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Saturday, March 6, 1999 Published at 23:28 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Khmer Rouge 'Butcher' captured

1.7m people are thought to have died under the Khmer Rouge

The last Khmer Rouge guerrilla leader at large, military chief Ta Mok, has been arrested, the Cambodian authorities have said.

Caroline Gluck reports: "The last of the hard line leaders has now been captured"
The notorious one-legged Ta Mok - known as the Butcher because of his brutality - is believed to be in his early 70s.

"At this time, we can say Ta Mok has been arrested by the government," Cambodian Co-Defence Minister Tea Banh announced.

He declined to give further details.

[ image: Ta Mok: Thought to be in his 70s]
Ta Mok: Thought to be in his 70s
Army commander General Meas Sophea said Ta Mok had been arrested on Saturday on Cambodia's northern border with Thailand, near the guerrilla group's former headquarters.

"We arrested Ta Mok this morning, north of Anlong Veng ... while he was trying to cross from Thailand into Cambodia," he said.

Cambodian television said the ageing guerrilla was being held in the capital Phnom Penh, awaiting trial.

Reign of terror

[ image: Prime Minister Hun Sen: No deal with Ta Mok]
Prime Minister Hun Sen: No deal with Ta Mok
All the other surviving leaders that presided over the "killing fields" reign of terror in Cambodia in the 1970s have surrendered to the government.

The Khmer Rouge's nominal leader, Khieu Samphan, and the group's top ideologue, Nuon Chea, both handed themselves over to the government in December.

They were allowed to retire into relative obscurity but the government has repeatedly insisted that it is would not consider any such deal for Ta Mok.

[ image: Cambodia has been wracked by years of civil war]
Cambodia has been wracked by years of civil war
"We have nothing to negotiate with him, " said General Tea Banh shortly after the arrest.

"We are looking for him in order to arrest him - and castrate him as well," he added with a laugh.

Earlier on Saturday, Thai military officials said aides close to Ta Mok had been seeking negotiations with the government towards a ceasefire deal. Major General Vivath Sattra-rak of the Thai army's border forces said Ta Mok was "tired of fighting and wants to stop".

'Significant event'

[ image: The Khmer Rouge has slowly disintegrated as a credible force]
The Khmer Rouge has slowly disintegrated as a credible force
Co-Defence Minister, Prince Sisowath Sirirath said the arrest of Ta Mok was a very significant event. He said it sent a clear message that this was now the end of the once-feared guerrilla group.

Ta Mok's arrest comes just days after the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, urged the Thai authorities to do everything in their power to apprehend him.

Phnom Penh Correspondent Caroline Gluck: Ta Mok was the last Khmer Rouge leader still at large
Nearly two million Cambodians died from torture, overwork, starvation, execution or disease during the group's years in power.

A UN legal panel has recommended putting senior Khmer Rouge leaders on trial outside the country on charges of crimes against humanity.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he would prefer the establishment of a South African-style Truth Commission as a way of achieving national reconciliation.

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