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Pol Pot

Pol Pot

Overview
Saloth Sar better known as Pol Pot, , was a Cambodian Maoist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

 from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Cambodia
The Prime Minister of Cambodia , is the head of government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Prime Minister is appointed by the King under Article 119 of the Constitution and is responsible for leading the government of the Kingdom.-Constitutional powers:The powers of the Prime Minister are established...

 of Democratic Kampuchea
Democratic Kampuchea
The Khmer Rouge period refers to the rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Khmer Rouge Communist party over Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge renamed as Democratic Kampuchea....

.

Pol Pot became leader of Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 on April 17, 1975. During his time in power he imposed a version of agrarian socialism
Agrarian socialism
Agrarian socialism is a socioeconomic political system which combines an agrarian way of life with socialist economic policies.When compared to standard socialist systems which are generally urban/industrial , internationally oriented, and more progressive/liberal in terms of social orientation,...

, forcing urban dwellers to relocate to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labour projects. The combined effects of forced labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions resulted in the deaths of approximately 21 percent of the Cambodian population.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

Everything I did, I did for my country.

Interview with Nate Thayer, "Day of Reckoning," Far Eastern Economic Review (October 1997)

I came to join the revolution, not to kill the Cambodian people. Look at me now. Am I a violent person? No. So, as far as my conscience and my mission were concerned, there was no problem.

Interview with Nate Thayer, "Day of Reckoning," Far Eastern Economic Review (October 1997)

Whoever wishes to blame or attack me is entitled to do so. I regret I didn't have enough experience to totally control the movement. On the other hand, with our constant struggle, this had to be done together with others in the communist world to stop Kampuchea becoming Vietnamese.

Interview with Nate Thayer, "Day of Reckoning," Far Eastern Economic Review (October 1997)

There's what we did wrong and what we did right. The mistake is that we did some things against the people—by us and also by the enemy—but the other side, as I told you, is that without our struggle there would be no Cambodia right now.

Interview with Nate Thayer, "Day of Reckoning," Far Eastern Economic Review (October 1997)

The first time I heard of Tuol Sleng|Tuol Sleng, it was on the Voice of America. I listened twice.

Interview with Nate Thayer, "Day of Reckoning," Far Eastern Economic Review (October 1997)

I am in extremely bad health. The blood does not reach my brain. It hurts every day.

Interview with Samkhom Pin (2 April 1998)
Encyclopedia
Saloth Sar better known as Pol Pot, , was a Cambodian Maoist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

 from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Cambodia
The Prime Minister of Cambodia , is the head of government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Prime Minister is appointed by the King under Article 119 of the Constitution and is responsible for leading the government of the Kingdom.-Constitutional powers:The powers of the Prime Minister are established...

 of Democratic Kampuchea
Democratic Kampuchea
The Khmer Rouge period refers to the rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Khmer Rouge Communist party over Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge renamed as Democratic Kampuchea....

.

Pol Pot became leader of Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 on April 17, 1975. During his time in power he imposed a version of agrarian socialism
Agrarian socialism
Agrarian socialism is a socioeconomic political system which combines an agrarian way of life with socialist economic policies.When compared to standard socialist systems which are generally urban/industrial , internationally oriented, and more progressive/liberal in terms of social orientation,...

, forcing urban dwellers to relocate to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labour projects. The combined effects of forced labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions resulted in the deaths of approximately 21 percent of the Cambodian population. In all, an estimated 2,000,000 to 5,000,000 people died under his leadership. He also led a ruthless and ideologically driven campaign against western culture and capitalism in Cambodia.

In 1979 after the invasion of Cambodia by neighbouring Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, he fled into the jungles of southwest Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge government collapsed. From 1979 to 1997 he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated from the border region of Cambodia and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, where they clung to power, with nominal United Nations recognition as the rightful government of Cambodia.

He died in 1998 while under house arrest by the Ta Mok
Ta Mok
Ta Mok , which means "Grandfather Mok" in Khmer, was the nom de guerre of Chhit Choeun , a senior figure in the leadership of the Khmer Rouge...

 faction of the Khmer Rouge. Since his death, rumours that he was poisoned have persisted.

Early life (1925–61)



Saloth Sar was born on May 19, 1925—the eighth of nine children, and the second of three sons—of a moderately wealthy family of Chinese descent, in the small fishing village of Prek Sbauv
Prek Sbauv
Prek Sbauv is a small fishing village alongside the Sen River in northeastern Cambodia. Except for being the birthplace of Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, Prek Sbauv is like any other fisher villages of Cambodia. The village has no more than 10 houses, is located in Kampong Thom Province at 12°...

, Kampong Thom Province in a Cambodia dominated by French colonialism
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

. In 1935 he left Prek Sbauv to attend the École Miche, a Catholic school in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonized Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security,...

. As his sister Roeung was a concubine
Concubinage
Concubinage is the state of a woman or man in an ongoing, usually matrimonially oriented, relationship with somebody to whom they cannot be married, often because of a difference in social status or economic condition.-Concubinage:...

 of King Sisowath Monivong
Sisowath Monivong
Sisowath Monivong was the king of Cambodia from 1927 until his death in 1941.Sisowath Monivong was the second son of King Sisowath. He was born in Phnom Penh in 1875. During this time, his uncle, King Norodom was ruling from Odong, the capital at that time, as a puppet king for the French...

, he often visited the royal palace.

In 1947, he gained admission to the exclusive Lycée Sisowath
Lycee Sisowath
Lycée Preah Sisowath is a secondary school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The school was founded in 1873 as a collège and became a lycée in 1933.-History:...

 but was unsuccessful in his studies.
1947

Paris


After switching to a technical school at Russey Keo, north of Phnom Penh, he qualified for a scholarship that allowed for technical study in France. He studied radio electronics at the EFR
EFREI
EFREI is a French private engineering school located in Villejuif, Île-de-France, at the south of Paris. Its courses, specializing in computer science and management, are taught with support from the state...

 in Paris from 1949 to 1953. He also participated in an international labour brigade building roads in Zagreb
Zagreb
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb lies at an elevation of approximately above sea level. According to the last official census, Zagreb's city...

 in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the abolition of the Yugoslav monarchy until it was dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,...

 in 1950. After the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 recognised the Viet Minh
Viet Minh
Việt Minh was a national independence coalition formed at Pac Bo on May 19, 1941. The Việt Minh initially formed to seek independence for Vietnam from the French Empire. When the Japanese occupation began, the Việt Minh opposed Japan with support from the United States and the Republic of China...

 as the government of Vietnam in 1950, French Communists
French Communist Party
The French Communist Party is a political party in France which advocates the principles of communism.Although its electoral support has declined in recent decades, the PCF retains a large membership, behind only that of the Union for a Popular Movement , and considerable influence in French...

