Pol Pot (born 1928) was a key figure in the Cambodian Communist movement, becoming premier of the government of Democratic Kampuchéa (DK) from 1976 to 1979. He directed the mass killing of intellectuals, professional people, city dwellers—perhaps one-fifth of his own people.
Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar on May 19, 1928. He was the second son of a conservative, prosperous, and influential small landowner. Pol Pot's father had social and political connections at the royal court at the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, some 70 miles south from Prek Sbau, the small hamlet in Kompong Thom, the province where Pol Pot was born. Visits by court officials—and, on at least one occasion, even by King Monivong himself—to Pol Pot's father's home appear to have been common. Pol Pot consistently denied that he was Saloth Sar, probably because his family and educational background clashed with Communist proletarian perceptions and because his tactical and organizational skills seemed to have flourished best in an atmosphere of extreme secrecy. Even after he had become premier of the victorious Communist Democratic Kampuchéa (DK) regime in Phnom Penh on April 5, 1976, there was widespread uncertainty about who he was.
The Education of a Radical
Pol Pot's intellectual development showed a sharp break from traditional toward radical values. He was educated in a Buddhist monastery and a private Catholic institution in Phnom Penh and then enrolled at a technical school in the provincial quiet and security of the town of Kompong Cham to learn carpentry. Despite his later claims, there is no evidence that as early as his mid-teens he joined Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh resistance for a while. He seemed at first destined for a trade in carpentry. However, the program of French colonial policymakers to accelerate development of a more diversified "polytechnic" elite in the overseas territories enabled Pol Pot in 1949 to obtain a government scholarship to study radio and electrical technology in Paris.
In France Pol Pot joined a small circle of leftist Cambodian students—some of whom later became prominent Marxist and/or Communist Party leaders (such as Ieng Sary, the future DK foreign minister, and Hou Yuon, an independent Marxist radical who repeatedly served in Prince Norodom Sihanouk's cabinets until his death in 1975 in the Pol Pot holocaust). Pol Pot soon became an anti-colonialist, Marxist radical. Among the European countries he visited during this period was Yugoslavia, whose determination to chart its own national Communist course of thoroughgoing reform reportedly particularly impressed him.
Upon his return to Cambodia in 1953, Pol Pot first drifted into the Viet Minh "United Khmer Issarak (Freedom) Front" of underground Cambodian Communists and radical nationalists. After 1954 the Issarak's principal above-ground organizational mainstay became the Krom Pracheachon ("Citizens Association"). The Front, along with other Cambodian political groups, opposed both the remnant of French colonial power in Cambodia and the government of Sihanouk. The latter was perceived by many Cambodians to be a French puppet. Pol Pot served for several months with Viet Minh and Issarak units, some of whom had joined in the loose leftist radical resistance groups supervised by the Krom Pracheachon. But Cambodia's 1954 achievement of independence from the French also found him increasingly involved in the organization of the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), the first Cambodian Communist party, founded in 1951.
In the post-independence era Pol Pot appears to have resented as much the continued heavy Communist Vietnamese influence in the KPRP and its armed units as the hothouse atmosphere of partisan political intrigues in the capital deftly manipulated by the wily Sihanouk. Pol Pot's contempt for intellectuals and politicians jockeying for favor and power was greatly increased and helped shape his own ruthless radical reforms once he assumed power. Pol Pot's mentor in these years was Tou Samouth, the onetime Unified Issarak Front's president and later the KPRP's secretary general. Like Pol Pot, Samouth was primarily interested in building the KPRP into a genuinely Cambodian, broad-based organization capable of rallying all opposition elements among peasants, urban workers, and intellectuals against the Sihanouk regime. This effort led to tensions with the Vietnamese, who continued to try to dominate the left and anti-Sihanouk Cambodian resistance.
Building a Revolutionary Party
On September 28, 1960, Pol Pot, Tou Samouth, Ieng Sary, and a handful of followers reportedly met in secret in a room of the Phnom Penh railroad station to found the "Workers Party of Kampuchea" (WPK). Samouth was named secretary general and Pol Pot became one of three Politburo members. But on February 20, 1963, at the WPK's second congress, Pol Pot succeeded Samouth as party secretary. The latter had disappeared on July 20, 1963, under mysterious circumstances and subsequently was reported to have been assassinated. Whether Pol Pot was involved in Samouth's murder remains uncertain.
