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"To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss."—Khmer Rouge saying
The most evil Cambodian to ever live (which should be an Overly Narrow Superlative but sadly is not), Pol Pot (1925-1998) was the leader of the Khmer Rouge ("the Red Khmers") and ruler of Cambodia from 1975 until 1979. He was born Saloth Sar in 1925, in what was the colony of French Indochina at the time. His middle-class family was Chinese-Khmer, ironically enough.
From 1949 to 1953 he studied (without success) in Paris, where he made contacts with communist and other radical leftist student groups.
In 1962, he became the leader of the first real communist party in Cambodia (the French had departed several years ago). To escape the wrath of the new Cambodian government, he fled into the jungle and founded the Khmer Rouge, a rebel Maoist peasant army. Like most communist guerrillas, the Khmer Rouge had middle-class boys and girls at the top, commanding troops of illiterate peasants.
His rise to power began when the Vietnam War spilled over into the neighboring Cambodia. After the US invaded Vietnam, the sympathies of Cambodian people naturally lay with the North Vietnamese. Then, the Cambodian government was attacked and overthrown--not by any rebels, but by the US-supported military, who were trying to prevent a communist takeover of the country. Pol Pot launched guerrilla war; in only a few months, his troops controlled the entire Cambodian countryside. The US answered by bombing them with napalm. Of course, this had the opposite effect and only gave the Khmer Rouge a massive surge in popularity.
Pol Pot seized power after the US withdrew from Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975. Tens of thousands in Phnom Penh were celebrating in the streets when the Khmer Rouge began entering the capital as victors. The five-year war had come to an end, and Cambodia was finally at peace...
Then, the people of the cities were evacuated to the countryside--General Secretary Pol Pot declared this to be "Year Zero" and society was about to be purified. An agrarian utopia for peasants would be created in the deep countryside, without any "social ills" such as industry, foreign influences and urban environments. All city residents, young and old, had to move out as quick as possible. No exceptions were made. Those who refused to leave, or were unable to go, were killed. Ethnic minorities were the first to be massacred, along with anyone having any ties to the old regime. Intellectuals, teachers, and religious minorities were also hunted down and killed by Khmer Rouge death squads. Not even the average person was left undisturbed--the entire urban population had been moved to farming communes and had no idea how to farm rice, which resulted in devastating famines.
Once the Cambodian Genocide began rolling in earnest, Pol Pot's insanity claimed more and more victims--anyone wearing glasses was killed, since glasses were a sign of literacy, and literacy was a sign that one was an intellectual. Babies had their brains smashed out. Cham Muslims were forced at gunpoint to rape female pigs. Acts like picking berries or fruit by yourself were deemed "private enterprise" and punished with instant death. Around two million people died in the "Killing Fields" (out of a population of 8 million), as they came to be called.
In 1978, relations with Vietnam (unified under communist rule) broke down, because of the ceaseless floods of Cambodian refugees. Pol Pot ordered his forces to retake disputed border territory long fought over by Cambodia and Vietnam, but the Vietnamese Army hardened by The Vietnam War, were far stronger. Not helping was the fact that Pol Pot recently purged forces stationed in the very regions from which the invasion was made, significantly weakening them. In a few weeks, they drove the Khmer troops back across the border and won battle after battle. Most of the Khmer either deserted, or joined the invasion and rose up against Pol Pot. The Vietnam-led invasion reached Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. Pol Pot himself escaped from the city with a helicopter and hid in Thailand.
Across the border in the jungles of Thailand, Khmer Rouge forces attempted to reclaim power, but without any success. They had an unexpected ally with the United States, who backed them to spite their common enemy Vietnam, since The Vietnam War had instilled lingering bad feelings and desire for revenge. US support mainly extended to food supplies-they contrived to have international aid agencies feed the Khmer Rouge along with genuine refugees. President Clinton wisely put a stop to this upon taking office in 1993. After internal power struggles through The Nineties, other Khmer Rouge leaders turned on Pol Pot, handing him over to the UN. Before they could put him on trial, he died of a heart attack in 1998. Shortly before his death, he was asked by a foreign journalist if there were any actions Pol Pot now regretted. Seeming genuinely confused, he said "No. I want you to know, everything I did, I did for my country."
Pol Pot showed examples of:
- Acceptable Target: Lots of people were the targets of the genocide--Chinese, Vietnamese, Buddhist monks, Muslims, other minorities, intellectuals, capitalists, scientists, teachers, anyone with an education. People wearing glasses were also regarded as suspect. Although contrary to popular belief, wearing glasses wasn't punishable by death, it definitely lowered your odds of survival.
- A God Am I: His one acquiescence to vanity was insisting on the people of the nation referring to him as "Our Father" and to their parents as "Brother and Sister." Interestingly, he subverted this trope for the most part as he was quite modest compared to most dictators, avoiding having a personality cult. When circumstances forced him to plaster Cambodia with statues and pictures of himself, he felt quite uncomfortable with it as he preferred to rule from the shadows as The Man Behind the Man.