 (PCF) took up the cause of Vietnam's independence. The PCF's anti-colonialism
Anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism, strictly speaking, is a term that may be applied to a movement opposed to any form of colonialism or imperialism. Anti-imperialism includes opposition to wars of conquest, particularly of non-contiguous territory or people with a different language or culture; it also includes...

 attracted many young Cambodians, including Saloth.

In 1951 he joined a communist cell in a secret organisation known as the Cercle Marxiste ("Marxist circle") which had taken control of the Khmer Student's Association (AER) that same year. Within a few months Saloth also joined the PCF. Historian Philip Short
Philip Short
Philip Short is a journalist and author.He was born in Bristol on 17 April 1945. He studied at Queens' College, Cambridge. After graduation, he spent from 1967 to 1973 as a freelance journalist, first in Malawi, then in Uganda. He then joined the BBC as a foreign correspondent. He worked there for...

 has said that Saloth's poor academic record was a considerable advantage within the anti-intellectual PCF who saw uneducated peasants as the true proletariat
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

.

Return


As a result of failing his exams in three successive years, he was forced to return to Cambodia in January 1953. He was the first member of the Cercle Marxiste to return to Cambodia and was given the task of evaluating the various groups rebelling against the government. He recommended the Khmer Viet Minh, and in August 1954, Saloth, along with Rath Samoeun, travelled to the Viet Minh Eastern Zone headquarters in the village of Krabao in the Kampong Cham Province/Prey Veng Province in the border area of Cambodia.

Saloth and the others learned that the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party
Communist Party of Kampuchea
The Communist Party of Kampuchea, also known as Khmer Communist Party , was a communist party in Cambodia. Its followers were generally known as Khmer Rouge .-Foundation of the party; first divisions:...

 (KPRP) was little more than a Vietnamese front organization. In 1954, the Cambodians at the Eastern Zone Headquarters split into two groups. Due to the Geneva peace accord of 1954 requirement that all Viet Minh forces and insurgents be expelled, one group followed the Vietnamese back to Vietnam as cadres Vietnam would use in a future war to liberate Cambodia. The other group, including Saloth, returned to Cambodia.

After Cambodian independence
History of Cambodia
- Prehistory and early history :Carbon 14 dating of a cave at Laang Spean in northwest Cambodia reveals people who made pots were living in Cambodia as early as 4200 BCE . Further archaeological evidence indicates that other parts of the region now called Cambodia were inhabited from around...

 following the 1954 Geneva Conference
Geneva Conference (1954)
The Geneva Conference was a conference which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, whose purpose was to attempt to find a way to unify Korea and discuss the possibility of restoring peace in Indochina...

, both left and right wing
Left-Right politics
The left–right political spectrum is a common way of classifying political positions, political ideologies, or political parties along a one-dimensional political spectrum. The perspective of Left vs. Right is a binary interpretation of complex questions...

 parties struggled against each other for power in the new government. Khmer King Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk regular script was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his semi-retirement and voluntary abdication on 7 October 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni...

 played the parties against each other while using the police and army to suppress extreme political groups. Corrupt elections in 1955 led many leftists in Cambodia to abandon hope of taking power by legal means. The communist movement, while ideologically committed to guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 in these circumstances, did not launch a rebellion because of the weakness of the party.

After his return to Phnom Penh, Saloth became the liaison between the above-ground parties of the left (Democrats and Pracheachon) and the underground communist movement. He married Khieu Ponnary
Khieu Ponnary
Khieu Ponnary was the first wife of Pol Pot, sister of Khieu Thirith and sister-in-law to Ieng Sary.Khieu Ponnary was born in 1920 in Battambang Province, and her sister, Khieu Thirith, was born about 12 years later. Their father, a Cambodian judge, abandoned the family during World War II,...

 on July 14, 1956. She returned to Lycée Sisowath but now as a teacher, while he taught French literature and history at Chamraon Vichea, a new private college.

The path to rebellion (1962–68)


In January 1962, the government of Cambodia rounded up most of the leadership of the far-left Pracheachon party ahead of parliamentary elections due in June. The newspapers and other publications of the party were also closed. This event effectively ended any above-ground political role for the communist movement in Cambodia. In July 1962, the Underground communist party secretary Tou Samouth was arrested and later killed while in custody. The arrests created a situation where Saloth could become the de facto deputy leader of the party. When Tou Samouth was murdered, Saloth became the acting leader of the communist party. At a party meeting attended by at most 18 people in 1963, he was elected Secretary of the central committee of the party. In March 1963, Saloth went into hiding after his name was published in a list of leftist suspects put together by the police for Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk regular script was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his semi-retirement and voluntary abdication on 7 October 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni...

. He fled to the Vietnamese border region and made contact with Vietnamese units fighting against South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

.

In early 1964, Saloth convinced the Vietnamese to help the Cambodian Communists set up their own base camp. The central committee of the party met later that year and issued a declaration calling for armed struggle. The declaration also emphasized the idea of "self-reliance" in the sense of extreme Cambodian nationalism. In the border camps, the ideology of the Khmer Rouge was gradually developed. The party, breaking with Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, declared that rural peasant farmers were the true working class proletarian and lifeblood of the revolution. This is, in some sense, explained by the fact that none of the central committee were in any sense "working class." All of them had grown up in a feudal
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 peasant society.

After another wave of repression by Sihanouk in 1965, the Khmer Rouge movement under Saloth grew at a rapid rate. Many teachers and students were forced to leave the cities to the countryside to join the movement.

In April 1965, Saloth went to North Vietnam to gain approval for an uprising in Cambodia against the government. North Vietnam
North Vietnam
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

 refused to support any uprising because of agreements being negotiated with the Cambodian government. Sihanouk promised to allow the Vietnamese to use Cambodian territory and Cambodian ports in their war against South Vietnam.

After returning to Cambodia in 1966, Saloth organized a party meeting where a number of important decisions were made. The party was officially but secretly renamed the Communist Party of Kampuchea
Communist Party of Kampuchea
The Communist Party of Kampuchea, also known as Khmer Communist Party , was a communist party in Cambodia. Its followers were generally known as Khmer Rouge .-Foundation of the party; first divisions:...

 (CPK). Lower ranks of the party were not informed of the decision. It was also decided to establish command zones and prepare each region for an uprising against the government.