For the next 13 years, as the WPK increasingly seemed to distance itself from Hanoi, Pol Pot and other top WPK cadres virtually disappeared from public notice. They set up their main party encampments in a remote forest area of Ratanakiri province. During this period Pol Pot appears not only to have been consolidating his own leadership position in the WPK, but he also gradually and successfully contested pro-Hanoi elements in the anti-Sihanouk resistance generally. However, Pol Pot at this time carefully avoided an open breach with the Vietnamese Communists, who were consolidating their hold on the Ho Chi Minh trail and adjacent pockets of Cambodian territory. Nevertheless, a 1965 visit by Pol Pot to Hanoi designed to win acceptance as top party leader was shrouded in mutual mistrust. More successful was Pol Pot's journey and extended stay in Beijing in the same year. He remained in China for some seven months, during which time he likely received ideological and organizational schooling. Pol Pot's pro-Chinese orientation became more pronounced upon his return to Cambodia in September 1966. The WPK soon changed its name to Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK).
CPK-instigated demonstrations against the Sihanouk regime now steadily mounted. The prince's blanket denunciation and execution of scores of what his government termed the Khmer Rouge ("Red Khmers") solidified the CPK-led opposition. At the same time it made that opposition appear more formidable than it actually was. In December 1969 and January 1970 Pol Pot and other CPK leaders again visited Hanoi and Beijing, evidently in preparation for a final drive against the Sihanouk regime. But the drive was preempted as on March 18, 1970, a right-wing coup in Phnom Penh overthrew Sihanouk, bringing Lon Nol to the Cambodian presidency.
Although some CPK members and other Communist Pracheachon resistance leaders—including Pol Pot's colleague the future DK President Khieu Sampan—rallied to Sihanouk's call for a united front against Lon Nol, Pol Pot himself remained aloof. After Sihanouk's fall, Hanoi had begun infiltrating some 1, 000 Vietnamese-trained Cambodian Communists into Cambodia. But on orders of Pol Pot most of these were identified and quickly killed. Despite this action and clashes with Pol Pot's followers in Kompong Chom province, Hanoi avoided rupture in the interest of winning first a decisive Communist victory throughout Indochina.
In mid-September 1971 a new CPK congress reelected Pol Pot as secretary general and as commander of its "Revolutionary Army." Tensions between Hanoi and Pol Pot increased further when the CPK refused a Vietnamese request to negotiate with the Lon Nol regime and the United States as Vietnamese-U.S. discussions took place in Paris. In keeping with the Paris Accords, the Vietnamese in the early months of 1973 left some of their Cambodian encampments. But CPK "Revolutionary Army" units quickly took their place as Pol Pot further strengthened his power base. Clashes between Lon Nol's forces and Pol Pot's guerrillas, as well as new "Revolutionary Army" raids on pro-Hanoi Cambodian resistance units and on followers of Sihanouk's coalition exile government continued, however. Yet throughout 1974, in letters to Hanoi and Vietnamese party leaders and in public messages, Pol Pot affirmed his friendship and gratitude.
A Holocaust on His Own People
On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh fell to several Communist Cambodian and Sihanoukist factions. The CPK and Pol Pot slowly managed to establish hegemony over the capital. Fighting continued between Pol Pot's "Revolutionary Army" and Vietnamese troops in disputed border territories and on islands in the Gulf of Thailand. At a meeting with Vietnamese representatives along the border in early June 1975, Pol Pot reportedly apologized for his troops' "faulty map reading." Tensions between Pol Pot and his associates and the Vietnamese did not abate, however, despite another Pol Pot visit to Hanoi in order to suggest a friendship treaty.
