Worst World Leaders

Pol Pot—A Biography

Pol Pot, born in 1928 according to French authorities as Saloth Sar, began his life in a small village in Cambodia in the province of Kompong Thom. His childhood consisted of living in the village until he was six or so and went to live with his brother. Here he began school, learned French, and became exposed to the world. Then, in 1949, Pol Pot received a government scholarship to study in Paris. Perhaps this move would be what changed the path Pol Pot’s life significantly. In Paris Pol Pot was exposed to Communism and he agree with the ideology so much that he became part of the party. The French Communist Party taught Pol Pot a lot about the world and how politics should manage a country. Pol Pot really bought inot the idea of Communism and what it could do for countries and so he returned to Cambodia in 1953 with four years of Stalinist communism under his belt and ready to make a difference.

The Viet Minh controlled the Communist party in Cambodia and as soon as Pol Pot arrived back in his country he became a member of the party in his home country. This Indochina Communist Party would really affect Pol Pot’s life, however he was not aware of how much when he joined the Communist resistance. Then, in the 1954 elections the democrats and the Communist resistance received a blow that would be hard to overcome. The government that was in place and led by Prince Sihanouk won the election and received complete and absolute power. Pol Pot was not impressed with this situation like many other communists so he took a job teaching in a private college and dedicated himself to educating others on communism and winning them over to his favored party.

Of course, Prince Sihanouk and his party were not keen on communism or that individuals were trying to build a resistance in Cambodia like the ones that had been building throughout Europe and other countries. So, the Prince’s government cracked down on communism and members of the party. Those communists who did not want to go to jail and could escape the police did so. Pol Pot was one of these and he managed to escape to the jungles near the border of Vietnam. He ended up living in the jungle in this are close to seven years just trying to avoid the police and capture for his involvement in he political party he believed in with his heart and soul.

However, while communism was being suppressed and outlawed it was not going anywhere. Instead, it was simply building and festering under the surface until the time for it to explode and explode it would. The North Vietnamese were fighting with the Cambodian government for territory and when the Vietnamese were victorious in 1971 they took over parts of Cambodia as communist territory. A couple of years later in 1973 the communists believed they were ready to take over the entire Cambodian government, however there desire to do so was squashed with an American bombing. However, a couple more years would yield victory for communism in Cambodia when a final attempt gained them the glory of a communist country.

Of course, millions of Cambodians did not share in this glory as they were forced from their homes and many ended up starving to death because of this displacement. The Communists went from city to city, starting in Phnom Penh, and then every other large city, then the smaller ones, and likewise until millions of Cambodians were displaced from their homes and even their cities. During this time Pol Pot had risen to the status of Prime Minister and he no longer called the country Cambodia, but renamed it Kampuchea. He was determined to have a communist country and introduced a four year plan that would integrate communist principles. This involved collectivization of agriculture and increasing the country’s revenue through exporting. However, this did not work so well for the average Cambodian working in agriculture as many died at work in the rice paddies. More agriculture would not have been such a bad thing in Cambodia had a percentage of it been marked for nourishment for the home country. However, this was not the case and many of the individuals that grew agriculture starved to death or suffered from malnutrition because there was little food. The reason there was no food is because Pol Pot was focused on exporting more than feeding his population.

If this was not torturous enough Pol Pot was responsible for the interrogation center, now famous, named S-21. More than 20,000 men, women, and children were tortured to death after lengthy interrogations equal to psychological abuse. However, Pol Pot’s reign would not last forever. By the late ‘70s the skirmishes with the Vietnamese were increasing and more and more inroads were being made. Soon, it was obvious to Pol Pot his country would fall and he escaped to Thailand. There the government of Pol Pot continued in a way with his supporters and until the late ‘90s the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot’s new government, fought against the Vietnamese despite a peace accord signed in the early ‘90s. Then, Pol Pot made a fatal mistake. He ordered the execution of a former defense minister and thousands turned on Pol Pot instead of supporting him. He was then captured in 1997. However, his captivity did not last long as he died in 1998 from a heart attack. He was approximately 70 years old.

Quick Facts: 

Leadership Rating: