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Cambodia: reported death of Pol Pot.

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17 April 1998




The apparent death of the infamous Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot brings to an end one of the most shocking pages in recent hi story. It is the judgement of our Embassy in Phnom Penh that, on this occasion, the report of Pol Pot's death seem to be true.


Strong evidence indicates that Pol Pot died late on 15 April in an area of Cambodia near the Thai border. Although it may well be too late, we would, along with others in the international community including the United States and Thai Governments, prefer that an autopsy was conducted to prove his death conclusively.


While I am sure that if his death is confirmed there will be no tears shed for Pol Pot many would have preferred to have seen him formally brought to justice for his crimes against humanity. Many, including the Australian Government and the people of Australia, remain committed to seeing other senior Khmer Rouge leaders brought to justice.


Pol Pot's death reminds us of the need for an International Criminal Court. If such an institution had existed at the time, there would have been an avenue for Pol Pot to be prosecuted for his appalling crimes against humanity. Australia has worked hard for the establishment of an ICC and will continue to do so at the Diplomatic Conference in Rome in June-July, which will finalise and adopt the Convention establishing the Court.


If confirmed, his death would mark a further significant step towards the collapse of the Khmer Rouge which was responsible for the deaths of over a million Cambodians in the 1970's. It also provides an opportunity for Cambodians to move forward with the process of national reconciliation.


Australia has been strongly supportive of Cambodia in its efforts to rebuild itself and continues, through its active role in the "Friends of Cambodia" group, which Australia was instrumental in establishing, to help bring peace and stability to the country. Australia will again be represented when the "Friends" meet again in Bangkok on 19 April.