Khmer Rouge 'up in smoke with Pol Pot'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 April, 1998, 12:00am

THE Khmer Rouge went up in flames when the guerillas burned the body of Pol Pot yesterday morning on a pyre of tyres and wood, their spokesman claimed.

'As of 9.52, there is no more Pol Pot and no more Khmer Rouge,' said Nuon Nou as thin purplish-black smoke began rising over the jungle border between Thailand and the Khmer Rouge's last stronghold.

'Now we are a political party . . . we are the National Solidarity Party. The most important fact in this transition is the change from being a dictatorship to a democracy. We believe in democracy and freedom.' Nuon Nou, an unheard-of adviser to commander-in-chief Ta Mok until he emerged from the jungle three days ago, claimed the movement was keen to talk peace with the Government and 'could possibly' participate in July elections.

'Many meetings will have to take place to work things out,' he said.

As he spoke, government anti-tank and artillery shells fired from an estimated 20 kilometres away thudded into nearby hillsides, eventually forcing him to dash for cover inside the fortified village. But in Phnom Penh, General Meas Sophea said: 'Negotiations are over and everything should end positively and bring a final end of the Khmer Rouge. We're just holding meetings now.' The general said he was waiting for word of an official agreement enabling the remnants of the once-feared Khmer Rouge to be integrated into the Cambodian Army.

Co-Defence Minister Tea Banh was expected in the capital last night after meetings in Thailand with Ta Ngoun, a top deputy of Ta Mok, said the general. Any agreement would not include the senior Khmer Rouge leadership, whom the United States and United Nations wanted brought before an international tribunal for crimes against humanity, he said.

Nuon Nou said long-time Khmer Rouge political chief Khieu Samphan would head the new movement, with as his 'special adviser' Ta Mok, the one-legged soldier known as 'The Butcher'. Clandestine Khmer Rouge radio broadcast an unusual editorial yesterday implying that the rebels were set to join the Government. 'We appeal to all Khmers of all classes and all people affiliated with politics to unite in solidarity to serve and liberate the nation.' Diplomats cautioned that more details were needed before peace was certain.

Exactly to what extent the rebels will forswear their ultra-Maoist policies - and forgo their business interests - in a bid to reintegrate remains unclear. 'We must be wary of anything that smacks of 'different name, same outlaws',' one diplomat in Bangkok said.

Fighting is expected to continue over the next few days.

In Bangkok, Prince Norodom Ranariddh said he was ready to order royalist resistance forces allied with the Khmer Rouge to give up the territory they control in the northwest and rejoin the Cambodian Army, provided the UN guaranteed their safety.