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In the tragic recent history of Cambodia—a past scarred by a long occupation by Vietnamese forces and by the preceding three-year reign of terror by the brutal Khmer Rouge—no figure looms larger or more ominously than that of Pol Pot. As secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) since 1962 and as prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea (DK In the tragic recent history of Cambodia—a past scarred by a long occupation by Vietnamese forces and by the preceding three-year reign of terror by the brutal Khmer Rouge—no figure looms larger or more ominously than that of Pol Pot. As secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) since 1962 and as prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea (DK), he has been widely blamed for trying to destroy Cambodian society. By implementing policies whose effects were genocidal, he oversaw the deaths of more than one million of his nation’s people.The political career of Saloth Sar, better known by his nom de guerre Pol Pot, forms a critical but largely inaccessible portion of twentieth-century Cambodian history. What we know about his life is sketchy: a comfortable childhood, three years of study in France, and a short career as a schoolteacher preceded several years—spent mostly in hiding—as a guerrilla and the commander of the victorious army in Cambodia’s civil war. His career reached a climax when he and his associates, coming to power, attempted to transform their country along lines more radical than any attempted by a modern regime. Driven into hiding in 1979 by invading Vietnamese forces, Pol Pot maintained his leadership of a Khmer Rouge guerrilla army in exile, remaining a power and a threat.In this political biography, David P. Chandler throws light on the shadowy figure of Pol Pot. Basing his study on interviews and on a wide range of sources in English, Cambodian, and French, the author illuminates the ideas and behavior of this enigmatic man and his entourage against the background of post–World War II events, providing a key to understanding this horrific, pivotal period of Cambodian history. In this revised edition, Chandler provides new information on the state of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge following the death of Pol Pot in 1997.


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In the tragic recent history of Cambodia—a past scarred by a long occupation by Vietnamese forces and by the preceding three-year reign of terror by the brutal Khmer Rouge—no figure looms larger or more ominously than that of Pol Pot. As secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) since 1962 and as prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea (DK In the tragic recent history of Cambodia—a past scarred by a long occupation by Vietnamese forces and by the preceding three-year reign of terror by the brutal Khmer Rouge—no figure looms larger or more ominously than that of Pol Pot. As secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) since 1962 and as prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea (DK), he has been widely blamed for trying to destroy Cambodian society. By implementing policies whose effects were genocidal, he oversaw the deaths of more than one million of his nation’s people.The political career of Saloth Sar, better known by his nom de guerre Pol Pot, forms a critical but largely inaccessible portion of twentieth-century Cambodian history. What we know about his life is sketchy: a comfortable childhood, three years of study in France, and a short career as a schoolteacher preceded several years—spent mostly in hiding—as a guerrilla and the commander of the victorious army in Cambodia’s civil war. His career reached a climax when he and his associates, coming to power, attempted to transform their country along lines more radical than any attempted by a modern regime. Driven into hiding in 1979 by invading Vietnamese forces, Pol Pot maintained his leadership of a Khmer Rouge guerrilla army in exile, remaining a power and a threat.In this political biography, David P. Chandler throws light on the shadowy figure of Pol Pot. Basing his study on interviews and on a wide range of sources in English, Cambodian, and French, the author illuminates the ideas and behavior of this enigmatic man and his entourage against the background of post–World War II events, providing a key to understanding this horrific, pivotal period of Cambodian history. In this revised edition, Chandler provides new information on the state of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge following the death of Pol Pot in 1997.

