Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Enemy of Monarchy: Pol Pot

The man known to history as Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar in or around 1928 to a relatively prosperous middle class family. As a boy his family sent him to high school in Phnom Penh where his cousin was a dancer at the royal ballet. It is important to note that with the young Saloth Sar his hatred of monarchy came first and all of his later revolutionary, genocidal policies grew out of his anti-monarchism. Because of his cousin he saw the royal court and developed a very negative view of the Cambodian monarchy. Disregarding all of the circumstances the embittered youth did not see a beautiful cultural, historical institution that had been the political and spiritual heart of Cambodia for centuries (as well as providing work and an artistic outlet for people like his cousin) and instead chose to see only corrupt and idle royals doing the bidding of their French colonial masters. It was a point of view he would never really lose throughout his long life.

Saloth Sar got together with other young revolutionary enemies of the monarchy and was later sent to continue his education in France where he joined the colonial wing of the French communist party. Saloth Sar wrote his first piece of propaganda as a communist against the Cambodian monarchy, calling it a “malodorous running sore”. However, his education in Paris was a total failure and, finally giving up, he returned to Cambodia in 1954 to be a history teacher. However, he lost none of his political ardor and soon joined the Vietnamese-led Indochinese Communist Party. However, he soon became suspicious of the Vietnamese Communists who he believed (correctly) wished to unite all of French Indochina under their rule. He split off with his own faction and when France granted independence it was done through King Norodom Sihanouk; only increasing the hatred of the monarchy already held by Saloth Sar who started going under the name Pol Pot.

The organization Pol Pot led was very communist, very paranoid and thus very secretive. The people who knew of the leadership knew them only by their code names. Pol Pot was simply “Brother #1”, for most a faceless, ghost-like voice giving orders over a radio set. He envisioned a utopian society which he would create by wiping out absolutely all inequalities, destroying all foreign influences, emptying the cities and returning the entire population to the simple agrarian life of the villages. Yet, his communist propaganda earned him fairly few followers. An economic upturn and good crops brought a period of prosperity and the people gave the credit to the semi-divine intervention of their king; Norodom Sihanouk, whom Pol Pot hated more with each passing day. The King played the feuding parties against each other and tried to juggle neutrality with maintaining good relations with both the western democracies and the communist bloc. He was not entirely successful.

When U.S. forces intervened in Cambodia to wipe out communist Vietnamese bases, which King Sihanouk had unofficially allowed to be established, the Cold War came to Cambodia. King Sihanouk went off to make friends with Communist China, North Korea and the USSR and in his absence the U.S. supported a coup by General Lon Nol against him. This was a golden opportunity for Pol Pot. He now had a foreign-backed capitalist regime to wage his revolution against and a sure source of popular support in the person of the deposed monarch who had no other ally to turn to. In a blatant lie he promised Sihanouk he would restore him to his throne once his forces were victorious. Sihanouk backed the Khmer Rouge (though not Pol Pot who he never met and indeed had no idea was the one actually running the organization) and urged the people to go to the jungles and join the communist guerillas. The king’s godlike status among the faithful peasantry ensured the success of the Khmer Rouge.

Following the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam the republican regime in Cambodia lost its primary support and quickly collapsed. On April 17, 1975 the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh. Pol Pot declared it “Year Zero”, the start of a new era and renamed Cambodia “Democratic Kampuchea”. Despite his promise he did not restore King Norodom Sihanouk but instead placed him under house arrest. Unlike other communist dictators, there was no cult of personality around Pol Pot. Most still had no idea who he was and in the initial government organization he made one of his subordinates ‘head of state’ while taking the post of prime minister for himself. He also played no favorites, some of his closest relatives had been brutalized in vicious labor camps before seeing a photo or poster and realizing that their new dictator was their own Saloth Sar.

King Sihanouk was placed under house arrest, a number of the royal family were killed and Pol Pot unleashed a reign of terror unsurpassed even amongst the most brutal of communists dictators around the world. Anyone with any foreign ties was killed, anyone displaying overt religious devotion was killed. The disabled were killed. Anyone with any ties to a previous government was killed. Everyone was made absolutely equal and any deviation from the new norm was punishable by death. Families were abolished since words like “mother” and “father” were hierarchical and considered superior to children so everyone became “brother” and “sister”. Anyone who referred to their parents as such were killed, a woman who referred to her husband as such was killed, anyone who used any traditional form of address was liable to be killed. The educated class was wiped out, since they would be held as superior to the uneducated and even those wearing glasses would be killed as this was taken as a symbol of intellectualism. Currency was abolished and the cities were emptied as everyone was sent to work on the communal rice fields; essentially vast slave labor camps where many city dwellers who had no experience growing their own food quickly died. Hordes of people died of starvation and hundreds of thousands were executed.