For nearly a year Pol Pot and other Cambodian Communists, as well as the embattled Norodom Sihanouk, struggled for power in the newly proclaimed state of "Democratic Kampuchea." Another CPK party congress in January 1976 reaffirmed Pol Pot's position as secretary general but also revealed emergent leadership rifts between Pol Pot and some outlying zone organizations of the party. Relations with Hanoi continued to worsen. On April 14, 1976, after CPK-controlled elections for a new "People's Representative Assembly" and the resignation as head of state of Sihanouk, a new DK government was proclaimed. Pol Pot, who officially had been elected to the assembly as a delegate of a "rubber workers organization, " now became premier.
However, his authority still was being contested both by Hanoi-influenced party cadres and rival party zone leaders. Beginning in November 1976 Pol Pot accelerated extensive purges of rivals, including cabinet ministers and other top party leaders. This provoked repeated explosions of unrest in Kompong Thom and Oddar Meanchey.
Meanwhile, the fury of Pol Pot's social and economic reform policies carried out by the mystery-shrouded Angka, or "inner" party organization, eventually was to make Pol Pot's name synonymous with one of the modern world's worst holocausts. Forced evacuation, through extended death marches, of the inhabitants of major cities and resettlement and harshly exploitive labor of tens of thousands in agricultural work projects; deliberate withholding of adequate food and medical care; systematic mass killings of all "old dandruff"—i.e., suspected subversives, especially those who had white collar or intellectual occupations or political experience—all these reflected Pol Pot's brand of ideology in which Rousseauist purism and Stalinist terrorism were uniquely blended. Great emphasis was placed in Pol Pot's policies on the training of the young and on the creation of a "New Man" in Cambodia. Even after Pol Pot was driven from power, young teenagers remained among his dedicated followers in the DK's "Revolutionary Army." But the killings and deliberate neglect by the Pol Pot regime cost some 1.6 million Cambodians their lives—nearly 20 percent of the country's total population.
Regime policies prompted mounting opposition among divisional commanders and party cadres. Pol Pot's visit to China and North Korea in September and October 1977 solidified his standing among other Asian Communist leaders, even as fighting with Vietnamese border forces intensified. On December 31, 1977, all diplomatic relations with Hanoi were severed, Pol Pot charging that the Vietnamese were seeking to impose their hegemony on both Laos and Cambodia through an "Indochinese Federation."
The Fall of a Dictator
On May 26, 1978, Eastern Zone party leaders and their followers rose up in revolt against Pol Pot. But the rising failed, and thousands of cadres either were killed or, like Heng Samrin (who would succeed Pol Pot as premier), made good their escape to Vietnam. Some Eastern Zone leaders charged Pol Pot with selling Cambodia to the Chinese. Vietnamese attacks on and military penetration of DK territory became more severe and extensive during the second half of 1978. Pol Pot's premiership also became more precarious and his overtures toward the Chinese to deter Vietnamese intervention found little response. In the wake of a final Vietnamese military drive, Pol Pot and other DK leaders were forces to flee Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. They eventually regrouped their forces and established an underground government in Western Cambodia and in the Cardamom mountain range.
On July 20, 1979, Pol Pot was condemned to death in absentia, on grounds of having committed genocide. The verdict was issued by a "People's Tribunal" of the new government of the "People's Republic of Kampuchea, " installed with the aid of Vietnamese forces. As growing world attention focussed on the plight of wartorn Cambodia and on the bloody violence of the Pol Pot era, Pol Pot himself increasingly became a liability to his Chinese backers and the underground DK leaders. At a CPK congress on December 17, 1979, Pol Pot stepped down as DK prime minister, and the post was taken over by DK President Khieu Sampan. However, he remained as party secretary general and as head of the CPK's military commission, making him in effect the overall commander of the DK's 30, 000-man guerrilla force battling the Vietnamese in Cambodia. (But throughout most of the 1980s the Vietnamese army controlled Cambodia (Kampuchea) under the presidency of Heng Samrin.)
After leaving his premiership little was known of Pol Pot's whereabouts or activities. Reportedly he repeatedly sought medical attention for a cardio-vascular condition in Beijing in the course of 1981-1983. On September 1, 1985, the DK's clandestine radio announced that Pol Pot had retired as commander of the DK's "National Army" and had been appointed to be "Director of the Higher Institute for National Defense."
