Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot

Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot

Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot

Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot


In Cambodia's recent, tragic past, no figure looms larger or more ominously than that of Pol Pot. Yet information about his life and career has been largely inaccessible. As secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) beginning in 1962 and as prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea (DK), he was widely blamed for trying to destroy Cambodian society. By implementing policies whose effects were genocidal, he oversaw the deaths of more than one million of his nation's people.

In this, the only book-length study of the man, historian David P. Chandler throws light on the shadowy figure of Pol Pot. Basing his study on interviews and on a wide range of sources in English, Cambodian, and French, the author illuminates the ideas and behavior of this enigmatic man and his entourage against the background of post -- World War II events, providing a key to understanding this horrific, pivotal period of Cambodian history. In this revised edition, new material brings the biography up to date through recent events in Cambodia, including Pol Pot's death in April 1998.


I am grateful to my editors at Westview Press, Rob Williams and Kristin Milavec, the project editor, for encouraging me to prepare a second edition of this book. In bringing the narrative up to date, closing with Pol Pot's death in April 1998, I have invaded the text and the end notes to insert new data and to correct minor errors pointed out by correspondents and reviewers. In addition, I have updated the bibliographical essay at the end of the book. The text has also benefited enormously from Jennifer Swearingen's helpful copyediting.

In the time between the appearance of the first edition and Pol Pot's death six years later, some interesting new biographical data have emerged, thanks in large part to enterprising research conducted by David Ashley, Chhang Youk, Stephen Heder, and Nate Thayer. I am grateful to these four people for providing me with transcripts or summaries of their interviews, and to Thayer for sending me a copy of Nuon Chea's draft history of the "struggle movement," which he composed in 1997. My own study of the S-21 archive in 1994-1998 revealed some new information about the Vietnamese military base known as "Office 100," where Pol Pot and his colleagues sought refuge from Sihanouk's police in the early 1960s; my interviews with Lim Keuky and a former Chinese diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity provided some insights, respectively, into Pol Pot's early married life and into his friendship with the notorious Chinese official K'ang Sheng. My revision of the final chapter benefited from conversations with Terry McCarthy, Seth Mydans, and Nate Thayer. The new data have altered the chronological outlines of Pol Pot's life by making it four years longer, as I now prefer the birthdate of 1925 to the 1928 one I had supported in the first edition.

Pol Pot wanted to be judged by history, as his interview with Nate Thayer in October 1997 makes clear. Unfortunately from his point of view, perhaps, the material that has emerged about his life since 1992 has not made his personality any more accessible or his career any easier to admire.

David Chandler Washington, D.C.

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