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Cambodia: 1998

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1998: Archaeology: Radar Reveals Hidden Ruins in Cambodia
1998: Cambodia: Hun Sen Declares Election Victory
1998: Pol Pot Dies at 73
1998: Coalition Government

Cambodian Despot Pol Pot Dies at 73

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.


1998: Cambodian Despot Pol Pot Dies at 73

Pol Pot, the onetime leader of Cambodia's Communist Khmer Rouge movement—one of the 20th century's bloodiest and most brutal regimes—died on April 15, 1998, in the jungles of northern Cambodia, leaving behind a country still struggling with the legacy of his murderous rule. The details of his birth are disputed, but he was reportedly 73 years old.

According to the Khmer Rouge, now renamed the National Solidarity Party, Pol Pot died peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack, but his body was cremated before an autopsy could be performed. Some analysts speculated that Pol Pot was murdered by his Khmer Rouge colleagues in order to prevent him from testifying about the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror from 1975 to 1979. In the weeks before his death a United States-led effort to bring Pol Pot to trial appeared to be making headway, and his testimony might have proved damaging to other Khmer Rouge leaders.

Pol Pot was regarded as the mastermind behind the Khmer Rouge's bizarre attempt to empty Cambodia's cities and move the entire population into rural communes. Buddhist monks, ethnic minorities, intellectuals, and anyone from a middle class background were singled out for extermination. In four years about 1.7 million Cambodians died at the hands of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, victims of starvation, disease, overwork, torture, and summary execution.

Known as “Brother Number One” during his time in power, Pol Pot's influence had long since ebbed. He and his forces fled to the jungle in 1979 when they were overthrown by a Vietnamese invasion. Although the Khmer Rouge remained a potent guerrilla force for many years, the movement began to fragment in the 1990s. In 1996 one of Pol Pot's top lieutenants, Ieng Sary, defected to the Cambodian government and took with him thousands of Khmer Rouge soldiers. And in July 1997 Pol Pot was put on trial by the Khmer Rouge and sentenced to life in prison.


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