30 review for Brother Number One: A Political Biography Of Pol Pot

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    AN EERIE ACCURATE PREDICTION Prince Sihanouk wrote a newspaper article in 1955 on what it would be like if the Communists took over in Cambodia: There will be no happiness. Everyone will work for the government. No one will ride cars or cyclos, or wear nice clothes; everyone will wear black, exactly alike. There would be no delicious food to eat. If you eat more than allowed, the government would learn about it from your children in secret and you would be taken out and shot. 20 years later, that’s AN EERIE ACCURATE PREDICTION Prince Sihanouk wrote a newspaper article in 1955 on what it would be like if the Communists took over in Cambodia: There will be no happiness. Everyone will work for the government. No one will ride cars or cyclos, or wear nice clothes; everyone will wear black, exactly alike. There would be no delicious food to eat. If you eat more than allowed, the government would learn about it from your children in secret and you would be taken out and shot. 20 years later, that’s pretty much what happened. As David Chandler puts it : At the end of 1974… the Central Committee decided what actions the Communists would take following their victory. The most important of these was to evacuate Phnom Penh and all other towns… driving their populations – well over two million people – into the countryside. … The Central Committee also decided to abolish money, markets and private property throughout the country. ENIGMA WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY Was there ever a stranger dictator than Pol Pot? He was from the upper classes in Cambodia, born in 1925. His sister was one of the King’s concubines. He went to private schools, then college, then wangled a scholarship to study radio electricity in Paris, in 1949. He joined the communists in Paris, not so unusual. After three years the French college threw him out – he never qualified for anything. Back in Phmon Penh in 1953 at the age of 27 he drifted into political activity, eventually becoming a teacher. His students all loved him, he was a nice guy. A novelist, Soth Polin, reminisced years later: I still remember Pol Pot’s style of delivery in French: gentle and musical. He was clearly drawn to French literature in general and poetry in particular : Rimbaud, Verlaine, de Vigny. WHAT IS A COMMUNIST? In the 1950s, it seems, the term “Communist” in Cambodia often referred to people who had simple tastes, a good education, and a hatred for corruption. “They were the only people who cared about the poor.” THE OPPOSITE OF STALIN Without any discernable leadership qualities (no broadcast speeches, no books, not that much political experience) he gets to be leader of the Cambodian communist party in 1962. How? Author David Chandler is not too sure. Actually when it comes to Pol Pot himself he’s not too sure about much at all. For long periods of his life, even, no – especially – when he was the dictator of Cambodia Pol Pot was invisible to all but his innermost circle. He was the opposite of Stalin. It was like – who exactly is running this revolution? Oh, that guy? Sorry, I thought he was the window cleaner. If it’s a mystery how he got to be boss of the Cambodian communists, it’s a bigger mystery why he came up with the most extreme lunatic revolution the world has ever known. IN 1973 YOUR U.S. TAX DOLLARS WERE NOT WELL SPENT The bombing campaign in Cambodia began in March 1973 and was halted by the US congress five months later. During this time a quarter of a million tons of explosives were dropped on a country that was not at war with the United States and that had no US combat personnel within its borders. Target selection and verification were much less precise than in Vietnam. Targets were supposedly military complexes and villages where Communist units were thought to be seeking shelter. The maps used were outdated. … The number of casualties has never been assessed. Estimates run from thirty thousand to a quarter of a million killed. FLASH FORWARD General Tommy Franks, speaking at a news conference at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan in March 2002 in reference to Afghan deaths due to the US invasion We don’t do body counts. 17 APRIL 1975 Red Khmer troops all dressed in the famous black pyjamas, heavily armed, silent, many young teenagers, as young as 11 or 12, appear on the boulevards of Phnom Penh. The crowds on the streets are welcoming but this quickly turns to dismay when the words goes out that everyone – everyone, even patients in hospitals – must leave the city as soon as possible. The logic was irrefutable : you people in the cities were never part of this revolution. You are therefore the enemy. From now on you will work for us. The irony, lost on the 12 year old soldiers, was that most of the people at that point crowding Phnom Penh were poverty-striken refugees from the countryside. Ah well. David Chandler says : Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were driven onto the roads to travel on foot in the hottest month of the year. Thousands died of exhaustion, exposure or malnutrition over the next few weeks. The very old and the very young were especially vulnerable. In the crush and confusion, family members were separated from each other, sometimes for good. Within a week there was nobody left in the capital or in any towns. DEATH BY IDIOTS Pure racist hatred created the genocides in Nazi Germany and in Rwanda. The deaths of (probably) around 1.5 million Cambodians at the hands of other Cambodians in the Pol Pot period 1975-78 was, it seems, mostly caused by idiocy. For instance, here is David Chandler on the subject of health care in Democratic Kampuchea. Of course the country had at that time no Western medicines at all, and no manufacturing facilities of its own. He says the regime took the idea of “barefoot doctors” dispensing “local remedies” from China : The results of the poorly conceived medical program were disastrous. Survivors’ memories teem with grisly accounts of arrogant, untrained medical practitioners – many under 15 years old – and of the regime’s insistence on prerevolutionary (indeed, precolonial) cures, without emphasising hygiene GENEROUS SUPPORT OF POL POT OFFERED BY THE UNITED STATES It may be thought that the Vietnamese government invaded Cambodia and deposed Pol Pot in January 1979 in order to put an end to one of the worst dictatorships of the 20th century, but apparently their reasons were not so simple as that. However, PP found himself stranded in camps just inside Thailand and perhaps to his surprise discovered that the United States opposed the enforced regime change and considered him to be Cambodia’s legitimate ruler! So there was an ongoing battle at the United Nations over who would represent Cambodia, and the USA was firmly supporting the Pol Pot delegation (as did the UK). Why? Because they were against one country invading another country to replace a government it did not happen to like. As far as that goes, I quite agree, and it is a matter of regret that the US government had apparently abandoned this principle by 2003. AFTER THE SLAUGHTER Pol Pot lived a fairly quiet life for another 19 years, dying peacefully in Thailand at the age of 73. Was it ever suggested that he stand trial for his crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague like Slobodan Milosevic? Nope. So, he just puttered about, married another wife, and gave occasional interviews where he was softly sorrowful about the honest mistakes made. Said he would do better next time, with a shy smile. A FINAL COMMENT BY TA MOK, AN OLD COMRADE He was speaking to a reporter from Radio Free Asia. Pol Pot has died like a ripe papaya. No one killed him, no one poisoned him. Now he’s finished, he has no power, he is no more than cow shit. Cow shit is more important than him. We can use it for fertiliser.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    Having been to Cambodia and witnessing the killing fields and S-21 many years after the genocide I wanted to understand who could have led a revolution that would bring such unspeakable horrors to a country they supposedly loved. The author does as best a job as possible given the secrecy Saloth Sar lived. I was impressed with the amount of research the author went through to develop a cohesive chronological account of his life and try to gain insight into the reasoning behind his decisions. Unf Having been to Cambodia and witnessing the killing fields and S-21 many years after the genocide I wanted to understand who could have led a revolution that would bring such unspeakable horrors to a country they supposedly loved. The author does as best a job as possible given the secrecy Saloth Sar lived. I was impressed with the amount of research the author went through to develop a cohesive chronological account of his life and try to gain insight into the reasoning behind his decisions. Unfortunately after reading this book I can say I have a better understanding of the man behind all of this, but I still have many more questions. It was difficult for me to follow along with the different cadre because I'm not too familiar with different countries' leadership so it's likely a reader will have to research many names and location to get accurate context. I was surprised by the degree of hatred Cambodians had towards the Vietnamese and the writing makes several solid arguments how his relationships effected his psyche. Alliances with the Chinese and a dependance on the Thai government after his overthrow contrast with his relationship with Vietnamese and Americans. I was rather ignorant of this before this book and it is worthwhile to understand some basic trends in the world to understand Cambodia and Southeast Asia. I would recommend anyone going to Cambodia to read this book first and then Survival in the Killing Fields along with a book about S-21 and then some history about the Khmer empire during the 1500s. I also hope that people try to understand history so that future genocides can be avoided is possible or at least reduced in scope. A bit surprising was the author's focus on the man, his development, training, and education rather than the genocide he led. This writing is not about the genocide, it is about understanding why it occurred.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott Holstad

