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Read also: the Khmer Rouge, the Genocide, the Killing Fields and Pol Pot's Grave

Pol Pot

Pol Pot, who become responsible for the deaths of over two million of his own people, was born Saloth Sar in a small Cambodian village about 140 kilometers north of Phnom Penh. His date of birth is uncertain although French records give it as May 25, 1928. At age six he went to live with his brother at the Royal household in Phnom Penh. Here he learned Buddhist precepts and discipline. At age eight he went to a Catholic primary school, where he remained for six years. It was here that he picked up the basics of Western culture, as well as the French language.

In 1949, Pol Pot went to study in Paris on a government scholarship. It was here that he got his introduction to Communism, joining the French Communist Party. After four years of exposure to Stalinist Communism he returned to Cambodia in 1953. Within a month he had joined the Communist resistance, becoming a member of the Indochina Communist Party (IHC) which was dominated by the Viet Minh.

The 1954 Cambodian elections saw the Communists throw in support with the Democrats. The Democrats were soundly defeated, however, by the incumbent Government of Prince Sihanouk who now held absolute power. Pol Pot now took up a post as a teacher in a private college. He also spent his time recruiting the educated classes to the Communist cause. The Government, however, began a Communist crackdown and Pol Pot was forced to flee to the Jungles near the Vietnam border to avoid arrest. For the next seven years he would spend his time in the Cambodian jungle hiding from the police.

Over the ensuing years the communists bided their time as they built up their strength for a take-over attempt. They were bolstered by the North Vietnamese who were waging warfare against the Cambodian Government. A major Vietnamese victory in 1971 allowed the Communists to take control of certain areas of the country. In 1973 the communists launched a major attack on the Government but this was halted by American bombing. A final Communist assault began on January 1, 1975. This time they were victorious. On April 17, Communist forces entered Phnom Penh. Within 24 hours they had ordered the entire city evacuated. This process was repeated in other cities resulting in more than 2 million Cambodians being forced out of their homes. Many of them starved to death.

Pol Pot was now Prime Minister of Cambodia, which he promptly renamed Kampuchea. In August, 1976 he unveiled his Four Year Plan, which detailed the collectivisation of agriculture, the nationalization of industry and the financing of the economy through increased agricultural exports. This plan caused untold misery to the nation with many thousands dying in the paddy fields. Crops needed to feed the population were marked for export. Malnutrition was rampant, made worse by the Communist insistence on traditional Cambodian medicine. Pol Pot also started the infamous S-21 interrogation center where more than 20,000 men, women and children were tortured to death.
Throughout 1976 and 77 skirmishes with Vietnam continued. In December 1977 The Vietnamese made real inroads in Kampuchea. Pol Pot, however, held on for another year.
By January, 1979 the Vietnamese forces had actually reached Phnom Penh. The Kampuchean Government fled by train while Pol Pot was taken by helicopter to Thailand. His last public appearance was an interview in December 1979. For the next 19 years he remained in exile in the Thai jungle. Pol Pot died in 1998.

Graf van Pol Pot
Grave of Pol Pot, near Anlong Veng

Read about the Khmer Rouge

Read about the "Killing Fields".

Read about the genocide of Pol Pot.

Read about the Pol Pot's grave.

Pol Pot in zijn nadagen
Pol Pot at the end.