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Friday, April 17, 1998 Published at 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Pol Pot's death confirmed
image: [ Pol Pot will be cremated in a Buddhist ceremony ]
Pol Pot will be cremated in a Buddhist ceremony

BBC Correspondent David Willis: "The question now is how did he die."
Thai military officials have carried out a post mortem on the body believed to be that of the former Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot.

They say the initial examination showed the cause of death to be a heart attack.

[ image: Khmer Rouge: turned against Pol Pot after a bloody internal power battle]
Khmer Rouge: turned against Pol Pot after a bloody internal power battle
But the Cambodian government still has doubts because military officials did not carry out a full medical autopsy and acknowledged that their assessment is not necessarily correct.

During the examination, a lock of hair was removed to tell why its colour is different from the white hair seen by Western journalists a few months ago.

One theory is that the ailing leader dyed his hair to escape his enemies.

[ image: A fingerprint is taken to confirm Pol Pot's identity]
A fingerprint is taken to confirm Pol Pot's identity
Photographs were taken of scars on Pol Pot's body as well as other forensic evidence to ensure the world is not taken in by some elaborate hoax.

The body was then covered in ice to preserve it until its cremation on Saturday after a Buddhist funeral service.

A senior UN official said in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, that Pol Pot's death should not slow the momentum towards putting other members of the Khmer Rouge leadership on trial for genocide.

The official - the UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg - said a three-member UN team would travel to Cambodia soon to assess evidence.

Cause of death

The government suspects that the Khmer Rouge have a hidden agenda, according to a BBC correspondent in Bangkok.

There is no doubt that the death of Pol Pot is extremely convenient for the guerilla movement, he reports. Fragmented after a wave of defections, the guerillas are keen to strike a deal that would allow them to have some kind of political future.

The Cambodian government is insisting that the remaining leaders of the Khmer Rouge, especially their military commander Ta Mok must be brought to justice.

But capturing Ta Mok and his comrades will be extremely difficult.

They remain deep in the northern Cambodian jungle, surrounded by landmines and determined to carry on with their struggle.

US and China planned war crimes trial

Pol Pot's death was reported only days after the United States held talks with China about the possibility of establishing a tribunal to try the former dictator for crimes against humanity.

Washington had previously said it was prepared to assist in efforts to arrest Pol Pot, who was sentenced to life imprisonment under house arrest by the Khmer Rouge last year.

Pol Pot, who is blamed for the deaths of more than one million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979, is widely believed to have died on Wednesday night in a hut in northern Cambodia near the Thai border.

The Khmer Rouge, which had been holding its former leader, allowed several journalists to take pictures of the corpse on Thursday.


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