    The first “review” I read when I came across reviews for Brother Number One was one by “Annie,” which stated, “More objective, non-sensational and honest than than ‘Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare’.” Funny, having finished both books now, I couldn’t agree with that statement less. I’ll get to the Nightmare book in another review (I think it’s an excellent book), but Brother Number One is for this one. It’s an interesting book. Since this is the “political biography of Pol Pot,” a mysterious man The first “review” I read when I came across reviews for Brother Number One was one by “Annie,” which stated, “More objective, non-sensational and honest than than ‘Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare’.” Funny, having finished both books now, I couldn’t agree with that statement less. I’ll get to the Nightmare book in another review (I think it’s an excellent book), but Brother Number One is for this one. It’s an interesting book. Since this is the “political biography of Pol Pot,” a mysterious man who I have wanted to know something of for quite some time, I thought this book would help me. And in a way, it did. But only in a way. For this book was published in 1992, five years before Pol’s death in 1997. It’s therefore an incomplete work. Moreover, and more importantly by far, the author claims that the subject is so very mysterious and so little is known about him and he has hidden himself in shrouds of mystery, at times for many years at a time, that it’s impossible to know anything of his whereabouts for years at a time. So that gives the author free reign to speculate as much as he wants, and boy, does he do that. First, he includes everything he possibly can about Pol’s, or Saloth Sar – as he was known most of his life – upbringing, including his childhood in a country village, to his upbringing with a brother and other relatives in the king’s palace, essentially, to his French education, first in Cambodia, then later as an elite student, in Paris where he became a communist, most likely around 1951. We learn of his return to Cambodia in the mid-50s, his rise in the Indochinese Communist Party, his helping to form the Cambodian Communist Party in 1960, his dealings with the Vietnamese, whom he needed yet always resented, his dealings with the Chinese, his resentment toward the French, toward the Cambodian monarchy, toward the US, his paranoia, his marriage, etc. But whole years are eliminated in this book. His whereabouts are claimed to be unknown. But that doesn’t stop the author, who begins numerous sentences with things such as, “It would be interesting to suppose,” or “One might assume,” or “It might be possible to guess,” etc, et al. If I had a dollar for every time the author speculates about Pol’s thoughts, feelings, or motives, I would be a wealthy man. Because that is all the author can do. He can only guess. There is very little recorded documentation at all, anywhere. The Vietnamese have some. The Chinese have some. Pol conducted some interviews in the late 1970s. Other than that, little accounts for the 1950s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s. The author relies on numerous interviews for this book, but I’m assuming, as he often does, as Pol was still alive while the book was being written, that so many interviewees were aware of that fact and were scared to death of him, that few of them were willing to share many details of him or say many negative things about him. For instance, many of his secondary and college classmates were interviewed. He was known as a mediocre student, at best, but seemed to be liked by most. He had a pleasant smile, a decent laugh, and people differ on his effect on people and groups. Some say he had no influence on the Parisian communist groups, while others say he played a leading role. As a teacher in the 1950s, even though he never came close to completing his degree, he was known as a wise and good teacher, patient, well spoken, thoughtful, etc. The image doesn’t jibe with the genocidal maniac of the 1970s. In fact, it’s hard to reconcile any image of him, pre-1970 or so, until 1975 really, when he started coming out of the woodworks and into the public eye. When he became public circa 1976, it was a shocker. No one knew who he was. He was alleged to have been a rubber plantation worked named “Pol Pot,” but when former colleagues saw him on TV making speeches, they knew at once he was Saloth Sar, the former teacher, childhood friend of the king and themselves, and they were shocked. How could this kind, good man be their new revolutionary prime minister, responsible for the deaths of a half a million people in the civil war which had just ended in 1975, and unbeknownst to anyone, about to become responsible for the deaths of one and a half million people in a probable genocide of epic proportions over the next three years? That’s over one fifth of the country’s population. Yes, Mao and Stalin killed many more people, but there were many, many more people to kill from. They didn’t kill one fifth of their country’s population. So, this was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. And the sweeping changes. Doing away with money. I mean, what the hell??? Emptying the cities? Seriously? Driving everyone out into the countryside, no matter where you were from or where your relatives were. Who cared if you lived or died? No one. Least of all the 12 and 13-year old Khmer Rouge soldiers. Illiterate peasant boys who couldn’t even read passports that were expected to be presented at all times. It was insane. Doing away with virtually all exports except for rice, and then if/when the rice crop fell through, what the hell happens to your country then? And the “base” people versus the “new” people. If you weren’t fighting with the revolutionaries when they “liberated” Cambodia in 1975, you were a “new” person, meaning you weren’t one of them, meaning you were an enemy combatant. Even if you were a peasant refugee who had merely fled to the city to escape the countryside fighting and had no irons in the fire one way or the other. You were the enemy. S-21. It was the torture/interrogation center. Every communist regime has one, right? Hell, every regime of any sort has one. We have Guantanamo. The French had theirs too. S-21 was a former school. Over 20,000 people were processed through there in the three plus years it existed. Unless my facts have gotten jumbled up, and they may have, only about a half dozen people survived. All were tortured extensively, confessions of up to thousands of pages extracted, and all were killed, most brutally. The confessions typically said the person was a CIA agent, a KGB agent, and a Vietnamese agent. That the likelihood of one Cambodian person being all three, let alone any of these, was absurd as hell appeared to not have sunk in to Pol Pot and his colleagues. It made perfect sense to them that the Russians, their Vietnamese protégés, and the US, whom the Khmer Rouge believed they had defeated militarily in 1975 and who they thought had it out for them and was willing to work with its adversaries, would all be working together. Insanity sees reason everywhere. This book is only 250 pages long, less than half as long as Nightmare is. It’s not nearly as detailed or in depth. It’s not nearly as well researched nor as well written. It relies far too extensively on speculation; at least 70% of the book is nothing but speculation. But as an introduction to Pol Pot, it’s an interesting book. I would suggest that, if it’s read, it’s read with this information in mind and then one would immediately read something more recent, ideally written after Pol’s death, such as Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare, which as I said, I think is an excellent book and which I hope to review soon. It relies on speculation almost not at all. One of the things that struck me most about Pol, the man, was that in one of these books, and I can’t remember which, sorry, he was asked if he knew how many people his administration was responsible for killing after he had been deposed. His answer was somewhere between several hundred and several thousand and that was because he had been kept out of the loop, or it would have been fewer than that. Stunning, really. Interesting to know if he really believed that or not. Somehow I doubt it. But there does seem to be evidence that he was actually kept out of the loop on a lot of the executions and that many of the “zones” were self sufficient and didn’t really report much back to headquarters and communications were so bad that it could take weeks or more to communicate by messenger, so by that time, things would have happened with or without permission. So things happened. How much was due to Pol? I guess we’ll never know. Of course, since Pol set the tone, ultimately it was all his responsibility. Everything and everyone was ultimately under his control. Anyone who displeased him was purged. He had complete control. Virtually all of his old communist colleagues from Paris and the old days in early communist Cambodia were purged to ensure his power. So, if he thought anyone were abusing their authority by acting genocidal without his permission, he could have done something about it. And he didn’t. So, obviously, the buck stopped with him. So, I could go on and on, obviously. But I won’t. I’ve got to save some stuff to say for my next Pol Pot book. I learned a lot about a bizarre, incredibly secretive, insane man, responsible for the deaths of millions of people. It was surreal to read about, because this occurred during my lifetime and I remember a great deal of this, although of course not personally, obviously. The book itself is interesting, but for reasons already mentioned, not very good. Even though the author probably tried hard, he didn’t try hard enough. It’s probably a two star book at best, but I believe I’m going to give it three stars for effort because it’s one of the early Pol Pot books and it did make an impact of Pol Pot research, so that’s worth something. Still, it can’t be relied upon on its own. It’s not that trustworthy. It’s got to be supplemented by something more current in its research, so keep that in mind. I’m really not sure that I can recommend it. I can suggest reading it if interested in the subject matter, but only if you intend to read more than one source on the subject. If you intend to read only one book on Pol Pot, don’t let this be that source. It’s not reliable enough.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Reza Amiri Praramadhan