In early 1966 fighting broke out in the countryside between peasants and the government over the price paid for rice. Saloth's Khmer Rouge was caught by surprise by the uprisings and was unable to take any real advantage of them. But the government's refusal to find a peaceful solution to the problem created rural unrest that played into the hands of the Communist movement.

It was not until early 1967 that Saloth decided to launch a national uprising, even after North Vietnam refused to assist it in any real way. The uprising was launched on January 18, 1968 with a raid on an army base south of Battambang
Battambang
Battambang is the capital city of Battambang province in northwestern Cambodia.Battambang is the second-largest city in Cambodia with a population of over 250,000. Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is well known for being the leading rice-producing province of the country...

. The Battambang area had already seen two years of great peasant unrest. The attack was driven off by the army, but the Khmer Rouge had captured a number of weapons, which were then used to drive police forces out of Cambodian villages.

By the summer of 1968, Saloth began the transition from a party leader working with a collective leadership into the absolutist leader of the Khmer Rouge movement. Where before he had shared communal quarters with other leaders, he now had his own compound with a personal staff and a troop of guards. Outsiders were no longer allowed to approach him. Rather, people were summoned into his presence by his staff.

The path to power (1969–75)


The movement was estimated to consist of no more than 1500 regulars, but the core of the movement was supported by a number of villagers many times that size. While weapons were in short supply, the insurgency was still able to operate in twelve of nineteen districts of Cambodia. In the middle of 1969 Saloth called a party conference and decided on a change in propaganda strategy. Up to 1969, opposition to Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk regular script was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his semi-retirement and voluntary abdication on 7 October 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni...

 was at the center of their propaganda. But it was decided at the conference to shift the party's propaganda against the right-wing parties of Cambodia and their supposed pro-American attitudes. The party ceased making anti-Sihanouk public statements, but in private the party had not changed its view of him.

The road to power for Saloth and the Khmer Rouge was opened by the events of January 1970 in Cambodia. Sihanouk, while out of the country, ordered the government to stage anti-Vietnamese protests in the capital. The protesters quickly went out of control and wrecked the embassies of both North and South Vietnam. Sihanouk, who had ordered the protests, then denounced them from Paris and blamed unnamed individuals in Cambodia for them. These actions, along with intrigues by Sihanouk's followers in Cambodia, convinced the government that he should be removed as head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. The National Assembly voted to remove Sihanouk from office. Afterward, the government closed Cambodia's ports to Vietnamese weapons traffic and demanded that the Vietnamese leave Cambodia.

The North Vietnamese reacted to the political changes in Cambodia by sending Premier Phạm Văn Đồng to meet Sihanouk in China and recruit him into an alliance with the Khmer Rouge. Saloth was also contacted by the Vietnamese who now offered him whatever resources he wanted for his insurgency
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 against the Cambodian government. Saloth and Sihanouk were actually in Beijing at the same time but the Vietnamese and Chinese leaders never informed Sihanouk of the presence of Saloth or allowed the two men to meet. Shortly after, Sihanouk issued an appeal by radio to the people of Cambodia to rise up against the government and support the Khmer Rouge. In May 1970, Saloth finally returned to Cambodia and the pace of the insurgency greatly increased.

Earlier, on March 29, 1970, the Vietnamese had taken matters into their own hands and launched an offensive against the Cambodian army. A force of 40,000 Vietnamese quickly overran large parts of eastern Cambodia reaching to within 15 miles (24.1 km) of Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonized Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security,...

 before being pushed back. In these battles the Khmer Rouge and Saloth played a very small role.

In October 1970, Saloth issued a resolution in the name of the Central Committee. The resolution stated the principle of independence mastery which was a call for Cambodia to decide its own future independent of the influence of any other country. The resolution also included statements describing the betrayal of the Cambodian Communist movement in the 1950s by the Viet Minh. This was the first statement of the anti-Vietnamese/self sufficiency at all costs ideology that would be a part of the Pol Pot regime when it took power years later.

Through 1971, the Vietnamese (North Vietnamese and Viet Cong) did most of the fighting against the Cambodian government while Saloth and the Khmer Rouge functioned almost as auxiliaries to their forces. Saloth took advantage of the situation to gather in new recruits and to train them to a higher standard than previously was possible. Saloth also put resources of Khmer Rouge organizations into political education and indoctrination. While accepting anyone regardless of background into the Khmer Rouge army at this time, Saloth greatly increased the requirements for membership in the party. Students and so-called middle peasants were now rejected by the party. Those with clear peasant backgrounds were the preferred recruits for party membership. These restrictions were ironic in that most of the senior party leadership including Saloth came from student and middle peasant backgrounds. They also created an intellectual split between the educated old guard party members and the uneducated peasant new party members.

In early 1972, Saloth toured the insurgent/Vietnamese controlled areas in Cambodia. He saw a regular Khmer Rouge army of 35,000 men taking shape supported by around 100,000 irregulars
Irregular military
Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used....

. China was supplying five million dollars a year in weapons and Saloth had organized an independent revenue source for the party in the form of rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

 plantations in eastern Cambodia using forced labour.

The Khmer Rouge also used the massive U.S bombings of villages in Eastern Cambodia, where over two million tons of bombs were dropped during Operation Menu
Operation Menu
Operation Menu was the codename of a covert United States Strategic Air Command bombing campaign conducted in eastern Cambodia and Laos from 18 March 1969 until 26 May 1970, during the Vietnam War...

, to aid in their recruitment of members.

After a central committee meeting in May 1972, the party under the direction of Saloth began to enforce new levels of discipline and conformity in areas under their control. Minorities such as the Chams were forced to conform to Cambodian styles of dress and appearance. These policies, such as forbidding the Chams from wearing jewelry, were soon extended to the whole population. A haphazard version of land reform
Land reform
[Image:Jakarta farmers protest23.jpg|300px|thumb|right|Farmers protesting for Land Reform in Indonesia]Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution,...

 was undertaken by Saloth. Its basis was that all land holdings should be of uniform size. The party also confiscated all private means of transportation at this time. The 1972 policies were aimed at reducing the peoples of the liberated areas to a sort of feudal peasant equality. These policies were generally favourable at the time to poor peasants and extremely unfavourable to refugees from towns who had fled to the countryside.

In 1972, the Vietnamese army forces began to withdraw from the fighting against the Cambodian government. Saloth issued a new set of decrees in May 1973 which started the process of reorganizing peasant villages into cooperative
Cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

s where property was jointly owned and individual possessions banned.

