Pol Pot was leader of the Khmer Rouge, a communist regime that ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, and caused the deaths of more than one million people.
Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar on 19 May 1925 in Kompong Thong province in central Cambodia. The country was then a French protectorate and Pol Pot, whose family were relatively prosperous, was educated in a series of French-speaking schools. In 1949, he won a scholarship to study in Paris where he became involved in communist politics.
He returned to Cambodia in 1953 and became one of the leaders of an underground communist movement, the 'Khmer Rouge'. In 1963, the Khmer Rouge set up guerrilla bases in remote regions of the country to fight the government of Prince Sihanouk. In 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown by General Lon Nol. Civil war broke out between Lon Nol's army and the Khmer Rouge.
In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge captured the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Led by Pol Pot, they reset the calendar to 'Year Zero' and attempted to transform Cambodia into their vision of a communist, rural society. All inhabitants of Cambodian cities and towns were expelled to work in agricultural communes. Money, private property and religion were abolished. Thousands were murdered in special detention centres and thousands more died from starvation and overwork.
After raids by the Khmer Rouge across their border, the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and in 1979 overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. Pol Pot fled to the border region with Thailand from where he fought against the Vietnamese-backed government in Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge continued to receive support from abroad because of their opposition to the communist regime in Vietnam.
In 1997, after a power struggle within the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot was arrested by former colleagues and sentenced to life under house arrest. He died on 15 April 1998.
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