Pol Pot was a political leader whose communist Khmer Rouge government led Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During that time, an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians died of starvation, execution, disease or overwork. One detention center, S-21, was so notorious that only seven of the roughly 20,000 people imprisoned there are known to have survived. The Khmer Rouge, in their attempt to socially engineer a classless communist society, took particular aim at intellectuals, city residents, ethnic Vietnamese, civil servants and religious leaders. Some historians regard the Pol Pot regime as one of the most barbaric and murderous in recent history.
Pol Pot: The Early Years
Saloth Sar, better known by his nom de guerre Pol Pot, was born in 1925 in the small village of Prek Sbauv, located about 100 miles north of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. His family was relatively affluent and owned some 50 acres of rice paddy, or roughly 10 times the national average.
In 1934, Pol Pot moved to Phnom Penh, where he spent a year at a Buddhist monastery before attending a French Catholic primary school. His Cambodian education continued until 1949, when he went to Paris on a scholarship. While there, he studied radio technology and became active in communist circles.
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