|Join the party!|
|Opiates for the masses|
“”Everything I did, I did for my country.
|—Pol Pot's last reported words|
Pol Pot (born Saloth Sar, May 19, 1925 – April 15, 1998) was the former dictator of Cambodia who, in the name of trying to roll back time to the year Zero and return to a state of agrarian society, systematically had intellectuals, middle class people, and anyone who opposed him murdered and the rest emptied out of the cities into collective farms to work 18 hours a day, where many more starved to death or were executed. He was known in the Khmer Communist Party as "brother number one" and adopted the name Pol Pot in 1970, derived from the French phrase Politique potentielle (Potential Politics) - a form of extremist Communism he believed in and the name the Chinese supposedly gave to him. Alternatively, "Pol" may have referred to the Pol tribe who were regarded as "royal slaves" and "Pot" was merely a euphonic monosyllable that he liked the sound of. In any case, Pot also ordered mass executions of Vietnamese, Chinese, Americans, Christians, Jews and Muslims along with anyone suspected of Western connections. Anyone considered an intellectual, including teachers, doctors, nurses, journalists, authors and people who wore glasses were also murdered. Pot's catchphrase was "to keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss." His victims were often forced at gunpoint to dig their own graves which are now known as "the Killing Fields." Forms of livelihood that were difficult to centralize were also destroyed, including hospitals and medicine. Trees were cut down and burnt and fishing was banned under pain of death. Pot's stated goal was to reduce the population of Cambodia to one million. You get the idea.
Before entering politics, Pol Pot was a teacher of history and geography, which probably proves right everything you thought you knew about history and geography teachers.
 Ending the killing fields
Pol Pot's three-year reign came to an abrupt end when neighboring Vietnam, also ruled by a Communist government that had been allied with Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge during the Vietnam War, finally invaded to depose Pol Pot and install a Communist regime that was less thoroughly dedicated to killing its own residents. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge then took to the hills to wage guerrilla warfare against the Vietnam-backed regime. As politics makes for strange bedfellows, Pol Pot was allied with a couple of liberal democratic groups also waging guerrilla warfare against the Communist government, along with the US government (who supported them in resentment against Vietnam, despite earlier denouncing the atrocities). The Khmer Rouge had the Cambodian seat at the UN for over a decade at the US's insistence, while in exile. President Clinton finally put a stop to it when he came into office. And here's the weird thing, while Pol Pot was slaughtering his own people in droves, just next door Tricky Dick was invading Vietnam for what one can only assume were strategic water buffalo purposes. Not so much as a squeak from him about Cambodia. Pot's second-in-command Ta Mok overthrew Pot and placed him under house arrest in 1997 and took control of the floundering Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot died the following year, supposedly of heart failure although he was due to face trial by an international tribunal so it's equally possible that he topped himself. A reporter present asked if he regretted anything. Pol Pot looked confused, saying: "No. I want you to know. Everything I did, I did for my country." Make of it what you will. Cambodia became democratic and still struggles to recover from the Khmer Rouge era, attempting to prosecute the surviving atrocity perpetrators.