Pol Pot Biography

(Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1976 to 1979)

Birthday: May 19, 1925 (Taurus)

Born In: Prek Sbov, Cambodia

Pol Pot was a Cambodian revolutionary leader, who came to kown for his brutal regime that led to the killing of a sizeable population of Combodia. He served as the general secretary of the ‘Communist Party’ of Kampuchea. His regime is regarded as one of the bloodiest in the annals of the 20th century. The sheer scale of the horror that he unleashed can never be justified. It was also senseless with regard to its aim and method. If all he wanted was the establishment of an agrarian utopia, he could have taken a less brutal route. But, his regime was responsible for a genocide that systematically wiped out a quarter of the population in Cambodia. His policies were beyond comprehension. He targeted educated men and women, who in any other country would have been considered assets. He used the poor, uneducated, and impressionable to execute his commands; he won them over with claims that he was fighting American imperialism and then kept them on his side with tall promises. Fear, anger, torture, poverty, hunger, and the feeling of helplessness left a horrible scar on a generation of Cambodians. People who survived his regime are still trying to come to terms with their past, a chilling reminder of a man’s madness.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Saloth Sâr

Died At Age: 72


Spouse/Ex-: Khieu Ponnary (m. 1956–1979), Mea Son (m. 1985–1998)

father: Pen Saloth

mother: Sok Nem

siblings: Saloth Chhay, Saloth Nhep, Saloth Roueng

children: Sar Patchata

Born Country: Cambodia

Dictators Prime Ministers

Height: 5'9" (175 cm), 5'9" Males

political ideology: Communist Party of Kampuchea

Died on: April 15, 1998

place of death: Anlong Veng, Cambodia

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

  • 1

    What was the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot?

    The Khmer Rouge regime was a communist regime led by Pol Pot in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
  • 2

    How many people were estimated to have died under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime?

    It is estimated that around 1.7 to 2.2 million people died due to execution, forced labor, starvation, and disease under Pol Pot's regime.
  • 3

    What were the main policies implemented by Pol Pot during his rule?

    Pol Pot implemented radical policies that aimed to create an agrarian utopia, including forced labor, agricultural collectivization, and the elimination of perceived enemies.
  • 4

    How did the Khmer Rouge fall from power?

    The Khmer Rouge fell from power in 1979 after a Vietnamese invasion that ousted the regime from Cambodia.
  • 5

    What was the legacy of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia?

    The legacy of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime includes widespread devastation, trauma, and the loss of a significant portion of Cambodia's population.
Childhood & Early Life

Pol Pot was born Saloth Sâr on May 19, 1925, in Prek Sbauv, Kampong Thom, French Indochina, to Pen Saloth, a rice farmer, and Sok Nem. He was the eighth of nine children born to the couple.

In 1935, he left his village to attend ‘Ecole Miche,’ a Catholic school, in Phnom Penh where he stayed with his cousin Meak. Not a very bright student, he switched to technical studies.

In 1949, Pol Pot got a scholarship to study radio electronics in Paris. There, he joined the ‘Cercle Marxiste,’ consisting of the Khmer students in Paris, and the French Communist Party.

He failed twice in his exams and headed back to Cambodia in 1953. He advised the ‘Cercle’ members, who returned home, to join the Communist revolutionary organization, ‘Khmer Viet Minh.’

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Later Years

In August 1953, he secretly left home for Krabao where the Viet Minh’s Eastern Zone Headquarters was situated. Here, he was appalled to find that the Cambodians were considered inferior to the Vietnamese.

With the Cambodian independence following the 1954 Geneva Accord, the ‘Khmer Viet Minh’ were forced to break up and he returned to Phnom Penh. He joined the ‘Democratic Party’ and hoped to influence its policies.

He and his friends decided that a revolution was required when Khmer Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, who had abdicated the power, rigged the 1955 elections, which were held as part of the Accord.

Following Cambodia’s independence, he became a member of the ‘Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party’ (KPRP). After a power struggle within the KPRP in the early-1960s, he took control of the party.

The KPRP, which was renamed the ‘Communist Party of Kampuchea’ (CPK) in 1966, was more commonly known as the ‘Khmer Rouge.’ Khmer King Norodom Sihanouk had embarked on repressing his dissidents. Hence, Pol Pot took refuge in the jungles.

In 1964, with the help of North Vietnam, he established a base in the border region and called for an armed struggle against the Cambodian monarchy.

By 1968, he had become the sole authority of the party. Even though ‘Khmer Rouge’ did not have popular support, he decided to instigate a revolt against the Cambodian Government.

In 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown in a military coup by General Lon Nol. Around the same time, America started to bombard Cambodia. Now, ‘Khmer Rouge’ was fighting American imperialism and hence gained widespread support.

In 1975, the civil war ended with the overthrow of General Lon Nol and ‘Khmer Rouge’ seized power. Their leader began calling himself ‘brother number one,’ maintaining his real name a secret.

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The regime banned religion, and scattered the minority groups. Buddhist monks, Christians, Muslims, and educated people were arrested and imprisoned.

In 1976, Pol Pot evacuated Phnom Penh and transferred the people to rural areas. According to an AUN investigation, 2–3 million died of starvation or executions, but he attributed them to the Vietnamese invasion.

He was suspicious of Vietnam and carried out incursions into their territory. Fed up of the belligerence, the Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia in 1978. They took control and ended Khmer Rouge’s rule.

‘The Khmer Rouge’ and their leader retreated to the remote area of Cambodia along the Thai border. Powerless and weak, he resigned as the head of ‘Khmer Rouge’ in 1985.

In 1997, he had his old associate Son Sen murdered, spreading fear among other ‘Khmer Rouge’ members. He was tried for the murder and sentenced to house arrest for life.

Major Works

After capturing Phnom Penh in 1975, Pol Pot began to implement the ‘Year Zero’ concept, which ordained drastic de-industrialization and initiated a new revolutionary culture within the society.

Personal Life & Legacy

Pol Pot was married twice. Khieu Ponnary, his first wife, became mentally ill by the time he came to power. In 1986, he married Mea Son, who gave birth to a daughter.

Just before ‘Khmer Rouge’ was about to turn him over to an international tribunal, he died on April 15, 1998. Though he was suffering from facial cancer and a paralytic stroke, there were suspicions of suicide and murder.

‘The Killing Fields,’ a film about the ‘Khmer Rouge,’ was directed by Roland Joffe. Based on the experiences of two journalists, the film is one of the best portrayals of the regime’s cruelty.

Facts About Pol Pot
Pol Pot was an avid reader and enjoyed studying history and philosophy, which influenced his political ideologies.
Despite his brutal regime, Pol Pot was known to be a vegetarian and practiced simple living habits.
Pol Pot was a skilled linguist and could speak multiple languages, including French and Chinese.
He was known to have a deep appreciation for traditional Cambodian arts and culture.
Pol Pot had a reputation for being a charismatic leader who was able to inspire loyalty and dedication among his followers.

See the events in life of Pol Pot in Chronological Order

How To Cite

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- Pol Pot Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com

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