Over the years Pol Pot became more paranoid and had many of his own allies, even lifelong supporters put to death as well. The notorious prison, essentially a massive torture chamber, S-21 or Tuol Sleng was set up for anyone accused of being an enemy of the regime or an agent of the CIA. People were tortured, often by electrocution, to give up names of accomplices, most of whom had never heard of the CIA or had the slightest idea what the initials meant. However, people would give any number of names to make the torture stop and these people then were arrested and given similar treatment. To save bullets most of those executed were taken to the countryside, beaten to death and buried in mass graves. It is estimated that as many as 2 million Cambodians died during Pol Pot’s reign of terror. The rest of the world was outraged at the reports that emerged from the secretive, nightmarish hell on earth that was “Democratic Kampuchea”. However, many governments in the west gave subtle support to the regime of Pol Pot and even King Sihanouk, despite being constantly kicked around by the Khmer Rouge, stuck up for them in the UN.

This was, again, all about Vietnam at the end of the day. Pol Pot had originally been part of the Vietnamese-organized “Indochinese Communist Party” but he left because he was very paranoid about the Vietnamese, even the Reds, wanting to dominate Cambodia. In this he happened to be mostly right. Vietnam’s original communist dictator, Ho Chi Minh, made no secret of the fact that his long-term goal was a communist Indochina that would include Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. So the Khmer Rouge was quick to ally with China against the Vietnamese. The reason people like King Sihanouk and governments like the United States gave some tacit support to Pol Pot was because they viewed him as the only thing stopping Cambodia from being dominated by the Vietnamese. Just after the United States pulled out of Southeast Asia the Red Chinese even invaded North Vietnam because of their antagonism with Cambodia. However, the Vietnamese gave the People’s Liberation Army a bloody nose after which they declared “mission accomplished” and beat a hasty retreat back to China, leaving Vietnam free to deal with Cambodia.

Pol Pot made his greatest political blunder when he jumped the gun and attacked the Vietnamese. This was all the excuse Hanoi needed. In 1976 they forced a treaty on the communist regime in Laos which effectively put the country under Vietnamese domination and after increasing hostilities between the two countries the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1978. The Cambodian army was soundly beaten, Pol Pot fled to the Thai border and Vietnam set up their own puppet administration. By 1979 the Vietnamese had totally driven the Khmer Rouge from power and forced them to retreat into remote strongholds in the jungle where they were mostly ineffective. The international community refused to recognize the Vietnamese imposed government and this eventually led to the United Nations taking control of the situation and this finally resulted in the restoration of King Norodom Sihanouk in a constitutional monarchy but with Hun Sen (who was supported by Vietnam) as the prime minister. Hun Sen has remained in power ever since.

His regime destroyed and country lost Pol Pot fled to Thailand where he lived for six years. When the Vietnamese army withdrew in 1989 the Khmer Rouge could set up new strongholds and Pol Pot returned home, refusing to recognize any of the succeeding administrations and nominally presiding over the guerilla war his forces continued to wage in the jungles against the ruling government. When his life-long deputy and designated successor, Son Sen, tried to negotiate a settlement with the government Pol Pot had him executed along with eleven members of his family. Some things never change. Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok arrested Pol Pot for this, held a show trial for him and placed him under house arrest. He died in his bed on April 15, 1998. Like most genocidal communist dictators he had escaped justice for his innumerable crimes but his memory haunts Cambodia to this day. Even alongside the likes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, in terms of the size of the Cambodian population, Pol Pot surpasses them all. By some estimates his rule led to the death of one third of the entire population of his country.