Control of the countryside


The Khmer Rouge advanced during 1973. After they reached the edges of Phnom Penh, Saloth issued orders during the peak of the rainy season that the city be taken. The orders led to futile attacks and wasted lives among the Khmer Rouge army. By the middle of 1973, the Khmer Rouge under Saloth controlled almost two-thirds of the country and half the population. Vietnam realised that it no longer controlled the situation and began to treat Saloth as more of an equal leader than a junior partner.

In late 1973, Saloth made strategic decisions about the future of the war. His first decision was to cut the capital off from contact from outside supply and effectively put the city under siege. The second decision was to enforce tight command on people trying to leave the city through the Khmer Rouge
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

 lines. He also ordered a series of general purge
Purge
In history, religion, and political science, a purge is the removal of people who are considered undesirable by those in power from a government, from another organization, or from society as a whole. Purges can be peaceful or violent; many will end with the imprisonment or exile of those purged,...

s. Former government officials, along with anyone with an education, were singled out in the purges. A set of new prisons was also constructed in Khmer Rouge run areas. The Cham minority attempted an uprising around this time against attempts to destroy their culture. While the uprising was quickly crushed, Saloth ordered that harsh physical torture be used against most of those involved in the revolt. As previously, Saloth tested out harsh new policies against the Cham minority before extending them to the general population of the country.

The Khmer Rouge also had a policy of evacuating urban areas to the countryside. When the Khmer Rouge took the town of Kratie in 1971, Saloth and other members of the party were shocked at how fast the liberated urban areas shook off socialism and went back to the old ways. Various ideas were tried to re-create the town in the image of the party, but nothing worked. In 1973, out of total frustration, Saloth decided that the only solution was to send the entire population of the town to the fields in the countryside. He wrote at the time "if the result of so many sacrifices was that the capitalists remain in control, what was the point of the revolution?". Shortly after, Saloth ordered the evacuation of the people of Kompong Cham for the same reasons. The Khmer Rouge then moved on in 1974 to evacuate the larger city of Oudong
Oudong
Udong is a town in Cambodia, situated in the north-western part of Kandal Province. The town is located on top of the mountain Phnom Udong, about 40 km northwest of the capital Phnom Penh...

.

Internationally, Saloth and the Khmer Rouge were able to gain the recognition of 63 countries as the true government of Cambodia. A move was made at the UN to give the seat for Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge prevailed by three votes.

In September 1974, Saloth gathered the central committee of the party together. As the military campaign was moving toward a conclusion, Saloth decided to move the party toward implementing a socialist transformation of the country in the form of a series of decisions. The first one was, that after their victory, they would evacuate the main cities, moving the population to the countryside. The second was that they would cease to put money in circulation and quickly phase it out. The final decision was that the party would accept Saloth's first major purge. In 1974, Saloth had purged a top party official named Prasith. Prasith was taken out into a forest and shot without any chance to defend himself. His death was followed by a purge of cadres who, like Prasith, were ethnically Thai
Thai people
The Thai people, or Siamese, are the main ethnic group of Thailand and are part of the larger Tai ethnolinguistic peoples found in Thailand and adjacent countries in Southeast Asia as well as southern China. Their language is the Thai language, which is classified as part of the Kradai family of...

. Saloth offered as explanation that the class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

 had become acute required a strong stand against party enemies.

The Khmer Rouge were positioned for a final offensive against the government in January 1975. At the same time at a press event in Beijing, Sihanouk proudly announced Saloth's "death list" of enemies to kill after victory. The list, which originally contained seven names, expanded to 23, including all the senior government leaders along with the military and police leadership. The rivalry between Vietnam and Cambodia also came out into the open. North Vietnam
North Vietnam
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

, as the rival socialist country in Indochina
Indochina
The Indochinese peninsula, is a region in Southeast Asia. It lies roughly southwest of China, and east of India. The name has its origins in the French, Indochine, as a combination of the names of "China" and "India", and was adopted when French colonizers in Vietnam began expanding their territory...

, was determined to take Saigon before the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh. Shipments of weapons from China were delayed and in one instance the Cambodians were forced to sign a humiliating document thanking Vietnam for shipments of what were in fact Chinese weapons.

In September 1975, the government formed a Supreme National Council with new leadership, with the aim of negotiating a surrender to the Khmer Rouge. It was headed by Sak Sutsakhan
Sak Sutsakhan
General Sak Sutsakhan was a Cambodian politician and soldier who had a long career in the country's politics. He was the last Head of State of the Khmer Republic, the regime overthrown by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Sak Sutsakhan formed a pro-US force known as the "Khmer Sâ" .-Early life:Sutsakhan...

 who had studied in France with Saloth, and was cousin to the Khmer Rouge Deputy Secretary Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea , also known as Long Bunruot , is a Cambodian former communist politician and former chief ideologist of Khmer Rouge. He was commonly known as "Brother Number Two" second in command to Pol Pot who was leader during the Cambodian Genocide 1975-1979...

. Saloth reacted to this by adding the names of everyone involved to his post-victory death list. Government resistance finally collapsed on September 17, 1975.

Leader of Kampuchea (1975–79)




The Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonized Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security,...

 on April 17, 1975. As the leader of the Communist Party, Saloth Sar was the designated leader of the new regime. He took the name "brother number one" and declared his nom de guerre Pol Pot. This has generally supposed to derive from Politique potentielle, the French equivalent of a phrase supposedly coined for him by the Chinese leadership. An alternative version of the origin of Pol Pot's name is from Philip Short, who states that Saloth Sar announced that he was adopting the name in July 1970 and suspects that it is derived from pol: “the Pols were royal slaves, an aboriginal people,” and that “Pot” was simply a “euphonic monosyllable” that he liked.

A new constitution was adopted on January 5, 1976, officially altering the country's name to "Democratic Kampuchea." The newly established Representative Assembly held its first plenary meeting on April 11 – 13, electing a new government with Pol Pot as prime minister. His predecessor, Khieu Samphan
Khieu Samphan
Khieu Samphan was the president of the state presidium of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976 until 1979. As such, he served as Cambodia's head of state and was one of the most powerful officials in the Khmer Rouge movement, though Pol Pot was the group's true political leader and held the most...

 was instead given the position of head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 as President of the State Presidium. Prince Sihanouk was given no role in the government and was placed under detention.

Immediately after the fall of Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge began to implement their concept of Year Zero
Year Zero (political notion)
The term Year Zero, applied to the takeover of Cambodia in 1975 by Pol Pot, is an analogy to the Year One of the French Revolutionary Calendar. During the French Revolution, after the abolition of the French monarchy , the National Convention instituted a new calendar and declared the beginning of...

 and ordered the complete evacuation of Phnom Penh and all other recently captured major towns and cities. Those leaving were told that the evacuation was due to the threat of severe American bombing and it would last for no more than a few days.

