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Some Wish Pol Pot Had Been Tried

April 16, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ From the American whose memoir produced ``The Killing Fields″ to Cambodian refugees, the only mourning over Pol Pot’s death today was for the way it cheated them of seeing him brought to justice.

The former Khmer Rouge leader’s death of heart failure Wednesday ``doesn’t change the lives of my friends who are still there,″ said American journalist Sydney H. Schanberg.

Schanberg, whose book about Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime led to the award-winning film, said in an interview in New York that the former dictator’s ``legacy is a very poisonous one.″

``Those who survived and suffered through his genocide are never really going to have closure,″ he said.

``The only sad thing about ... his death is that he was never brought to trial before an international tribunal,″ said Schanberg, who covered Cambodia for The New York Times in the mid-1970s, when Pol Pot ruled and up to 2 million people died of starvation, overwork and execution.

Dith Pran, the Cambodian whose suffering under Pol Pot’s regime was portrayed in ``The Killing Fields,″ said he still hopes Pol Pot’s allies can be prosecuted.

``The story doesn’t end with Pol Pot. We have to try to bring the Pol Pot’s inner circle to trial ... maybe six or 10 people we know are responsible for the killing,″ The New York Times photographer told CNN.

When news reports first emerged that Pol Pot, 73, had died in Cambodia, many people first refused to believe them _ given how many previous reports about Pol Pot’s demise had proven false.

That was true in southern California, where about 60,000 Cambodians have taken up exile, as well as in Japan, where 2,000 Cambodian refugees live.

``I was surprised to hear that. I cannot still believe it is true,″ Yumi Go, a 29-year-old who lost many of her family members to Pol Pot’s regime, told Japan’s Kyodo News.

``Wounds in my heart will not be so simply erased, even if he is dead,″ Go said. ``Can peace ever come to Cambodia?″

In California, Sovann Tith, executive director of United Cambodian Community Inc., said: ``Until I see some picture on TV, and I know that his body is in a third party’s hands, I won’t believe it. We went through this before.″

Even with Pol Pot’s death, Tith said, it doesn’t make much difference to Cambodia.

``I don’t know whether the struggle would end. Pol Pot is one person. Many people are still there causing trouble. ... We are longing for peace. We are tired of war.″

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao told reporters today that China opposed letting an international court try Pol Pot.

China was the chief foreign supporter of Pol Pot when his Khmer Rouge forces ruled Cambodia, but since his 1979 overthrow by Vietnam, Beijing has denied having anything to do with Pol Pot’s guerrilla movement.

``We believe that the question of the Khmer Rouge is an internal affair of Cambodia, and Cambodian affairs should be resolved by the Cambodian people themselves,″ Zhu said. ``It is inappropriate to hand over Pol Pot to an international court.″

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