The Mysterious Death of Pol Pot

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Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, has died in exactly the way guerrillas are not supposed to: peacefully in his sleep. By doing so, he cheated both his pursuers in Cambodia and his would-be international tribunal. It was perfect timing: "We could almost have arrested him tomorrow," said Youk Chhang of the Yale University project that was gathering evidence against the Khmer Rouge killer.

For some, it was too perfect. "It wouldn't be beyond the Khmer Rouge either to try and fake his death or to have killed him," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. Previous reports of Pol Pot's death, after all, have been greatly exaggerated. But never before have they come from both the Khmer Rouge and Thai authorities. More fruitful for conspiracy theorists are the rumors of an inside job.

Some in the Cambodian military think current Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok had his old rival murdered to take the heat off his embattled guerrilla group. And at least one of Pol Pot's captors has seen the death as a way to wash his hands: "We are clean now," said his jailer, Nuon Nou. So is the U.S., Thailand and Singapore -- a tribunal might have brought to light just how much they helped him evade capture in the '80s.