Pol Pot was married to Khieu Ponnary, a former fellow student activist of his Paris days and later the CPK women's movement leader in Phnom Penh.
Captured at Last
After several years of living underground, Pol Pot was finally captured on June 18, 1997 by a rival faction of his own comrades. The Khmer Rouge had suffered from internal factionalism in recent years, and finally splintered into opposing forces, the largest of which, in the northern zone, joined with the government of Cambodia under Sihanouk and hunted down their former leader. Upon capturing him, the guerrillas sentenced Pol Pot, leader of the modern day reign of terror, to life in prison.
Pol Pot kept out of the limelight even during his premiership, and no comprehensive full length biography of him as yet exists. Various stages of his life and career are dealt with in Ben Kiernan and Stephen Heder, "Why Pol Pot? Roots of the Cambodian Tragedy, " Indochina Issues (Center for International Policy, Washington, D.C.), 52 (December 1984); Serge Thion, "Chronology of Khmer Communism, 1940-1982, " in David P. Chandler and Ben Kiernan, editors, Revolution and Its Aftermath in Kampuchea (Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, Monograph Series, no. 25, 1983); Ben Kiernan and Chanthou Boua, editors, Peasants and Politics in Kampuchea, 1942-1981 (1982); Michael Vickery, Cambodia, 1975-1982 (1984); and David P. Chandler, A History of Cambodia (1983). For the PRK view of Pol Pot see Say Phouthong, "Fidelity to the Chosen Path, " World Marxist Review (February 1985). The horror of the Pol Pot holocaust was reported by Elizabeth Becker in When the War Was Over: The voices of Cambodia's revolution and its people (1986). □
"Pol Pot." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot
"Pol Pot." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot
Born: May 19, 1928
Kompong Thom, Cambodia
Died: April 15, 1998
Near Anlong Veng, Cambodia
Pol Pot was a leader in the Cambodian Communist movement and became premier of the government of Democratic Kampuchéa (DK) from 1976 to 1979. He directed the mass killing of intellectuals, professional people, and city dwellers—over a million of his own people.
Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar on May 19, 1928, near Anlong Veng, Cambodia, the second son of a successful landowner. Pol Pot's father had political connections at the royal court at the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, some seventy miles from Prek Sbau, the small hamlet in Kompong Thom province where Pol Pot was born. Visits by court officials and even by Cambodian king Sisowath Monivong himself to Pol Pot's father's home appear to have been common. Pol Pot often denied that he was Saloth Sar, probably to protect his family. He adopted his new name by 1963, and even after he had become premier, people were unsure of his actual identity.
Pol Pot was a poor student. He was educated by Buddhists and at a private Catholic institution in Phnom Penh, and then enrolled at a technical school (a place where mechanical or scientific subjects are taught) in the town of Kompong Cham to learn carpentry. He later obtained a government scholarship to study radio and electrical technology in Paris. However, in France Pol Pot began to spend less time studying and more time becoming involved with the Communist Party. (Communists believe in revolution to create a society in which the means of production—land, factories, and mines—are owned by the people as a whole rather than by individuals.)
After returning to Cambodia in 1953, Pol Pot drifted into the Vietnamese-influenced "United Khmer Issarak (Freedom) Front" of Cambodian Communists. The Front was one of many Cambodian groups that opposed French control of Cambodia as well as the government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. After Cambodia won its independence from the French in 1954 Pol Pot became involved with the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), the first Cambodian Communist party. His hatred for intellectuals (people who think, study, and understand) and politicians grew during this time. He was influenced by Tou Samouth, a former Front president who was interested in making the KPRP a genuinely Cambodian organization that could rally members of different groups against Sihanouk. The KPRP had conflicts with the Vietnamese, who wanted to control the anti-Sihanouk Cambodian resistance.
