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Cambodian immigrants hope report of Pol Pot surrender is true

June 19, 1997

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Some were hopeful about the news. Others who lost loved ones in the killing fields of Cambodia were skeptical about reports that Pol Pot, architect of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal policies, had surrendered.

``I really want to see him, the way he dies,″ said Marin R. Yann, whose entire family was killed under the man blamed for leading the slaughter of as many as 2 million people.

Other residents of Long Beach’s Little Cambodia immigrant community expressed disbelief that Pol Pot had been captured and wanted to see him first before believing it.

Otherwise, ``He’s going to die somewhere and we’ll never see his body,″ said Chetra Keo, one of roughly 50,000 Cambodians who live this Southern California city, which has the largest concentration of Cambodians outside Cambodia.

Pol Pot had not been seen by the outside world since he and his followers fled the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in 1979.

Cambodian military officials announced Wednesday that the Khmer Rouge guerrilla leader surrendered as former comrades who turned against him closed in. They reportedly want him tried by an international tribunal.

But today other Cambodian officials said Pol Pot had not been found. The announcement reinforced suspicions that officials in Cambodia’s tense two-party coalition government have been manipulating their stories for partisan political advantage.

``If Pol Pot really surrenders, there will be joy for everyone. We will learn not only how things happened, but Cambodian leaders and Cambodian people will learn from what happened,″ said Michael Sien.

Justice would be served if Pol Pot were tried for the people who died from starvation, disease, torture and overwork during his Maoist regime, many residents said.

But others did not believe he would pay for his crimes.

``I’m really highly skeptical,″ said Sovann Tith, who lost relatives in the regime. ``I don’t think we’ll even see Pol Pot brought to justice.″

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