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge had been evacuating captured urban areas for many years, but the evacuation of Phnom Penh was unique in scale. The first operations to evacuate urban areas occurred in 1968 in the Ratanakiri area and were aimed at moving people deeper into Khmer Rouge territory to better control them. From 1971–1973, the motivation changed. Pol Pot and the other senior leaders were frustrated that urban Cambodians were retaining old habits of trade and business. When all other methods had failed, evacuation to the countryside was adopted to solve the problem.

In 1976, people were reclassified as full-rights (base) people, candidates and depositees – so called because they included most of the new people who had been deposited from the cities into the communes. Depositees were marked for destruction. Their rations were reduced to two bowls of rice soup, or "p'baw
Rice congee
Congee is a type of rice porridge popular in many Asian countries. It can be eaten alone or served with a side dish. Names for congee are as varied as the style of its preparation...

" per day. This led to widespread starvation. "New people" were allegedly given no place in the elections taking place on March 20, 1976, despite the fact the constitution was said to have established universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 for all Cambodians over age 18.

The Khmer Rouge leadership boasted over the state-controlled radio that only one or two million people were needed to build the new agrarian communist
Agrarian socialism
Agrarian socialism is a socioeconomic political system which combines an agrarian way of life with socialist economic policies.When compared to standard socialist systems which are generally urban/industrial , internationally oriented, and more progressive/liberal in terms of social orientation,...

 utopia
Utopia
Utopia is an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The word was imported from Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempt...

. As for the others, as their proverb put it, "To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss."

Hundreds of thousands of the new people, and later the depositees, were taken out in shackles to dig their own mass grave
Mass grave
A mass grave is a grave containing multiple number of human corpses, which may or may not be identified prior to burial. There is no strict definition of the minimum number of bodies required to constitute a mass grave, although the United Nations defines a mass grave as a burial site which...

s. Then the Khmer Rouge soldiers beat them to death with iron bars and hoes or buried them alive. A Khmer Rouge extermination prison directive ordered, "Bullets are not to be wasted." These mass graves are often referred to as The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War ....

.

The Khmer Rouge also classified by religion and ethnic group. They banned all religion and dispersed minority groups, forbidding them to speak their languages or to practice their customs. They especially targeted Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 monks, Muslims, Christians, Western-educated intellectuals, educated people in general, people who had contact with Western countries or with Vietnam, disabled people, and the ethnic Chinese, Laotians
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

 and Vietnamese
Vietnamese people
The Vietnamese people are an ethnic group originating from present-day northern Vietnam and southern China. They are the majority ethnic group of Vietnam, comprising 86% of the population as of the 1999 census, and are officially known as Kinh to distinguish them from other ethnic groups in Vietnam...

. Some were put in the S-21
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a museum in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 by the Khmer Rouge communist regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979...

 camp for interrogation involving torture in cases where a confession was useful to the government. Many others were summarily executed. Confessions forced at S-21 were extracted from prisoners through such methods as raising prisoners by their arms tied behind and dislocating shoulders, removing toenails with pliers, suffocating a prisoner repeatedly, and skinning a person while alive.

According to François Ponchaud's book Cambodia: Year Zero, "Ever since 1972 the guerrilla fighters had been sending all the inhabitants of the villages and towns they occupied into the forest to live and often burning their homes, so that they would have nothing to come back to." The Khmer Rouge refused offers of humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disaster and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity...

, a decision that caused a humanitarian catastrophe: millions died of starvation and brutal government-inflicted overwork in the countryside. To the Khmer Rouge, outside aid went against their principle of national self-reliance
Autarky
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...

.

Property became collective, and education was dispensed at communal schools. Children were raised on a communal basis. Even meals were prepared and eaten communally. Pol Pot's regime was extremely paranoid. Political dissent
Political dissent
Political dissent refers to any expression designed to convey dissatisfaction with or opposition to the policies of a governing body. Such expression may take forms from vocal disagreement to civil disobedience to the use of violence. Historically, repressive governments have sought to punish...

 and opposition were not permitted. People were treated as opponents based on their appearance or background. Torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 was widespread. Thousands of politicians and bureaucrat
Bureaucrat
A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can comprise the administration of any organization of any size, though the term usually connotes someone within an institution of a government or corporation...

s accused of association with previous governments were executed. Phnom Penh was turned into a ghost city, while people in the countryside were dying of starvation
Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

 or illnesses or simply killed.

U.S. officials had predicted that more than one million people would be killed by the Khmer Rouge if they took power, and President Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

 had warned of "an unbelievable horror story." Different estimates as to the number killed by the Khmer Rouge regime vary from 750,000 to over three million. Analysis of 20,000 mass grave sites by the DC-Cam Mapping Program and Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 indicate at least 1,386,734 victims. Estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a population of around 8 million. Credible Western and Eastern sources put the death toll inflicted by the Khmer Rouge at 1.7 million. A specific source, such as a figure of 3 million deaths between 1975 and 1979, was given by the People's Republic of Kampuchea. François Ponchaud suggested 2.3 million, R.J. Rummel 2.4 million (counting democide
Democide
Democide is a term revived and redefined by the political scientist R. J. Rummel as "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder." Rummel created the term as an extended concept to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the...

 in the civil wars), the Yale Cambodian Genocide Project 1.7 million, and Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 1.4 million. Demographer Marek Sliwinski concluded that at least 1.8 million were killed from 1975–9 on the basis of the total population decline, compared to roughly 40,000 killed by the U.S. bombing. Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a "most likely" figure of 2.2 million. After five years of researching some 20,000 grave sites, he concludes that, "these mass graves contain the remains of 1,386,734 victims of execution." Execution is believed to have accounted for about 30–50 percent of the death toll. This would indicate 2.5 to 3 million deaths, but normal mortality over this period would have accounted for about 500,000 deaths — subtracting this from the total sum, we arrive at Etcheson's range for the number of "excess" deaths attributable to the Khmer Rouge regime. A U.N. investigation reported 2–3 million dead, while UNICEF estimated 3 million had been killed. Even the Khmer Rouge acknowledged that 2 million had been killed—though they attributed those deaths to a subsequent Vietnamese invasion. By late 1979, U.N. and Red Cross officials were warning that another 2.25 million Cambodians faced death by starvation due to “the near destruction of Cambodian society under the regime of ousted Prime Minister Pol Pot,” who were saved by American and international aid after the Vietnamese invasion. It is estimated that at least half a million more were starved to death or slaughtered after the invasion from Vietnam.

Pol Pot aligned the country politically with the People's Republic of China and adopted an anti-Soviet line. This alignment was more political and practical than ideological. Vietnam was aligned with the Soviet Union so Cambodia aligned with the rival of the Soviet Union and Vietnam in Southeast Asia. China had been supplying the Khmer Rouge with weapons for years before they took power.

In December 1976, Pol Pot issued directives to the senior leadership to the effect that Vietnam was now an enemy. Defenses along the border were strengthened and unreliable deportees were moved deeper into Cambodia. Pol Pot's actions were in response to the Vietnamese Communist Party's fourth Congress which approved a resolution describing Vietnam's special relationship with Laos and Cambodia. It also talked of how Vietnam would forever be associated with the building and defense of the other two countries.

Conflict with Vietnam


In May 1975 a squad of Khmer Rouge soldiers raided and took Phu Quoc Island. By 1977, relations with Vietnam began to fall apart. There were small border clashes in January. Pol Pot tried to prevent border disputes by sending a team to Vietnam. The negotiations failed which resulted in even more border disputes. On April 30, the Cambodian army, backed by artillery, crossed over into Vietnam. In attempting to explain Pol Pot's behaviour, one region-watcher suggested that Cambodia was attempting to intimidate Vietnam, by irrational acts, into respecting or at least fearing Cambodia to the point they would leave the country alone. However, these actions only served to anger the Vietnamese people and government against the Khmer Rouge.

In May 1976, Vietnam sent its air force into Cambodia in a series of raids. In July, Vietnam forced a Treaty of Friendship on Laos which gave Vietnam almost total control over the country. In Cambodia, Khmer Rouge commanders in the Eastern Zone began to tell their men that war with Vietnam was inevitable and that once the war started their goal would be to recover parts of Vietnam (Khmer Krom) that were once part of Cambodia, whose people, they alleged, were struggling for independence from Vietnam. It is not clear whether these statements were the official policy of Pol Pot.

In September 1977, Cambodia launched division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

-scale raids over the border which once again left a trail of murder and destruction in villages. The Vietnamese claimed that around 1,000 people had been killed or injured. Three days after the raid, Pol Pot officially announced the existence of the formerly secret Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) and finally announced to the world that the country was a Communist state. In December, after having exhausted all other options, Vietnam sent 50,000 troops into Cambodia in what amounted to a short raid. The raid was meant to be secret. The Vietnamese withdrew after declaring they had achieved their goals, and the invasion was just a warning. Upon being threatened, the Vietnamese army promised to return with support from the Soviet Union. Pol Pot's actions made the operation much more visible than the Vietnamese had intended and created a situation in which Vietnam appeared weak.

After making one final attempt to negotiate a settlement with Cambodia, Vietnam decided that it had to prepare for a full war. Vietnam also tried to pressure Cambodia through China. However, China's refusal to pressure Cambodia and the flow of weapons from China into Cambodia were both signs that China also intended to act against Vietnam.

When Cambodian communists rebelled in the eastern zone in May 1978 Pol Pot’s armies were unable to crush them quickly. On May 10 his radio broadcast a call not only to ‘exterminate the 50 million Vietnamese’ but also to ‘purify the masses of the people’ of Cambodia. Of 1.5 million easterners, branded as ‘Khmer bodies with Vietnamese minds’, at least 100,000 were exterminated in six months. Later that year, in response to threats to its borders and the Vietnamese people, Vietnam attacked Cambodia to overthrow the Khmer Rouge, which Vietnam could justify on the basis of self-defense.
The Cambodian army was defeated, the regime was toppled and Pol Pot fled to the Thai
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 border area. In January 1979, Vietnam installed a new government under Heng Samrin
Heng Samrin
Heng Samrin is a Cambodian politician. He was the chairman of the People's Republic of Kampuchea and the State of Cambodia , and later vice chairman and chairman of the National Assembly of Cambodia since 2006....

, composed of Khmer Rouge who had fled to Vietnam to avoid the purges. Pol Pot eventually regrouped with his core supporters in the Thai border area where he received shelter and assistance. At different times during this period, he was located on both sides of the border. The military government of Thailand used the Khmer Rouge as a buffer force to keep the Vietnamese away from the border. The Thai military also made money from the shipment of weapons from China to the Khmer Rouge. Eventually Pol Pot was able to rebuild a small military force in the west of the country with the help of the People's Republic of China. The PRC also initiated the Sino-Vietnamese War
Sino-Vietnamese War
The Sino–Vietnamese War , also known as the Third Indochina War, known in the PRC as and in Vietnam as Chiến tranh chống bành trướng Trung Hoa , was a brief but bloody border war fought in 1979 between the People's Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam...

 around this time.

After the Khmer Rouge were driven from power by the Vietnamese in 1979, the United States and other powers refused to allow the Vietnamese-backed Cambodian government to take the seat of Cambodia at the United Nations. The seat, by default, remained in the hands of the Khmer Rouge. These countries considered that however negative allowing the Khmer Rouge to hold on to the seat was, recognising Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia was worse. Also, representatives of these countries argued that both claimants to the seat were Khmer Rouge governments, because Vietnam's Cambodian government was formed from ex-Khmer Rouge cadres.

Aftermath (1979–98)


The U.S. opposed the Vietnamese military occupation of Cambodia, and in the mid-1980s supported insurgents opposed to the regime of Heng Samrin, approving $5 million in aid to the Khmer People's National Liberation Front
Khmer People's National Liberation Front
The Khmer People's National Liberation Front was a political front organized in 1979 in opposition to the Vietnamese-installed People's Republic of Kampuchea regime in Cambodia...

 of former prime minister Son Sann
Son Sann
Son Sann was a Cambodian politician and anti-communist resistance leader. Born in Phnom Penh, he held the office of Prime Minister in 1967-68. A devout Buddhist, he fathered seven children and was married....

 and the pro-Sihanouk ANS in 1985. Regardless of this, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge remained the best-trained and most capable of the three insurgent groups who, despite sharply divergent ideologies, had formed the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea
Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea
The Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea was a coalition government in exile composed of three Cambodian political factions: Prince Norodom Sihanouk's Funcinpec party, the Party of Democratic Kampuchea and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front formed in 1982, broadening the de...