In September 1960 Pol Pot and a handful of followers met secretly at the Phnom Penh railroad station to found the "Workers Party of Kampuchéa" (WPK). Samouth was named secretary general. By 1963 Pol Pot had replaced Samouth as party secretary, and Samouth later disappeared under mysterious circumstances. For the next thirteen years Pol Pot and other WPK members disappeared from public view and set up their party organization in a remote forest area. During this period Pol Pot worked to strengthen his leadership position in the WPK and to hold down Vietnamese elements in the anti-Sihanouk movement. However, he carefully avoided a feud with the Vietnamese Communists, who were increasing their hold on parts of Cambodian territory. He also traveled to Beijing, China, to receive organizational training. Upon his return to Cambodia in 1966, the WPK changed its name to the Communist Party of Kampuchéa (CPK).
The CPK led many demonstrations against the Sihanouk administration, which caused Sihanouk to order the execution of dozens of CPK members, whom he referred to as the Khmer Rouge ("Red Khmers"). In December 1969 and January 1970 Pol Pot and other CPK leaders prepared to take down Sihanouk. But the military in Phnom Penh beat them to it, overthrowing Sihanouk in March 1970 and bringing Lon Nol to the Cambodian presidency. In 1971 Pol Pot was reelected as CPK secretary general and as commander of its "Revolutionary Army." The Vietnamese became angry when the CPK refused their request to begin talks with Lon Nol and the United States as Vietnamese-U.S. discussions took place in Paris. By terms of the Paris Accords, the Vietnamese pulled some of their troops out of Cambodia in early 1973. CPK "Revolutionary Army" units quickly took their place, and clashes between Lon Nol's and Pol Pot's forces continued.
Killing his own people
In April 1975 Phnom Penh fell to several Communist Cambodian and pro-Sihanouk groups. For nearly a year Pol Pot and other Cambodian Communists, as well as Sihanouk, struggled for power in the new state of "Democratic Kampuchéa." Another CPK party congress in January 1976 led to Pol Pot's reelection as secretary general, but also revealed differences of opinion between Pol Pot and other members of the party. Relations with Vietnam also continued to worsen. In April 1976, after the decision by Shanouk to step down as head of state, a new Democratic Kampuchéa (DK) government was proclaimed, and Pol Pot became premier. However, his authority was challenged by Vietnam-influenced party leaders. Beginning in November 1976 Pol Pot began to remove many of his rivals, including cabinet ministers and other top party leaders.
Meanwhile, Pol Pot's reform policies drove many people from major cities and forced tens of thousands into labor. The Cambodians were denied food and medical care, and mass killings of all suspected opponents—especially intellectuals or those with political experience—took place. Pol Pot was responsible for the deaths of over one million Cambodians—nearly 20 percent of the country's total population. Although opposition to Pol Pot was growing among party members, his visits to China and North Korea in September and October 1977 increased his standing among other Asian Communist leaders, even as fighting with Vietnamese border forces grew worse.
The fall of a dictator
Continued Vietnamese attacks on DK territory left Pol Pot with a shaky hold on power, and finally he and other DK leaders were forced to flee Phnom Penh in January 1979. They regrouped and established an underground government in western Cambodia and in the Cardamom mountain range. In July 1979 Pol Pot was sentenced to death in absentia (without him being present) for the murder of his own people. The sentence was issued by the new government of the "People's Republic of Kampuchéa," installed with the help of Vietnamese forces. With world attention focused on Cambodia, Pol Pot stepped down as DK prime minister in December 1979. However, he remained as party secretary general and as head of the CPK's military commission, making him the overall commander of the DK's thirty-thousand-man force battling the Vietnamese in Cambodia.
Little was known of Pol Pot's activities after that. In September 1985 the DK announced that Pol Pot had retired as commander of the DK's "National Army" and had been appointed to be "Director of the Higher Institute for National Defense." After several years of living underground, Pol Pot was finally captured in June 1997. The Khmer Rouge had suffered from internal conflicts in recent years and finally split into opposing forces, the largest of which joined with the government of Cambodia under Sihanouk and hunted down their former leader. Pol Pot was sentenced to life in prison. While under house arrest, he died of heart failure on April 15, 1998.
