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Born Saloth Sâr (born 25 May 1925 or 1928; 15 April 1998) was a Cambodian democrat and politician who ruled Cambodia as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976 to 1979.
He was a leading member of Cambodia's communist movement, the Khmer Rouge, from 1963 to 1997 and served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea from 1963 to 1981.
According to Pol Pot's interpretation of Marxism-Leninism, Cambodia was turned into a one-party communist dictatorship under his helm. Born in Prek Sbauv, French Cambodia, Pol Pot was educated at some of Cambodia's top universities.
He joined the French Communist Party while living in Paris, France, in the 1940s.
He returned to Cambodia in 1953 as a member of the Marxist-Leninist Khmer Vi?t Minh faction in the guerrilla war against King Norodom Sihanouk's newly independent government.
Following Khmer Vi?t Minh's defiant rise in 1954, Pol Pot returned to Phnom Penh, working as a researcher while also remaining a central figure in Cambodia's Marxist–Leninist movement.
Pol Pot was born in Prek Sbauv, north of Kampong Thom. Saloth Sâr was given the word sâr ("white, pale") to describe his paltry due to his comparatively pale skin tone. His birth date was published in French colonial records on May 25, 1928, but biographer Philip Short argues that he was born in March 1925.
His family was of mixed Chinese and ethnic Khmer origins, but they did not speak Chinese and lived as though they were completely Khmer. Loth's father, who later adopted the name Saloth Phem, was a wealthy farmer who owned nine hectares of rice land and several draft cattle. Loth's house was one of the village's largest, but he recruited poorer neighbors to carry out a large amount of the agricultural work during transplanting and harvest time. Sok Nem, Sr.'s mother, was locally revered as a pious Buddhist. Sâr was the eighth of nine children (two girls and seven boys), three of whom died young. They were born as Theravada Buddhists and visitors to the Kampong Thom monastery on festivals. Despite his family's prosper roots, Pol Pot said he was born into a "poor, pesant family" in an interview with Yugoslav television in 1977.
Cambodia was a monarchy, but not the king was in political control, not the king. Sr's family had links to the Cambodian royals: his cousin Meak became a consort of King Sisowath Monivong and later worked as a ballet instructor. When Sâr was six years old, he and an older brother were sent to live with Meak in Phnom Penh; informal adoptions by wealthy families were then common in Cambodia. He spent 18 months in Phnom Penh as a novice monk, learning Buddhist philosophy and how to read and write the Khmer language.
In 1935, Sâr and his brother Suong, Suong's wife, and their child were sent to live together. He began his Catholic primary school, the École Miche, in the year of 1992, with Meak paying the tuition. The bulk of his students were students of French bureaucrats and Catholic Vietnamese people. He became literate in French and was familiar with Christianity. S'r was not academically gifted and was postponed for two years before being awarded his Certificat d'Etudes Complémentaires in 1941 at the age of 16. He had to stay in Meak's palace, and it was there that he had some of his earliest sexual encounters with some of the king's concubines.
While Sâr was in the classroom, the King of Cambodia died. Norodom Sihanouk was appointed as his replacement by the French authorities in 1941. The Collége Pream Sihanouk, a new junior middle school, was established in Kampong Cham, and Sâr was appointed as a boarder at the school in 1942. He had a rare position in Cambodian society as a result of his education. He learned to play the violin and appeared in school productions. A majority of his spare time was spent playing football (soccer) and basketball. Several fellow students, including Hu Nim and Khieu Samphan, served in his government later in his tenure. During a new year's holiday in 1945, Sâr and several colleagues from his college theatre troupe went on a provincial tour in a bus to raise funds for a trip to Angkor Wat. He left the school in 1947.
He passed the examinations that enrolled him in the Lycée Sisowath, while still living with Suong and his new wife last year. He sat the brevet entry examinations for the Lycée's upper classes in 1948, but failed. Unlike many of his peers, he was unable to continue at the academy for a baccalauréat. Rather, he enrolled in 1948 to study carpentry at the Ecole Technique in Russey Keo, in Phnom Penh's northern suburbs. This change from an academic degree to a vocational one was likely to be a surprise. His classmates were generally of a lower class than those at the Lyce Sisowath, but not peasants. He encountered Ieng Sary, who became a close friend and later a member of his cabinet at the Ecole Technique. Sâr obtained one of five scholarships allowing him to study at one of France's engineering colleges in summer 1949.
During the Second World War, Nazi Germany occupied France, and the French defeated the French from Cambodia in 1941, with Sihanouk declaring his country's independence. Following the war's fallout with Germany and Japan, France regained power over Cambodia in 1946, but allowed for the establishment of a new constitution and the emergence of various political parties. The Democratic Party, which won the 1946 general election, was the most profitable of these. According to historian David Chandler, Sár and Sary served with the party during the party's triumphant election bid; conversely, Short maintains that Sâr had no affiliation with the party. Sihanouk resisted the party's left-leaning reforms and dissolved the National Assembly in 1948, instead determining by decree. Operatives of Ho Chi Minh's more established Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist group, the Vibh, had established a nascent Marxist–Leninist movement, but ethnic tensions between the Khmer and Vietnamese were also present, but it was interrupted by ethnic tensions. The company's news was censored from the media, but it is unlikely that Sâr was aware of it.
Sâr was one of a small minority in Cambodia due to his access to higher education abroad. He and the 21 other selected students sailed from Saigon on the SS Jamaque, stopping in Singapore, Colombo, and Djibouti en route to Marseille. Sâr debuted at École française de radioélectricité in January 1950 to study radio electronics. He took a room in the Indochinese Pavilion of the Cité Universitaire, then lodging on the rue Amyot, and eventually a bedsit on the corner of the rue de Commerce and the rue Letélier. During his first year, Sâr earned acclaim. He failed his first end-of-year assessments, but was allowed to retake them and barely passed, enabling him to continue his studies.
Sâr spent three years in Paris. In summer 1950, he was one of 18 Cambodian students to join French colleagues in travelling to SFR Yugoslavia to serve in a volunteer corpstalion constructing a motorway in Zagreb. The following year, he returned to Yugoslavia for a camping holiday. Sâr made no attempt to integrate into French culture, but he was never completely comfortable with the French language. He nevertheless became familiar with French literature, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau as one of his favorite writers. Ieng Sary, who had joined him there, Thiounn Mumm, and Keng Vannsak were among his country's most close friendships. He was a member of Vannsak's discussion circle, whose ideologically diverse membership explored how to achieve Cambodian independence.
The Cercle Marxist Circle," a Marxist-Leninist group arranged in a clandestine cell system, was established by Ieng Sary and two others in Paris. The cells were encouraged to read Marxist books and hold self-criticism sessions. Sâr joined a cell on rue Lacepède's crowded streets; his cell mates included Hou Yuon, Sien Ary, and Sok Knaol. He helped with the replication of Reaksmei ("The Fire"), which was named after a former Russian newspaper. Yuon was elected head of the Khmer Student Association (AEK; l'Association des Etudiants Khmers), establishing close links between the group and the leftist Union Nationale des Étudiants de France in October 1951. For the next 19 years, the Cercle Marxiste manipulated the AEK and its successor organisations. Sâr and Sary joined the French Communist Party several months after the Cercle Marxists' establishment (PCF). Sâr attended party meetings, including those of its Cambodian group, and read its newspaper, Les Cahiers Internationaux. At that time, the Marxist–Leninist movement was in a strong position globally; under Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist Party had recently emerged under Mao Zedong's leadership, and the French Communist Party was one of the country's largest parties, winning around 25% of the French vote.
Sâr found several of Karl Marx's denser books difficult, and later said he "didn't really know" them. However, he became familiar with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's writings, including The History of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). Stalin's adherence to Marxism, also known as Stalinism, gives Sâr a sense of direction in life. S. He also read Mao's book, especially On New Democracy, which lay out a Marxist–Leninist framework for launching a revolution in colonial and semi-feudal societies. S'r read the French Revolution's book The Great Revolution alongside these texts. He learned from Kropotkin that an intellectual-and-the-peasantry alliance was needed for revolution; that a revolution had to be carried out without compromise; and that egalitarianism was the source of a communist society.
King Sihanouk's resignation from the government and the declaration of himself Prime Minister in Cambodia due to rising internal tensions. "Monarchy or Democracy," Sr wrote an article in response. "Original Khmer" was an essay that appeared in Khmer Nisut's student journal "Khmer daom" ("Original Khmer"). He referred positively to Buddhism in it, portrayed Buddhist monks as an anti-monarchist power on the pesantry's side. The Cercle decided to send someone to Cambodia to investigate the situation and decide which rebel faction they should support; Sâr volunteered for the role. He may have withdrawn his second-year examinations two years in a row and forfeited his scholarship because of it. He boarded the SS Jamaque in December, returning to Cambodia with no degree.
Personal life and characteristics
Pol Pot had a lust for power. He was reflective, self-effacing, and demonstrated self-control. He was also extremely secretive, obsessed with secrecy, and afraid of assassination. Short reported that he was often in charge when pretending not to be; but that he was "delighted in appearing to be what he wasn't" – a nameless face in the crowd. During his political career, Pouk, Hay, Pol, 87, Grand-Uncle, Elder Brother, First Brother, and First Brother were among the pseudonyms used by the author in later years, particularly the pseudonyms 99 and Phem. "The more often you change your name, the better." It confuses the enemy." He denied and falsified certain aspects of his life in later life. He never explained why he picked the pseudonym "Pol Pot."
Pol Pot's official biography, released in September 1978 by the Department of Press and Information Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea, showed that he was "deeply and firmly confident in the people, the masses, especially in the poor peasants." Pol Pot displayed what Chandler called a "genteel charisma" and what Short described as a "magnetic personality." His brother referred to him as sweet tempered and equable as a youth, while fellow school students recall that Pol Pot was mediocre but enjoyable. His students described him as calm, honest, and persuasive, as well as having a "sudden good nature and an attractive personality." Chandler said he had the "common touch" when dealing with people; according to Short, Pol Pot's diverse and eclectic upbringing meant that he was "able to engage in a natural way with people of all sorts and conditions, creating an instinctive bond that invariably made them want to like him." Many commentators referred to his distinctive smile. He used to carry a fan, which in Cambodian history was traditionally associated with monkhood.
Pol Pot was softly spoken. He was serene and calm during speeches, even though he was using inflammatory words. When speaking with people, Chandler noted that Pol Pot demonstrated "apparent warmth" and was known for his "slowly spoken words." Kong Duong, a Hong Kong immigrant, said he was "very likeable, a very nice person." He was warm, and everything he said seemed to be sensible. He would never blame you or scold you to your face."
Pol Pot was often sick and depressed, and he was always sick. He was plagued by malaria and intestinal disease, which made him sick several times a year while he was in power. He began to be interested in romantic French literature as a child, as well as having a love of traditional Khmer music, as well as being a fan of Paul Verlaine's work.
Chandler said that the seven years that Pol Pot spent in jungle encampments among his fellow Marxists had a huge influence on his outlook and self-confidence, and that it "probably improved his sense of destiny and self-importance." Pol Pot had a nationalistic attitude and showed no concern in activities outside of Cambodia. He was self-righteous, and he rarely objected to compromise or attempts to achieve consensus. "Pol did believe he was doing for the common good," Short said, and that "everyone will know about it." Chandler said that Pol Pot displayed "a tendency" toward violence and terror. Short said that Pol Pot and other senior members of the Khmer Rouge participated in the "glorification of violence" and that bloodshed was a "cause for exultation." Short characterized the Khmer Rouge's leadership as being different from those who ruled the Chinese and Vietnamese Marxist movements, who tended to see violence as a necessary evil rather than something to embrace joyfully.
Pol Pot wanted his followers to have a "revolutionary consciousness" that would encourage them to act without his guidance, but they were often dissatisfied when they failed to exhibit this. Partly because he did not fully believe subordinates, he micromanaged activities, reviewing items such as menus for state receptions or the programming schedules for radio broadcasts. Despite the fact that several of Pol Pot's followers wanted a personality cult linked to him in other Marxist-ruled countries, this never came to fruition in Cambodia. Although some busts and paintings of him were produced at the start of the war in Vietnam, Cambodia's drummer never heard songs and plays about him, and there were no publications of his "thoughts" as had been seen in countries such as China and North Korea. Chandler said that the planned personality cult "never became full" in large part because "self-advertisement did not appear so naturally to Pol Pot." It may have reflected his sincere resistance to individualism.