Born on 5/19/1925 or 28 in Kompong Thom province, Cambodia. Died 4/15/1998, near Anlong Veng.

Claim to Fame: Totalitarian Khmer Rouge leader whose 1975-79 reign of terror lead to imhumane hardships for the defenseless people of Cambodia. Even by Communist standards, his radical communist government oversaw the brutal killings and displacement of millions of people and left a bloody legacy of poverty and brutality.

Born Saloth Sar to landowning parents, Saloth left his family home at age 6 to live with a brother in Phnom Penh to being his studies. He was a failure as a student and failed his high school entrace exams. Instead her began studying carpentry. In the late 1940s, he went to Paris to study and became involved with the Communist Party. Once again, he flunked out of school and had to return to Cambodia in 1953.

He taught school for a short time and continued his subversive activities. In 1963 he changed his name to Pol Pot. While serving as the secretary to the Cambodian Commies, he led an overthrow of the military government of Lon Nol in 1975. As the new prime minister it is estimated that over one million people were killed from in the first four years of his regime. Pol instituted radical agrarian and social reforms that included forced labour, starvation, disease, torture and execution of opponents.

The regime was immortilized by the 1984 film The Killing Fields.

In 1979, Vietnamese invaded and overthrew Pol Pot. Fearing for his life he retreated to the mountains and continued to influence the Khmer Rouge. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, "By 1997 the Khmer Rouge were in deep decline, their ranks riddled by desertions and factionalism, and that year Pol Pot was forcibly ousted from the organization's leadership and placed under house arrest by his colleagues. Pol Pot died of natural causes in 1998 while held under arrest by his former comrades."

In addition to the very good writeups by SheThing and perdedor, I would also like to point out the following things about the monster known as Pol Pot.

  • Because of him, most of Cambodia's rich cultural artifacts, including the temples at Angkor, have been destroyed due to the battles between the Khmer Rouge and everybody else.
  • Because of him, 2 million people died, with millions more who are still suffering from the effects of torture and traumatization of the war.
  • Because of him, my wife, who fled Cambodia when she was 6 years old, still cries in terror when she hears thunder and cannot watch any war documentaries or movies without having nightmares.

It still amazes me that when the topic of genocide comes up, most people will only remember the Holocaust. While the number of deaths involved due to that terrible time certainly dwarf those of The Killing Fields, the sheer horror of it is just as potent. What perdedor says is correct...the whole incident is often a footnote in most history books. It is the belief of many that this is due to the fact that much of the Western world had done pretty much nothing during the rule of the Khmer Rouge and, thusly, would prefer to keep quiet about such non-action.

This node is quite detailed, but I would like to add a few points to it.

I recently visited Cambodia and seen the abject poverty and crippling horror of the genocide. We were shown around the Tuol Sleng Museum (otherwise known as S-21) and showed the torture devices used, the pictures of victims, the cells prisoners were kept in and the piles of skulls stacked up high.

That was not what had the greatest impact on me.

Our tour guide, who had survived the Pol Pot regime still had a look of terror in his eyes even though Pol Pot was dead. He had a look of intense loathing and fear and I knew that the psychological wounds would never heal.

But what he said still rings in my ears today. He said "It's important people know."

I suppose the real point I'm trying to make is that, while we may be told that these things happened in Country A or B, we can't really understand what is happening (or happened) until you get close to the people.

The other thing he said, which also saddens me was about the youth of Cambodia and how they don't understand what happened during the time of the Khmer Rouge.

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