    Saloth Sar, or more famously known by his revolutionary name, Pol Pot, serves as an example of what happened if you were too busy with extracurricular activity instead of studying at college. Being a college dropout, Pol Pot managed to preside over one of the most murderous regimes in the world which, at conservative estimation, slaughtered more than one million cambodians. However, despite the bloody records, the author managed to move beyond the usual demonisation of Pol Pot, uncovering an una Saloth Sar, or more famously known by his revolutionary name, Pol Pot, serves as an example of what happened if you were too busy with extracurricular activity instead of studying at college. Being a college dropout, Pol Pot managed to preside over one of the most murderous regimes in the world which, at conservative estimation, slaughtered more than one million cambodians. However, despite the bloody records, the author managed to move beyond the usual demonisation of Pol Pot, uncovering an unassuming, rather mediocre, soft-spoken man with passions for teaching, who were obsessed with secrecy and paranoia. Pol Pot himself became the personification of the whole Khmer Rouge movement, who ruled upon Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979. Claiming to be independent yet relying to its larger communist neighbour, the Viet Nam, with claims to original ideas, which were copied from Maoist China, albeit in more extreme form, Pol Pot turned Kampuchea into a giant prison camp, and led Cambodians to a pointless conflict with the Vietnamese, which toppled the Khmer Rouge rule. Running away to the jungles, now supported curiously by the UN as the legitimate government of Cambodia (the one who truly ruled Cambodia was denounced as Vietnamese puppets), Pol Pot sow terror among the countryside, while keeping iron grip among his remaining followers until his excessive paranoia led him to order the murders of people he conceive as traitors, which in turn led him being purged by the party itself. This book is rather different from books I read about the Democratic Kampuchea, because it focuses in the highly secretive life of Pol Pot, rather than dealing with the usual atrocities of Democratic Kampuchea.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Try Lee

