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 "killing fields" ; 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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot
David P. Chandler.
Westview Press, 1999 (Revised edition)
Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison
David Chandler.
University of California Press, 1999
Cambodia, Pol Pot, and the United States: The Faustian Pact
Michael Haas.
Praeger, 1991
Cambodia, 1975-1982
Michael Vickery.
South End Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Kampuchea: From Democratic to People's Republic"
Propaganda, Politics, and Violence in Cambodia: Democratic Transition under United Nations Peace-Keeping
Steve Heder; Judy Ledgerwood.
M. E. Sharpe, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Imaging the Other in Cambodian Nationalist Discourse before and during the UNTAC Period"
Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions
George J. Andreopoulos.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "The Cambodian Genocide: Issues and Responses" begins on p. 191
Genocide by Proxy: Cambodian Pawn on a Superpower Chessboard
Michael Haas.
Praeger Publishers, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "From the Khmer Empire to Four Warring Factions," Chap. 3 "Cambodia," and Chap. 10 "International Conference on Kampuchea"
A Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts
Samuel Totten; William S. Parsons; Israel W. Charny.
Routledge, 2004 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "The Cambodian Genocide, 1975-1979"
A History of Cambodia
David Chandler.
Westview Press, 2000 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Revolution in Cambodia"
In Search of Southeast Asia: A Modern History
David P. Chandler; William R. Roff; John R. W. Smail; David Joel Steinberg; Robert H. Taylor; Alexander Woodside; David K. Wyatt; David Joel Steinberg.
Allen & Unwin, 1971 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 34 "Cambodia and Laos"
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