 (CGDK) alliance three years earlier. China continued to funnel extensive military aid to the Khmer Rouge, and critics of U.S. foreign policy claimed that the U.S. was indirectly sponsoring the Khmer Rouge due to U.S. assistance given the CGDK in keeping control of the United Nations "seat" of Cambodia. The U.S. refused to recognise the Cambodian government installed by the army of Vietnam or to recognise any Cambodian government operating while Cambodia was under the military occupation of Vietnam.

During this period, the Khmer Rouge was able to rebuild its military, now titled the
"National Army of Democratic Kampuchea
National Army of Democratic Kampuchea
The National Army of Democratic Kampuchea was a Cambodian guerrilla force. NADK were the armed forces of the Party of Democratic Kampuchea , operating between 1979 and the late 1990s.-History:...

" (NADK), as well as its infamous ruling party, the
Communist Party of Kampuchea
Communist Party of Kampuchea
The Communist Party of Kampuchea, also known as Khmer Communist Party , was a communist party in Cambodia. Its followers were generally known as Khmer Rouge .-Foundation of the party; first divisions:...

 (CPK), the sinister and shadowy "angkar", in the mountain area of Phnom Malai
Phnom Malai
Phnom Malai is a mountain area in Malai District, Banteay Meanchey Province of Cambodia.The district became a Khmer Rouge stronghold and battleground through the 1980s and 1990s....

.
By mid-1980s, with the cooperation of the West and China, the Khmer Rouge had grown to about 35 to 50 thousand troops and committed cadres.

Archives uncovered in Cambodia in 2009 have shed light on the deaths of several Western yachtsman, including 2 Australians and a New Zealander who were forced to confess under duress to being CIA operatives. The Australian yachtsman strayed into disputed waters, where they were captured by the Khmer Rouge and sent to Pol Pot's S-21 death camp. Later Australian foreign minister Andrew Peacock resigned in 1981 over his unease over the Fraser government’s recognition of Pol Pot’s regime under pressure from China.

Pol Pot lived in the Phnom Malai
Phnom Malai
Phnom Malai is a mountain area in Malai District, Banteay Meanchey Province of Cambodia.The district became a Khmer Rouge stronghold and battleground through the 1980s and 1990s....

 area, giving interviews in the early 1980s accusing all those who opposed him of being traitors and "puppets" of the Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

ese until he disappeared from public view. In 1985, his "retirement" was announced, but he kept hiding somewhere close by, still pulling the Khmer Rouge strings of power.

Phnom Malai was the location where in 1981 Pol Pot made his famous declarations denying guilt for the brutalities of the organization he led:
[Pol Pot] said that he knows that many people in the country hate him and think he’s responsible for the killings. He said that he knows many people died. When he said this he nearly broke down and cried. He said he must accept responsibility because the line was too far to the left, and because he didn’t keep proper track of what was going on. He said he was like the master in a house he didn’t know what the kids were up to, and that he trusted people too much. For example, he allowed [one person] to take care of central committee business for him, [another person] to take care of intellectuals, and [a third person] to take care of political education.... These were the people to whom he felt very close, and he trusted them completely. Then in the end ... they made a mess of everything.... They would tell him things that were not true, that everything was fine, that this person or that was a traitor. In the end they were the real traitors. The major problem had been cadres formed by the Vietnamese.


In December 1985, the Vietnamese launched a major offensive and overran most of the Khmer Rouge and other insurgent positions. The Khmer Rouge headquarters at Phnom Malai and its base near Pailin
Pailin
Pailin is a province at the northern edge of the Cardamom Mountains, in the west of Cambodia near the border of Thailand. This province is surrounded by Battambang Province, and was officially carved out of Battambang to become a separate administrative division after the surrender of the Ieng...

 were completely destroyed; the Vietnamese attackers suffered substantial losses during the attack.

Pol Pot fled to Thailand where he lived for the next six years. His headquarters were a plantation villa near Trat
Trat
Trat is a town in Thailand, capital of Trat Province and the Mueang Trat district. The town is located in the east of Thailand, at the mouth of the Trat River, near the border with Cambodia.-Travel and Accommodation:...

. He was guarded by Thai Special Unit 838, though it has been argued that operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency had possibly engineered his assassination and replacement by an impostor.

Pol Pot officially resigned from the party in 1985 citing asthma as a contributing factor, but continued as the de facto Khmer Rouge leader and a dominant force within the anti-Vietnam alliance. He handed day to day power to Son Sen
Son Sen
Son Sen was a Cambodian Communist politician and soldier. A member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea/Party of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge, from 1974 to 1992, Sen oversaw the Party's security apparatus, including the Santebal secret police and the notorious...

, his hand-picked successor. Opponents of the Khmer Rouge claimed that they were sometimes acting in an inhumane manner in territory controlled by the alliance but none of the forces fighting in Cambodia could be said to have clean hands.

In 1986, his new wife Mea Son gave birth to a daughter, Sitha, named after an experimental form of North Vietnamese cookery. Shortly after, Pol Pot moved to China for medical treatment for cancer of the face. He remained there until 1988.

In 1989, Vietnam withdrew from Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge established a new stronghold area in the west near the Thai border and Pol Pot relocated back into Cambodia from Thailand. Pol Pot refused to cooperate with the peace process, and kept fighting the new coalition government. The Khmer Rouge kept the government forces at bay until 1996, when troops started deserting. Several important Khmer Rouge leaders also defected. The government had a policy of making peace with Khmer Rouge individuals and groups after negotiations with the organization as a whole failed. In 1995 Pol Pot experienced a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body.

Pol Pot ordered the execution of his life-long right-hand man Son Sen on June 10, 1997 for attempting to make a settlement with the government. Eleven members of his family were killed also, although Pol Pot later denied that he had ordered this. He then fled his northern stronghold, but was later arrested by Khmer Rouge military Chief Ta Mok
Ta Mok
Ta Mok , which means "Grandfather Mok" in Khmer, was the nom de guerre of Chhit Choeun , a senior figure in the leadership of the Khmer Rouge...

 on June 19, 1997. Pol Pot has not been seen in public since 1980, two years after his overthrow at the hands of an invading Vietnamese army. He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Phnom Penh court soon afterward. In July he was subjected to a show trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

 for the death of Son Sen and sentenced to lifelong house arrest
House arrest
In justice and law, house arrest is a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to his or her residence. Travel is usually restricted, if allowed at all...

.

Death


On the night of April 15, 1998, the Voice of America
Voice of America
Voice of America is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government. It is one of five civilian U.S. international broadcasters working under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors . VOA provides a wide range of programming for broadcast on radio...

