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Who Was Who in the Khmer Rouge


by Borgna Brunner

On April 15, 1998, Pol Pot died. His body was hastily cremated without an autopsy, and there has been some speculation that his former comrades poisoned him. He died without remorse, having declared during the past year, "My conscience is clear."

Pol Pot

Brother Number 1

(May 19, 1925?–April 15, 1998) After the Vietnamese toppled his government, Pol Pot went into hiding along the Thai border and was not seen by foreigners for almost twenty years. Rumors of his death circulated sporadically, but the highly secretive Khmer Rouge, operating from the jungle, successfully confused the press for two decades.

In 1997, Pol Pot was suddenly in the news again: he had reportedly arranged for the murder of his longtime comrade, Son Sen, and his relatives, accusing him of being a traitor. In an internal coup, Ta Mok retaliated against Pol Pot by usurping the Khmer Rouge leadership. The world community began calling for the handover of Pol Pot, but in July 1997 the Khmer Rouge staged their own show trial, at which they sentenced Pol Pot to lifetime house arrest. The broadcasted trial gave the world its first glimpse of Pol Pot in nearly two decades—old, frail, and suffering from malaria. Less than a year later, on April 15, 1998, Pol Pot died, reportedly of a heart attack. His body was hastily cremated without an autopsy, and there has been some speculation that his former comrades may have poisoned him. He died without remorse, having declared during the past year, "My conscience is clear."