- All Crimes Are Equal: And mostly punishable by death.
- Ax Crazy
- Big Brother Is Watching - Pol Pot was referred to as
- Call to Agriculture: Cruelly subverted. Pol Pot's goal of turning Cambodia into a pastoral utopia led to nothing but starvation and death, and citizens were forced to abandon their homes and labour in the fields at gunpoint.
- Commie Nazis: Sort of. The basic Khmer Rouge ideology was a racist perversion of communism, combining agrarian Maoism with a belief in Khmer racial supremacy.
- Cold-Blooded Torture
- Cold War
- Culture Police: Western culture, urban life, and all foreign influences were to be extinguished. The Khmer Rouge destroyed old Cambodian art forms in their insane quest to cleanse their homeland of all "rotten influences". After their reign was over, only three people left in the country knew how to dance.
- To clarify, the "dancing" refers to a complex, stylized form of ballet deriving from the old Khmer Empire. It's considerably more complex than, say, the merengue, and if those three choreographers had been killed it would have been Lost Forever.
- Democracy Is Bad
- Dirty Coward: He was as genocidal as the Nazis--except that the Nazis, vile and despicable though they WERE, were still brave as hell and fought to the last man against the Allies. On the other hand, the Khmer Rouge were very good at slaughtering defenseless people and raping little girls, but fled across the border at the first sign that the Vietnamese enemy was approaching.
- To be more precise, the Khmer army actually did engage the Vietnamese, but decided to use Zerg Rush tactics against a technologically and numerically superior foe. Predictably, it was a complete disaster: half the Kampuchean army was destroyed in only two weeks! This also makes Pol Pot a General Failure.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Imagine being executed for stealing a cup of rice. Yeah, the Khmer Rouge did that sort of thing routinely.
- Enemy Civil War: From the US perspective, the Cambodian-Vietnamese war.
- Enemy Mine: The... complicated three-way relationship between himself, the United States, and the King/Prime Minister Sihanouk. Their one point of agreement was hatred of Vietnam.
- Eviler Than Thou: It's safe to say that the Khmer Rouge made the Viet Cong look like schoolgirls. However, this did not translate to skills in battle, as Pol Pot found out to his dismay.
- Fascist but Inefficient
- From Nobody to Nightmare
- Full-Circle Revolution: In theory, this was what the Khmer Rouge's policies were designed to prevent. The thinking at the time among some prominent Marxists in France was that the reason why socialist societies stalled in their progress towards communism and eventually evolved into state capitalism was due to remnants of the old order being allowed to survive the revolution. Once the revolutionary leaders consolidated their power and got into the tedium of running things, these elements reasserted themselves and corrupted the revolution from within. The only solution, they reasoned, was to completely scrap the idea of gradual transition, go straight to communism, destroy all trace of the old order and rebuild society from scratch.
- Happiness Is Mandatory
- Jerk Jock: He was a football jock as a teenager.
- Knight Templar
- Modern Major-General
- People's Republic of Tyranny: The official name of the Khmer Rouge's state was Democratic Kampuchea giving the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (aka. North Korea) a run for its money.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad
- Omnicidal Maniac: This guy has the dubious distinction of being the leader of an auto-genocidal regime that killed a greater percentage of its own population than any other country on earth. It seemed as though Pot's goal was to eradicate the population of his own country. If he'd been left in power, in all likelihood he would have been Mayor of a Ghost Town by the end of his reign. Not content with killing his own people, he even started bombing the Vietnamese. Bad move.
- Regime Change
- Reign of Terror
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized
- Science Is Bad: And technology, and literacy, and cities.
- Totalitarian Utilitarian
- Utopia Justifies the Means: For himself, but also unbelievably for a small number of people (most of which live in the West) who are convinced he had been just a Well-Intentioned Extremist and his "revolution" a necessity. Their theory runs a bit like this: very poor countries in Southeast Asia had been held in a state of poverty by the colonial power, as reservoirs of cheap manpower - and worse, given what happens nowadays with a certain sort of tourism ran by local gangs and mafias, womanpower and childpower. From their point of view, running a country by the rules of the "old order" (free market, rule of law, traditional state bureaucracies, diplomacy and so on) would place it in a perpetually subordinate position to "White" countries who dictate because they have the money and resources and who could afford to despise "the Yellows" like illiterate and worthless vermin and use them like modern slaves. So the revolutionaries had to get rid of everything resembling a modern state and close themselves by sealing the country like a concentration camp, to preserve their independence and dignity.
- Year Zero: He's the TrodeCodifier although he was inspired by the French Year Zero policy (A.K.A. "years will be starting from the day the Revolution won against the King").
- You Fail Economics Forever: Obviously.