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Khmer Rouge official likely seeking asylum after not finding Kampuchea family

A senior Khmer Rouge official has reportedly sought asylum in Canada. Khay Chheak Bun Kim, the deputy permanent representative of Democratic Kampuchea to the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, failed to return to Bangkok after attending an ESCAP conference in Japan last April.

The Kampuchean (Cambodian) delegation to ESCAP is one of the more important diplomatic posts left to the Khmer Rouge.

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Western colleagues of Bun Kim have long felt that his reasons for remaining with the Khmer Rouge were personal rather than political. Like thousands of other Khmers, Bun Kim had lost contact with his family during the Pol Pot years. He was almost certain that his wife and children had died of starvation during those years, Western sources say, but hewanted to stay close to the border in case their whereabouts became known.

Bun Kim's story is probably not very different from those of many other Khmers of his generation. While studying in England in the early '70s, he became sympathetic to the Khmer Rouge, as did other young Khmer intellectuals who saw them as an antidote to the corruption of the US-backed Lon Nol regime. After the Khmer Rouge victory in 1975, Bun Kim returned home. By then Kam-puchean cities had been emptied and he was unable to make contact with his family.

He joined the government, and when the Pol Pot regime was overthrown by the Vietnamese in late 1978, he joined the exodus to the border. It is not clear how far he still supported the Khmer Rouge then. When this correspondent spoke to Bun Kim several years ago, he talked about the massacres under Pol Pot. Many people had been killed, and many more had died of other causes, he admitted. He maintained the killings were the work of Vietnamese agents who had infiltrated the Khmer Communist Party. Then he changed tack slightly. Besides, he added, the foreign ministry was not to blame: it had nothing to do with internal affairs. And Ieng Sary - who was in charge of foreign affairs during the Khmer Rouge years - could have had nothing to do with the killing. He was travelling most of the time.

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