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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khmer Renegade Slams 'Bloody' Pol Pot

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Renegade Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary declared himself chief of a breakaway faction opposed to the notorious Pol Pot on Friday in his first public statement since the movement sentenced him to death last week.

In a fax received by news organizations, Sary, once No. 2 in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, laid blame for the deaths of millions of Cambodians in the 1970s on Pol Pot alone and said he had turned over a new leaf to prevent such a tragedy from being repeated.

Sary claimed that breakaway divisions of the guerrilla army negotiating a cease-fire with the government had asked him to serve as their leader. The fax did not reveal his whereabouts.

"I agree to the request of the soldiers and people who invited me to lead them to join the whole nation toward a true national reconciliation, different from a wrong ideology," Sary said. "Pol Pot, Ta Mok and Son Sen think only of bloodshed until the end."

Ta Mok, a one-legged guerrilla genius, and Khmer Rouge defense chief Son Sen have kept the rebels fighting the Phnom Penh government since they boycotted UN-sponsored elections in 1993.

Sary, brother-in-law of Pol Pot, was foreign minister of the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled from 1975 to 1979, during which it was responsible for the deaths of as many as 2 million Cambodians from overwork, disease, starvation and executions.

Khmer Rouge clandestine radio last week denounced Sary as a traitor and announced that he had been sentenced to death for corruption.

Widely accused of crimes against humanity, Ieng Sary had long figured as No. 2 on the government's most-wanted list. Since his recent change of heart, however, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen has shown willingness to pardon him in exchange for making peace.

In the statement, whose authenticity could not be independently verified, Ieng Sary said he suffered from an unspecified illness and accused Pol Pot of "slander" when calling him a traitor.

"In my life, I have led the resistance movement for dozens of years," Sary said.

"During three years in power, Pol Pot ordered the death of people without consideration at all, aiming only to strengthen his power," the statement said.

At least two Khmer Rouge division commanders, and possibly as many as six, according to government claims, have broken away from the main movement and declared loyalty to Sary, saying they hope to contest elections in 1998.

Ieng Sary claimed that other Khmer Rouge units in the northwest and northeast have also agreed to join his leadership. In all, the renegade elements number perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 of the movement's estimated 5,500 fighters, although the government claims many more have laid down their arms.