Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pol Pot (May 19, 1928 – April 15, 1998)


Pol Pot’s real name was Saloth Sar. The name Pol Pot comes from the term Poli­tique poten­tielle, the French equiv­a­lent of a phrase sup­pos­edly coined for him by the Chi­nese com­mu­nist leadership.He was the leader of the Cam­bo­dian com­mu­nist movement known as the Red Khmer  and was Prime Min­is­ter of Cambodia from19761979.
Pol Pot became the de facto leader of Cam­bo­dia in mid-1975. Dur­ing his time in power, Pol Pot imposed a ver­sion of agrar­ian col­lec­tiviza­tion, forc­ing city dwellers to relo­cate to the coun­try­side to work in col­lec­tive farms and forced labour projects, toward a goal of “restart­ing civ­i­liza­tion” in “Year Zero”. The com­bined effects of slave labor, mal­nu­tri­tion, poor med­ical care, and exe­cu­tions resulted in the deaths of an esti­mated 1.7 to 2.5 mil­lion people, approx­i­mately 21% of the Cam­bo­dian population.
In 1979, after the inva­sion of Cam­bo­dia by neigh­bour­ing Viet­nam in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, Pol Pot fled into the jun­gles of south­west Cam­bo­dia and the Khmer Rouge gov­ern­ment col­lapsed. From 1979 to 1997 he and a rem­nant of the old Khmer Rouge oper­ated from the bor­der region of Cam­bo­dia and Thai­land, where they clung to power and United Nations recog­ni­tion as the right­ful gov­ern­ment of Cambodia.
The Khmer Rouge tried to impose the con­cept of “Year Zero” and tar­geted Bud­dhist monks, Mus­lims, Western-educated intel­lec­tu­als, edu­cated peo­ple in gen­eral, peo­ple who had con­tact with West­ern coun­tries or with Viet­nam, dis­abled peo­ple, and the eth­nic Chi­nese, Lao­tians and Viet­namese. Some were put in the S-21 camp for inter­ro­ga­tion involv­ing tor­ture in cases where a con­fes­sion was use­ful to the gov­ern­ment. Many oth­ers were sum­mar­ily exe­cuted. Con­fes­sions forced at S-21 were extracted from pris­on­ers through such meth­ods as water­board­ing, remov­ing toe­nails with pli­ers, suf­fo­cat­ing a pris­oner repeat­edly, and skin­ning a per­son while alive.
Pol Pot adopted the Maoist idea that peas­ants were the true work­ing class. In 1976, peo­ple were reclas­si­fied as full-rights (base) peo­ple, can­di­dates and deposi­tees — so called because they included most of the new peo­ple who had been deposited from the cities into the com­munes. Deposi­tees were marked for destruc­tion. Their rations were reduced to two bowls of rice soup, or “p’baw” per day. This led to wide­spread star­va­tion. “New peo­ple” were allegedly given no place in the elec­tions tak­ing place on March 201976, despite the fact the con­sti­tu­tion was said to have estab­lished uni­ver­sal suf­frage for all Cam­bo­di­ans over age 18.
Bones from Red Khmer victims
The Khmer Rouge lead­er­ship boasted over the state-controlled radio that only one or two mil­lion peo­ple were needed to build the new agrar­ian com­mu­nist utopia. As for the oth­ers, as their proverb put it, “To keep you is no ben­e­fit, to destroy you is no loss.”
Hun­dreds of thou­sands of the new peo­ple, and later the deposi­tees, were taken out in shack­les to dig their own mass graves. Then the Khmer Rouge sol­diers beat them to death with iron bars and hoes or buried them alive. A Khmer Rouge exter­mi­na­tion prison direc­tive ordered, “Bul­lets are not to be wasted.” These mass graves are often referred to as The Killing Fields.


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