    Pol Pot was born in 1925 at Kompongthom province. He moved to live in Bothum pagoda in Phnom Penh with help from his sister who is a dancer at royal palace. He got scholarship to France. There, he influenced by communist group where in France they could create kind political group just as Deng Xoiaping did to for China. He even was a volunteer to help communist movement Yugoslavi. But when Prince Sihaknu knew that, they ordered those who joined communist in France to come back to Cambodia. When Pol Pot was born in 1925 at Kompongthom province. He moved to live in Bothum pagoda in Phnom Penh with help from his sister who is a dancer at royal palace. He got scholarship to France. There, he influenced by communist group where in France they could create kind political group just as Deng Xoiaping did to for China. He even was a volunteer to help communist movement Yugoslavi. But when Prince Sihaknu knew that, they ordered those who joined communist in France to come back to Cambodia. When Salot Sar returned to Cambodia in 1950s, he found a job as a teacher. Again, he joined politic party that influenced by communist. In two time elections, their party leaders wer accused on some cases. Some were arrested and executed, some need to exile from the country. Pol Pot run away too by hide his identity. When Lon Nol did military cope in 1970, Prince Sihaknu called to people to join Pol Pot to defeat Lon Nol. It's the time Salot Sar gained more power and won in 1975. 14.000 people were brought to S21 prison to torture and most of them cruelly killed. He was less trust people, almost everybody related to previous have to be eliminated. Even people were closed to him such as Sao Phim, Chim Samout, Son Sen were killed. Khieu Samphorn also arrested. He was house arrested by his comrade in 1997 untill his death 10 months later. He remarried in 1985 and has a daughter. In all interview,he always declined of accused responsible for killing 1,8 millions people. But he had one regret which was abolishing money.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Marina Mangiararina

