Pol Pot Biography

Pol Pot was the Cambodian revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge. This biography provides a glimpse of his childhood, career, profile and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: May 19, 1925

Nationality: Cambodian

Famous: Criminals Revolutionaries

Sun Sign: Taurus

Died At Age: 72

Born in: Kampong Thom Province, French Indochina

Famous as: Dictator, War Criminal

political ideology: Communist Party of Kampuchea

Family:

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

father: Pen Saloth

mother: Sok Nem

siblings: Loth Suong, Roeung, Saloth Chhay, Saloth Nhep, Saloth Suong

children: Saloth Sitha

religion: Atheist

Died on: April 15, 1998

place of death: Anlong Veng, Kingdom of Cambodia

Ideology: Communists

More Facts

education: EFREI (1949–1953), Lycee Sisowath

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Pol Pot, the Cambodian revolutionary leader of the Khmer Rouge 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 twentieth 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 presided over a genocide that systematically wiped out a quarter of the population. His policies were beyond comprehension. He targeted the cream of the society—educated men and women who in any other country would have been considered as assets. He used the poor, uneducated and easily impressionable people to execute his commands, first winning them over with claims that he was fighting American imperialism and then keeping them on his side with tall promises. The fear, anger, torture, poverty, hunger and the feeling of helplessness left a horrible scar on a generation of Cambodians. People who survived the regime are are still trying to come to terms with their past, a chilling reminder of a man’s madness.

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Pol Pot
Childhood & Early Life
  • Pol Pot was born on May 19, 1925, to Pen Saloth, a moderately wealthy rice farmer and Sok Nem, in Prek Sbauv, Kampong Thom Province. Named Saloth Sar at birth, he was eighth of nine children.
  • In 1935, he left his village to attend Ecole Miche, a Catholic school in Phnom Penh and stayed with his cousin, Meak. Not very bright as a student, he switched to technical study.
  • 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 thrice 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 Cambodians were considered inferior to 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 that 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, renamed as 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 and so the 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 Cambodian monarchy e.
  • By 1968, he had become the sole authority, and even though the Khmer Rouge did not have popular support, he decided to instigate a revolt against the Cambodian Government.
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  • In 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown in a military coup by General Lon Nol, and America, fighting the Vietcong, started to bombard Cambodia. Now, Khmer Rouge was fighting American imperialism and gained widespread popular support.
  • In 1975, the bitter civil war ended with the overthrow of General Lon Nol and the Khmer Rouge seized power. Their leader began calling himself, ‘brother number one’, being secretive about his real name.
  • The regime banned religion, and scattered the minority groups. Buddhist monks, Christians, Muslims and other educated people were arrested and imprisoned.
  • In 1976, Pol Pot evacuated Phnom Penh and transferred the people to the rural areas. A U.N. investigation reported 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 the Khmer Rouge’s rule.
  • The Khmer Rouge and their leader retreated to the remote area of Cambodia along the Thai border barely surviving and powerless, until he resigned as the head of the 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.
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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.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Pol Pot 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 the 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 based on the true experiences of two journalists, directed by Roland Joffe, is one of the best portrayals of the regime’s cruelty.
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Trivia
  • This leader justified his actions with these words-‘I did not join the resistance movement to kill people, to kill the nation. Look at me now. Am I a savage person? My conscience is clear’.
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How To Cite

Article Title
- Pol Pot Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/pol-pot-2588.php
Last Updated
- September 13, 2017

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