him out of Thailand
within hours of his capture. However, there was some official concern that the Thai government might change its mind, given the publicity surrounding the Clinton administration's order.
Under plans being discussed within the administration, an
American military plane would take Pol Pot from Thailand to a
third country, possibly the Netherlands, where international
tribunals are prosecuting war crimes carried out in Rwanda
and the former Yugoslavia.
Other interim sites where the Pentagon has suggested Pol Pot
might be held until a location for the trial is selected
include the Northern Marianas Islands and Wake Island, both
American territories in the Pacific, or the U.S. naval base
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Times said earlier.
Western diplomats told the Times that prosecutors at the
international tribunals in The Hague had already tentatively
agreed to organize a trial for Pol Pot for crimes against
humanity, as long as the U.N. Security Council empowers them
to oversee the prosecution.