    Saloth Sar was perhaps one of the most unremarkable dictators in terms of background. Coming from a background of minor privilege, he used his calm demeanor, ability to connect with people, and travel experiences to rise to a position of power. Given how Sar's movement once numbered around 20 people in the jungle, it's amazing how far he was able to go. Yet, the lack of experience and accountability among Sar and his followers was ultimately their undoing. This book was published in 1991, before Saloth Sar was perhaps one of the most unremarkable dictators in terms of background. Coming from a background of minor privilege, he used his calm demeanor, ability to connect with people, and travel experiences to rise to a position of power. Given how Sar's movement once numbered around 20 people in the jungle, it's amazing how far he was able to go. Yet, the lack of experience and accountability among Sar and his followers was ultimately their undoing. This book was published in 1991, before the Khmer Rouge had fully left power. Furthermore, Chandler, the author, comes off as extremely anti-communist. Chandler even goes to some extent to hypothesize about Sar's personal feelings at different points. Nonetheless, it's a very engaging read and ground firmly in fact. Documents are analyzed and first-hand accounts are re-told. By the end, the mystery surrounding the Khmer Rouge was firmly lifted. This allows the reader to see how things can go totally and horribly wrong when building a nation, rather than simply branding it as "evil". This is the first book I have read about Cambodia, but it leaves me craving more information and I strongly recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    A thoroughly absorbing and extremely well researched and written book. I thought in the end I was able to finally comprehend how all this happened and what Pol Pot was trying to achieve. Anybody who has visited Cambodia and has been to Phnom Penh will enjoy this outstanding biography. The book takes some concentration to comprehend at times so make sure when you read it you can give it your undivided attention as it certainly is not a "light read".

