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Pol Pot

(1928—1998) Cambodian communist leader of the Khmer Rouge, Prime Minister 1976–9


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(b. 19 May 1928, d. 15 Apr. 1998).

Prime Minister of Kampuchea (Cambodia) 1975–9 Born Saloth Sar of a prosperous and well‐connected peasant family in Kompong Thom province, he studied in Pnomh Penh and Kompong Cham, and became a member of Ho Chi Minh's Indochinese Communist Party and in 1949 went to study electrical technology in Paris. On his return in 1953, he briefly fought against the French in the Indochina War. He became a member of the central committee of the newly founded Communist Party of Kampuchea in 1960, and was appointed its secretary in 1963. He went north to organize guerrilla resistance against Sihanouk's regime, and led his Khmer Rouge forces in the civil war against Lon Nol's regime. Once he came to power (which was officially kept secret until 1976), his relationship with Vietnam, which had supported his guerrilla campaign, soon soured because Pol Pot asserted his own independence and authority. With unimaginable brutality, he set out to create a truly Communist society and to break all resistance. During the almost four years of his government, around one million people died in his reign of terror, as a result of assassination, imprisonment, or hunger caused by a collapsed economy. He was deposed in January 1979 after the Vietnamese invasion, whereupon he withdrew to fight a guerrilla campaign from the countryside.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence — Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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