Remember that all of this started with the obsessive anti-royalist sentiment of Pol Pot. In many ways he was the ideal communist and his case should be looked to by anyone wanting to see the true face of what revolutionary communism is all about. What others only talked about doing eventually Pol Pot actually put into effect, there was no build-up, no step-by-step process, it was full, complete communism all at once. It grew out of his class-hatred and his original, life-long opposition to the Cambodian monarchy. There are still many, many people and regimes around the world that advocate the same basic principles that the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot advocated. They should look to his example to see the unwashed, horrific truth of what those principles cause when taken to their full, logical conclusion.


  1. I've learned something today.
    Thank you, Mister Mad.

  2. Pol Pot is the Typical ideologue. The biggest problem with men like him, or even the whole of modern Revolutionary Culture, is that they put Ideal above Reality. Rather than looking at the world objectively, they instead see their vision of a perfect world, and try to force that vision into Reality. They refuse to accept the Vision, the Ideal, the Dream cannot be a Reality, for to them it’s the only explanation of Reality and only solution. It makes sense to them, it feels natural to them, and they think that the real world must work according to their Theories. Even when the world doesn’t, they blame some outside factor, not the dream itself, nor ever do they question its Tenets.

    This is what I mean by everyone having a Religion. Even Atheists. They have a set of beliefs that determine how they understand the world around them, and the question is, how accurate is that intellectual Model? A Mature mind can see when it fails and adjust it, but most minds never truly mature and the Minds of men like Pol Pot simply refuse to accept anything other than their dogmatism and their doctrines. While they hate Religion, they really haven’t gotten rid of it, merely replaced it with another, just as Modern Secularists aren’t really Irreligious, simply adherents of a different one.

    Pol Pots ideals are however frightening because they are our own. Many in Western Culture today speak of the need to create Greater Equality. Equality is an unqualified good, and this goes without question. In fact, to Question Equality is to be seen as simply a Tyrant. Many of today’s Liberal Policies are designed to create Equality in the world around us.

    But the world doesn’t work in reality like the visions of Egalitarian Democrats, and Humanity is innately a Hierarchal Creature.

    Forcing us to give up our Hierarchies and our Relationships, to make us all “Brothers and Sisters”, even to remove Familial links, that is to remove, or more accurate to suppress, what it is to be Human. It is to ignore the Human condition, a condition that is innate and cannot be Changed. While Liberalism teaches such things are but a social Construct, this been proven time and again that its not.

    Family is an innate value, and we always have ties to our blood to who we are related. Work needs organisers and divisions of Labour, and all parts cannot be Equal. We all have different talents and abilities, and all have different interests.

    We simply are not all the Same.

    But, many refuse to accept this, notecases they have a Logical and Rational argument to support Egalitarianism, but because its part of heir core beliefs, their Religion.

    But by embracing those deals and trying to implement them, they create so many social problems and destroy the society they seek to improve and liberate. They remove from it its very essence in order to try to make it more of what it is, and force Humanity to give up what it means t be Human, to suppress all that is natural within and needful, in order to be what you Truly are.

    This of course never works and all you get is a lock step conformity that simply makes all the world a prisoner, assigned a Uniform and living in a Bland world, with no hope and no advancement.

    Its rather like the short story I read a long time ago called “Harrison Bergeron”, in which finally all were made Equal. The Beautiful worse masks to conceal their beauty, The strong were made to wear sand bags to suppress their strength, and the smart were forced to wear ear plugs that periodically sent some random nice into their ears to shatter their concentration, all to make sure everyone was exactly the same.

    That is what it would take, too, as Pol Pot horrifyingly demonstrated. In order to create Equality, you must remove that which makes us different from one another, and bring us all down to the lowest common denominator. you must force us all to suppress ourselves, and mould us into the same pattern society has dictated.

    You must destroy us.

    And so, Pol Pot did.

  3. at least pol pot is condemned by all the world unlike mao and stalin and lenin who are still worshiped like gods by about a billion people for a foreseeable future.

  4. Zarove, I can only say -Amen. Ignatius, you are correct, however, there is actually a small minority in Cambodia who do actually worship Pol Pot as a god but not out of reverence. They worship him as a wrathful deity whose anger they appease with offerings. Part of the reason he stands out is the extent of the horror that transpired, also because his regime ultimately failed and because communist revolutionaries know his case is a lost cause and they don't really want to be associated with it. However, as I said, the principles behind his movement were the same as those with Lenin and Stalin and Mao, Pol Pot just did immediately what they hoped to do eventually. In a sense he was possibly the most "honest" communist dictator of them all.

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