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vivi Cordero

    A really interesting explanation of the events that led Pol Pot to all his actions. Also, a great view on how the world pretend to ignore this for a long time just because Vietnam was the country denouncing the crimes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elif

    Could be the best book written about Red Khmers' history/tragedy. I read it during my visit in Cambodia so it stroke me even further.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chanthan Hel

    One of the books that describes the history of Cambodia since the 20th century till the detail of pol pot's life and activity. Recommended especially Cambodian people.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nemalevich

    Возможно, жанр политического портрета - not my cup of tea. Череда кратких упоминаний всевозможных партсобраний, назначений, перестановок, а контекста нет даже в важных местах. Например, вскользь сказано, что вьетнамцы исторически смотрели на кхмеров свысока, а те на это отвечали неприязнью и недоверием. Принципиальный момент для всей истории, и того, почему Сар начинал как функционер де факто вьетнамской компартии, а потом тщательно это замыливал (истребив почти всю восточную зону, например), и Возможно, жанр политического портрета - not my cup of tea. Череда кратких упоминаний всевозможных партсобраний, назначений, перестановок, а контекста нет даже в важных местах. Например, вскользь сказано, что вьетнамцы исторически смотрели на кхмеров свысока, а те на это отвечали неприязнью и недоверием. Принципиальный момент для всей истории, и того, почему Сар начинал как функционер де факто вьетнамской компартии, а потом тщательно это замыливал (истребив почти всю восточную зону, например), и того, как все закончилось, но никакие культурные/исторические/экономические причины не приведены даже коротко. Ну или сказано, что несколько предприятий, объявленных в 1978 году только что созданными, на самом деле были остатками промышленности Сианука. Но что они производили, кто их строил? Словом, сухая партийная история, которая не замечает ничего за пределами партии - ни людей, ни быта. С другой стороны, это ценное погружение, я как-то раньше представлял тебе Пол Пота этаким азиатским Че Геваррой/Курцем.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rashid

    Reading the biography of Pol Pot and his fanatic communist regime, it seems as if history is repeating itself again, this time spurring its wrath on the people of the Middle East. Today, in the name of another messianic ideology also promising a brighter future, ISIS unleashes its terror on towns and villages throughout the Fertile Crescent in a manner reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge’s "Democratic Kampuchea". Pol Pot and and the Khmer Rouge, while they did exist in the 1960s, the real twist in th Reading the biography of Pol Pot and his fanatic communist regime, it seems as if history is repeating itself again, this time spurring its wrath on the people of the Middle East. Today, in the name of another messianic ideology also promising a brighter future, ISIS unleashes its terror on towns and villages throughout the Fertile Crescent in a manner reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge’s "Democratic Kampuchea". Pol Pot and and the Khmer Rouge, while they did exist in the 1960s, the real twist in their story starts with Lon Nol’s coup against Prince Sihanouk in 1970. According to CIA reports at the time, the Khmer Rouge were no more than a few scattered bands of fugitive peasants with minimum education and no knowledge of Marxist teachings. Hiding in the dense jungles of east Cambodia feeding on the anger at the US' indiscriminate bombing of Cambodian villages, Pol Pot and his comrades were capable of assembling a nucleus of fighting peasants driven by the promise of a better tomorrow. With the help of the Vietnamese, these illiterate hicks pushed into Phnom Penh, starting a trail of terror, forced exodus, hunger and death. After 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days in power the cities were emptied, families torn apart, private property confiscated, schools shut down, hospitals demolished, temples turned into sties and the very fabric of society ripped apart. The motto of the era was “to have you is no benefit; to lose you is no loss”; intellectuals, doctors, teachers, bureaucrats from former regimes, Vietnamese, Chinese and Muslims were put to death on the spot in order to rid the country of perceived "impure" elements. The Khmer Rouge, first incubated and supported by the Vietnamese as part of its war efforts against the US, soon enough allowed its xenophobia and suspicion take over giving rise to historical Khmer-Vietnamese hostilities. Thus, Pol Pot and his band pillaged Vietnamese villages on the border prompting a decisive reaction from Hanoi. The genocide under the Pol Pot regime ended in 1979 when the Vietnamese invaded the country, liberating the Cambodian people. This however, was to start another 18 years of civil war on the peripheries of the nation. The West along with China, spiteful of Vietnam's “aggression” started funding Pol Pot and his criminals unleashing more death and destruction, planting thousands of land mines miming farmers and children throughout the countryside. Pol Pot died in a camp close to the Thai border in 1998. Shortly before his death he told Nate Thayer, one of the few Westerners to interview him, that his conscience was clear, even though “some Cambodians might have died as a result of 'mistakes' in implementing his policies”. Unceremoniously, his remains where left to burn on a garbage dump in the forest; just as his memory will go down in the excrement of history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    karl levy