For More Information
Chandler, David P. Brother Number One: A Political Biography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.
Kiernan, Ben. The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–79. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
Stefoff, Rebecca. Pol Pot. New York: Chelsea House, 1991.
"Pol Pot." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot-0
"Pol Pot." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot-0
Pol Pot 1925?-1998
Pol Pot was the ruler of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and presided over one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century. In approximately 1925 (the exact date of this birth remains unclear), he was born Saloth Sar to a fairly well-to-do family in Kompong Thom Province, Cambodia. Although Pol Pot’s political zest developed while he was in his home country, his path to political leadership began to be forged after his arrival in Paris in 1949 to study radio electronics. There he became a member of the French Communist Party and met other Cambodian intellectual elites who would become powerful figures in the years 1975 to 1979.
Having failed his exams three years in a row, Pol Pot (a nom de guerre, short for the French politique potentielle ) returned to Cambodia in January 1953. He had, however, become well-versed in socialism and communism—his intellectual models were Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung—and his opposition to the government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk led him to join the Communist resistance. Pol Pot became a member of the Indochina Communist Party, which was dominated by Viet Minh, within a month after his return. He then joined the Cambodian Communist Party Group, whom Sihanouk named the Khmer Rouge or Red Cambodians, and became secretary general in 1962. This group then started agitating against the Phnom Penh government. Ultimately, through armed rebellion, the Khmer Rouge gained full control of the country. The party took power on April 17, 1975, less than two weeks before the fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War, and renamed the country Democratic Kampuchea. One of the Khmer Rouge’s first acts was to implement a complete evacuation of Phnom Penh to the countryside.
Under his four-year plan, Pol Pot’s stated aim was to turn Cambodia into a Maoist agrarian utopia; he planned to nationalize all industry and finance the economy through increased agricultural exports. His regime seized all legislative and judicial powers. Every Cambodian was forced to become an unpaid agrarian laborer and was allowed limited food and rest. Under the four-year plan, at least one million Cambodians died as a result of starvation, disease, or murder. Anyone suspected of betraying the government was killed.
Throughout the late 1970s relations with Vietnam worsened. Pol Pol’s government was toppled on January 7, 1979, by the invading Vietnamese army. Pol Pot himself never surrendered; he fled into the jungle near Thailand and led a Khmer Rouge guerrilla war from there. As Cambodia worked to return to normalcy, it remained under threat from the Khmer Rouge, which never recognized the Phnom Penh government and claimed some western provinces on the border with Thailand. Pol Pot maintained his opposition to the new coalition government until the national elections of 1993. Never brought to justice for having decimated his country, he died on April 15, 1998, in the Thai-Cambodian border area.
SEE ALSO Communism; Dictatorship; Genocide; Khmer Rouge; Killing Fields; Socialism; Vietnam War
Kiernan, Ben. 2002. The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Short, Philip. 2004. Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare. New York: Henry Holt.
"Pol Pot." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/pol-pot
"Pol Pot." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/pol-pot
Pol Pot, 1925–98, Cambodian political leader, originally named Saloth Sar. Paris-educated, and a Khmer Communist leader from 1960, he led Khmer Rouge guerrillas against the government of Lon Nol after 1970. In 1975 he proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea and served as its premier (1976–79). The systematic murder of members of various groups; the complete destruction of individual rights; forced labor, disease, and starvation in Cambodia's
; the transformation of a developing country into a xenophobic agrarian society; and other horrors that can be ascribed to the cruelty or ineptitude of Pol Pot made him one of the most infamous leaders in modern history. Some 1.5 million out of a total population of about 7 million died during his rule, which ended with an invasion by the Vietnamese in late 1979. Although he retired officially in 1985, Pol Pot continued to control his guerrillas, the strongest antigovernment force, in western jungle areas of Cambodia until factional collapse shortly before his death.
See biographies by D. Chandler (1992, rev. ed. 1999) and P. Short (2005); study by B. Kiernan (2d ed. 2002).
"Pol Pot." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot
"Pol Pot." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot
"Pol Pot." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot
"Pol Pot." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pol-pot