, of which Pol Pot was a devoted listener, announced that the Khmer Rouge had agreed to turn him over to an international tribunal. According to his wife, he died in his bed later in the night while waiting to be moved to another location. Ta Mok claimed that his death was due to heart failure. Despite government requests to inspect the body, it was cremated a few days later at Anlong Veng in the Khmer Rouge zone, raising strong suspicions that he committed suicide or was poisoned.

Analysis and perspectives


Demographic evidence indicates that the US bombings of Cambodia, especially the Menu bombings, ultimately killed about 40,000 Cambodian combatants and civilians. Some estimates go as high as between 50,000 and 150,000 killed by the bombing. The US Seventh Air Force argued that the bombing prevented the fall of Phnom Penh in 1973 by killing 16,000 of 25,500 Khmer Rouge fighters besieging the city.

On March 30, 2009, Kaing Guek Eav (also known by his nom de guerre Duch), Khmer Rouge commandant of Cambodia's Tuol Sleng prison and torture house, testified at the UN-backed Tribunal, that US policies in the 1970s contributed to the brutal regime's rise to power. "I think the Khmer Rouge would already have been demolished," he said of their status by 1970.

"But Mr. Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

 (then Special Assistant to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security Advisor) and Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 were quick [to back coup
Cambodian coup of 1970
The Cambodian coup of 1970 refers to the removal of the Cambodian Head of State, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, after a vote in the National Assembly on 18 March 1970. Emergency powers were subsequently invoked by the Prime Minister Lon Nol, who became effective head of state...

 leader General Lon Nol
Lon Nol
Lon Nol was a Cambodian politician and general who served as Prime Minister of Cambodia twice, as well as serving repeatedly as Defense Minister...

], and then the Khmer Rouge noted the golden opportunity." "Because of this alliance, the Khmer Rouge were able to build up their power over the course of their 1970–75 war against the Lon Nol regime," Duch said.

This view has been disputed, with author John M. Del Vecchio asserting that the Communist forces had the American equivalent of four million armed and organized troops overrun two-thirds of the country prior to any American bombing, and with documents uncovered from the Soviet archives revealing that the North Vietnamese invasion of 1970 was launched at the explicit request of the Khmer Rouge following negotiations with Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea
Nuon Chea , also known as Long Bunruot , is a Cambodian former communist politician and former chief ideologist of Khmer Rouge. He was commonly known as "Brother Number Two" second in command to Pol Pot who was leader during the Cambodian Genocide 1975-1979...

.

Support from China


The P.R.C. was regarded as the main international support for the Khmer Rouge and its leader Pol Pot. The Chinese provided financial and military support to the party. China's motivation is believed to have been its intense rivalry with Vietnam at the time, which coincided with Pol Pot's plans to regain the ancient lands of the kingdom, which were and remain within neighbouring countries such as Vietnam.

Support from the US and UK


After the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese and the installation of a pro-Soviet, pro-Vietnamese government in Cambodia, the US and UK began supporting the deposed Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot. Due to American and British pressure, the Khmer Rouge retained the Cambodian seat in the United Nations for many years afterwards. From 1980 to 1986, John Pilger claims that the US and UK funneled $86 million to Pol Pot.

Support from UN


During the Khmer Rouge regime, and a period of time directly after, the Khmer Rouge was recognised by UN as a legitimate government, and therefore held a seat at the UN.
While many leaders at the UN attempted to appeal this, the majority allowed the Khmer Rouge (later titled "Democratic Republic of Kampuchea") to keep their seat for 15 years following the genocide.

See also

  • Khmer Rouge
    Khmer Rouge
    The Khmer Rouge literally translated as Red Cambodians was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, who were the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan...

  • Cambodian Civil War
    Cambodian Civil War
    The Cambodian Civil War was a conflict that pitted the forces of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and their allies the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Viet Cong against the government forces of Cambodia , which were supported by the United States and the Republic of Vietnam The Cambodian...

  • First Indochina War
    First Indochina War
    The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East...

  • Vietnam War
    Vietnam War
    The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

     (Second Indochina War)
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
    Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
    The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a museum in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 by the Khmer Rouge communist regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979...

  • Enemies of the People (film)
    Enemies of the People (film)
    Enemies of the People is a 2009 British / Cambodian documentary film written and directed by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath. The film charts the ten year quest of co-director Sambath to find truth and closure in the Killing Fields of Cambodia...


Further reading


  • Denise Affonço
    Denise Affonço
    Denise Affonço is an author who wrote about her terrible sufferings under the Khmer Rouge in a powerful memoir To The End Of Hell with an introduction by Jon Swain. She was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to a Vietamese mother and French father and grew up in the peaceful years before all out war...

    : To The End Of Hell: One Woman's Struggle to Survive Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. (With Introductions by Jon Swain
    Jon Swain
    Jon Anketell Brewer Swain is an award-winning British journalist and writer who was portrayed by Julian Sands in the 1984 Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields...

     and David Chandler
    David P. Chandler
    David P. Chandler is an American historian and academic who is regarded as one of the foremost western scholars of Cambodia's modern history. Chandler currently resides in Australia, where he is an emeritus professor at Monash University as well as an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at...

    .) ISBN 978-0-9555729-5-1
  • David P. Chandler
    David P. Chandler
    David P. Chandler is an American historian and academic who is regarded as one of the foremost western scholars of Cambodia's modern history. Chandler currently resides in Australia, where he is an emeritus professor at Monash University as well as an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at...

    /Ben Kiernan/Chanthou Boua: Pol Pot plans the future: Confidential leadership documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976–1977. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn. 1988. ISBN 0-938692-35-6
  • David P. Chandler: Brother Number One: A political biography of Pol Pot. Westview Press, Boulder, Col. 1992. ISBN 0-8133-3510-8
  • Stephen Heder: Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan. Clayton, Victoria: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, 1991. ISBN 0-7326-0272-6
  • Ben Kiernan: "Social Cohesion in Revolutionary Cambodia," Australian Outlook, December 1976
  • Ben Kiernan: "Vietnam and the Governments and People of Kampuchea", Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (October–December 1979)
  • Ben Kiernan: The Pol Pot regime: Race, power and genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–79. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press 1997. ISBN 0-300-06113-7
  • Ben Kiernan: How Pol Pot came to power: A history of Cambodian communism, 1930–1975. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2004. ISBN 0-300-10262-3
  • Ponchaud, François. Cambodia: Year Zero. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978
  • Vickery, Michael. Cambodia: 1975–1982. Boston: South End Press, 1984
  • Pescali, Piergiorgio. Indocina. Bologna: Emil, 2010

External links





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