Sometimes the biggest stories have the smallest beginnings. The death of Pol Pot in April 1998 was like that. Hearing rumours of instability in the secretive jungle camps of the last remaining Khmer Rouge, I headed north from Bangkok with some colleagues to Surin, on Thailand's border with Cambodia. None of us were hopeful of much coming from the trip, but it was a quiet week. A military base, refugee camps and proximity to the border jungles gave Surin, a dusty rice-trading town, an air of sleepy intrigue above the crying chickens and piles of elephant dung, yet the rumours generated there were notoriously tricky to confirm. The next morning we gathered for an early breakfast. A Thai colleague burst in, breathless and agitated. 'I've been told Pol Pot died overnight. Pol Pot is dead! There is no time to eat!' What followed was long, hot and exciting - and perfectly timed for big treatment in the Post. File all the detail you can was the message from Hong Kong. We hired a car and sped to the border, first checking at the military base for the latest information. Our excitement built as Thai officers told us they had heard the same rumours and suggested we head to the Chong Sa-ngam Pass and wait for developments. The mist was just clearing as we arrived at a simple barrier gate, revealing dusty red trails into dense foliage. A couple of Japanese television crews were already there. A Spanish colleague roared up in a battered old car, his face bruised. He'd crashed into a Thai military vehicle and written his car off. In his rage, he had remarkably forced them to lay on a new car so he wouldn't miss out on the scoop, knowing most of the opposition was trapped in the capital. We waited. The heat pressed in. Dull thuds of artillery punched the air. No one had enough water or food but we weren't thinking about that - we were thinking about the news. Finally, in the late afternoon we were taken deeper into the crudely fortified no man's land loosely demarcating the border, ending at a line of bamboo stakes and razor wire. Like an emissary from hell, a Khmer Rouge spokesman emerged from the steaming jungle to tell us Pol Pot was dead. Nattily dressed, with gold pens in his pocket, senior cadre Nuon Nou seemed relaxed as he told us simply: 'Pol Pot has had a heart attack ... I am happy'. We saw a lot of Nuon Nou over the next two days as he kept the skilfully kept the story running. Insisting his murderous ultra-Maoist movement had died with its leader, he arranged for us to see the body lying on a melting bed of ice and presented Pol Pot's peasant wife and daughter for a brief interview. Finally, on a Saturday afternoon, we were told how Pol Pot was cremated on a flaming pyre of tyres, sticks and a grubby mattress after a brief Buddhist ceremony. As Nuon Nou turned to walk back into the jungle, I chased him. Was he saying that Pol Pot, the man who orchestrated the deaths 1.7 million of his countrymen in the name of an atheist, classless utopia, was actually religious? An incoming artillery shell exploded nearby. Nuon Nou smiled cryptically. Then he turned and scurried back into the jungle. News editor Greg Torode was Southeast Asia correspondent in the late 1990s.