Pol Pot's Legacy

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In the years of 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot became the head of the most murderous revolution of our time. His communist regime with the Khmer Rouge created one of the largest, yet greatly under-looked atrocities of the time. The genocide in his Democratic Kampuchea has created a death toll that could be as high as 3,000,000 people, or 25% of the country's population. (Chandler, 1999; Cambodia Genocide) In an attempt to refashion his country, "people were simply sacrificed to our struggle, not killed," as Pol Pot himself stated. (Pol Pot: Life of a Tyrant, 2000)

As a child he hadn't a difficult life, but what he studied changed him. He saw need for political reform. Among his colleagues he was seen as a political genius, but as the world saw, he turned out to be one of the least humanitarian men ever to exist.

Saloth Sar, later to be known as Pol-Pot, was born on May 19th, 1925 in Prek Sbauv, Cambodia. He was born to a relatively wealthy landowner father, and a mother whom had connections to the royal court in Phnom Penh. (Templer, 1998) His sister and cousins were dancers of the royal ballet in Phnom Penh and being such gained them protection and a comfortable life from the king. At the age of six, Saloth Sar was sent to live with them and study in the more populated Phnom Penh. He was admitted to attend several French-language schools and boarding schools, something only privileged, rich, or bright Cambodian students had the chance to participate upon. Even though he was considered privileged enough to attend these schools, he neither succeeded in achieving proper grades, nor did he even graduate with a high school diploma. (Chandler, 1999)

Despite his failures in his high school record, due to fluency in the French language, he was one of the first Cambodian students to obtain a scholarship that allowed him to study abroad in France. In 1949 he set off and began his studies in radio engineering. Much like many other Asian students, he was attracted by the Indochina Communist Party which was an opposition towards French rule in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Marxism, in Pol Pots mind, seemed to be one way to gain that freedom, seeing that communist victories were observed in China and eastern Europe. (Chandler, 1999) Saloth became side tracked by the French Revolution and other progressive movements. For three years he neglected his studies and instead would spend his scholarship money on copies of L'Humanite, a French Communist Party newspaper, and other such books and documents. He also became a member of the French Communist Party. After failing too many exams, his scholarship was revoked; he was sent home to Cambodia in 1953. (Templer, 1998)

After King Sihanouk had obtained its state of independence in 1954, Pol Pot's "revolutionary fervor" developed. Also, seeing the poverty his family was left in induced his interest to take political action. (Templer, 1999)

During this time Saloth Sar took up a teaching French literature at a small private school in Phnom Penh. (Chandler, 1998) All the while Pol Pot was building up support in an underground communist movement. His party, Cambodia's Communist Party, changed its name to the Workers' Party of Kampuchea and began to build in power. In 1960, when Sihanouk began to crack down on extreme political groups, specifically communists, the party's leader, Tou Samouth, disappeared. Pol Pot took his position as leader of the Cambodian communist movement. Pol Pot would later be accused of Tou Samouth's murder, but wholly denied any of these accusations.

In 1963, to avoid being captured after his name was published as a suspect in leftist activities, Pol Pot fled to the Cambodian-Vietnamese border region with a group of followers. Here they sought refuge at a Vietnamese military camp for two years. From then on Saloth Sar was also known as Brother Number One. (Killer File, 2007) It was here that...
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