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."