Who was Pol Pot? Biography of the Cambodian dictator

Who was Pol Pot? Biography of the Cambodian dictator

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Pol Pot, whose real name was Saloth Sar, born on May 19, 1925, he was a Cambodian dictator, leader of the Khmer Rouge, being who forged a Maoist style of government in the country.

He went down in history for being the main responsible for the Cambodian genocide and their actions were the reason for the constitution of the International Tribunal that tries the surviving leaders.

Pol Pot's Life

Saloth He was the youngest of seven children and as a teenager he joined the anti-colonialists (Cambodia was a French colony) led by Ho Chi Minh, coming into contact with the communist party, considered illegal in the country.

In 1948 and under the mandate of King Norodom Sihanouk, was transferred to Paris with his brother Mumm, where they would study French Literature, a place where their adherence to revolutionary ideas against King Norodom, who was immersed in his own ideal of independence from the country.

In 1953 Pol Pot returns to Cambodia, dedicating himself to teaching French in establishments of Phnom penh.

The independence revolts of Norodom

In this period, Cambodia experiences one of the most convulsive situations due to the constant revolts caused by King Norodom, who wanted to capture the flag of the independence of this country and not let them do it communists.

At this time, Pol Pot joins Vietnamese alliances where he learns to work on the basis of the masses and to found communist committees in the villages.

Several attempts at reestablish colonial order by the French after the defeat of Japan in 1945, they were hampered by a sentiment manifested in constant protests by Cambodians.

So Norodom advances the campaign of repression in the country, prior to independence in 1954 and its recognition in 1957.

On the other hand, in 1962 Tou Samouth was assassinated, who was the main Cambodian leader at the time and his death is still a mystery.

Familiarity with this setting and the Tou Samouth's apparent murder in 1962, he allowed Pol Pot to take the mandate of the communist party in 1963.

The United States bombings

In 1969, some secret US bombings in northern Cambodia, trying to destroy the shelters and cut the Ho Chi Minh route.

Authorized by the president Richard Nixon and by Henry Kissinger, security director, these bombings were considered illegal because the US did not declare war against Cambodia

In total, 110,000 bombs were dropped during a total of 14 months, which continued until 1973, estimating that in total 539,130 ​​bombs were dropped.

During these bombardments, the victims reached 600,000 people, causing the increased popularity of Khmer Rouge among Cambodians.

To all this, the command of Cambodia is held by the dictator Lon Nol, who established the republic once he overthrew the monarchical rule of Norodom Sihanouk.

The rise of the Khmer Rouge

April 17, 1975 is marked as the breakup of Phnom Penh under the advance of the Khmer Rouge, having to abandon the Americans in their attempt to supply power to the city.

The Pochentong airport was besieged by attacks, while, as an anecdote, Lon Nol He retired crying from his country in a helicopter to Hawaii, where he would die in 1985 without ever having returned to his country.

Victory was evident to the guerrillas, signifying the end of the war. So, the Khmer Rouge were greeted in the hope that peace would come to the country.

The bloody dictatorship of Pol Pot

However, the people of Cambodia did not enter into Pol Pot's plans once he seized power in 1975.

Among his first measurements, forced the inhabitants of urban centers to relocate to the countryside as a measure of communism that he wanted to implement.

In addition, he started a bloody purge in the country that culminated in between 2 million to 3 million people dead or missing, among which were people belonging to the same party, and the majority being from the Khmer ethnicity from the eastern zone, accused of being “Vietnamese in Khmer bodies”.

The "Great Assault"

Pol Pot immediately established complete isolation from the country, with an economy based on Maoist agrarian system.

The foreign refugees in the country were expelled and all embassies closed, beginning the immediate application of a radical communism, called "Grand Assault”.

Cambodia was the only country that has lived this experience in the most drastic way with measures like:

  • Market abolition
  • Coin abolition
  • Abolition of schools
  • Destruction of any infrastructure
  • Population forced to a conversion.

Vietnam invades Cambodia

The December 25, 1978, Vietnam launches a military invasion in Cambodia motivated by the Cambodian refugees themselves in their own country.

Background to the Vietnamese invasion

Relations between Khmer Rouge and Vietnam They had been in decline since 1973, and when Pol Pot assumed power, hostilities towards the neighboring country grew, causing Hanoi to decide to start taking action on the matter.

While Pol Pot reported "great victories" over the Vietnamese, the reality is that they were being crushed by Vietnam, fleeing Pol Pot into the jungle.

The fall of Phnom Penh and the founding of the People's Republic of Kampuchea

On January 9, 1979, Phonm Penh is taken by Vietnam, thus founding the People's Republic of Kampuchea, led by Pen Sovan.

This dictatorship spanned from 1979 to 1993, when a transition began that reinstated the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Twilight and death of Pol Pot

Meanwhile, Pol Pot's figure would sink nationally and internationally as testimonies of survivors and refugees were made public, becoming one of the greatest genocides in all history, and the highest in relation to the number of deaths / disappearances with respect to the total population of the country.

Even today in Phnom Penh we can visit the Genocide Museum, the Tuol Sleng, a former Khmer prison where all kinds of torture were committed and which is currently a mandatory visit for those who visit the country to understand the real cruelty of the Pol Pot dictatorship.

Pol Pot dies of cardiac arrest on April 15, 1998 at age 73 in the Cambodian jungle as a prisoner of the group that he himself had founded 40 years ago, the Khmer Rouge, although there are versions that point to a possible suicide or murder, taking into account that he would shortly be taken to the International Tribunal.

Genocide Museum Image: Stock Photos / chris kolaczan / Shutterstock.
Rest of images: Public Domain

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