    Brother Number one written by David Chandler , one of the foremost academics on Pol Pot's regime is a good short 200 page introduction to the various influences on the 1975 to 1979 period. It begins from early in the 1920's and traces quickly through the main influences on Pol Pots life. As always, no one is ever quite sure what Pol Pot thought as he only gave an enigmatic smile hiding his real thinking underneath. The best way to appreciate his thinking is to view the Magazines released by the Brother Number one written by David Chandler , one of the foremost academics on Pol Pot's regime is a good short 200 page introduction to the various influences on the 1975 to 1979 period. It begins from early in the 1920's and traces quickly through the main influences on Pol Pots life. As always, no one is ever quite sure what Pol Pot thought as he only gave an enigmatic smile hiding his real thinking underneath. The best way to appreciate his thinking is to view the Magazines released by the Pol Pot regime of which he was the author. Basically as was described by his top men, Pol Pot thought only of revolution. the book is fairly dry as academic writing often tends to be. There are a myriad of notes at the end. For a more comprehensive introduction to the Pol Pot period for the uninitiated Elizabeth Beckers's 'When the War was Over' is a good solid tome and more easily read covering more topics with a good selection of personal stories. An easier though longer read on Pol Pot is Phillip Short's 'Pol Pot'. As a reference though, Chandlers book is always good and was one of the first books out there to describe the basic influences and an important addition for a reference library

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    The author claims that there's barely enough information about Pol Pot to write a full length essay, let alone a book. He makes up for this by giving every possible detail that can be gathered about Pol Pot - the man, the revolutionary, the teacher, the child. To make it book-length he also gives us contextual and social history which I found helpful and interesting. He also stretched it out by constantly speculating on Pol Pot's mind- how he may have felt when this happened, what he was probabl The author claims that there's barely enough information about Pol Pot to write a full length essay, let alone a book. He makes up for this by giving every possible detail that can be gathered about Pol Pot - the man, the revolutionary, the teacher, the child. To make it book-length he also gives us contextual and social history which I found helpful and interesting. He also stretched it out by constantly speculating on Pol Pot's mind- how he may have felt when this happened, what he was probably thinking when that happened... etc. It's the one detracting quality of the book. It's annoying and exasperating and if the reader isn't careful they'll get an image of Pol Pot based on nothing but the author's assumptions. Other than that... pretty damn good.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Donna Maroulis

    Although very well researched and written , it was very dry and without any opinions at all. In one way, it was surprising , that written by an American in a government position , it wasn't all Communist paranoia as I would have expected. Was actually quite a fairly written book. The quality of the printing and the pictures was very poor though. It detracted from the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James

    Left me wanting more information. It's clear that there is limited data on the life of Pol Pot, but surely there is more regarding what happened during the time he was in charge in Cambodia. Interesting, but lacking.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    This book was my major secondary source for my senior thesis, and I found it fascinating. Pol Pot was the leader of a genocidal regime in Cambodia, the parts I used were mostly about his rise to power and I found them extremely useful as well as interesting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Polly Petersen

    Its hard to say that I really liked this book. After all who can like a book about a man that caused so much pain. The author tries very hard to keep to the facts. He creats a straight forward historical summary of what is known about Pol Pot.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I feel like I know less about him than before I read this, because all of my assumptions were untrue - & his uniquely secretive personality gave me little information to fill the void. An excellent, very well-written biography of Saloth Sar/Pol Pot & concise history of Khmer Rouge. I feel like I know less about him than before I read this, because all of my assumptions were untrue - & his uniquely secretive personality gave me little information to fill the void. An excellent, very well-written biography of Saloth Sar/Pol Pot & concise history of Khmer Rouge.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Totally chilling insight into a monster's mind. It really made me realize how something like the Cambodian genocide was possible, and indeed, inevitable when circumstances allow weak, ruthless rulers to rise to power.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    Very interesting read, especially the relationship between Cambodia & Vietnam. Also the Four Year Plan was utopian but executed as a mess, not to mention all the human rights abuses. Very interesting read, especially the relationship between Cambodia & Vietnam. Also the Four Year Plan was utopian but executed as a mess, not to mention all the human rights abuses.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Evanir Vieira júnior

    It's a great biography. The author give us a good picture of this strange and cruel person. How a common person can transform himself in one of the most cruel political leader of the world.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pascal

    A very detailed and well documented story of Pol Pot, from his origins (family close to the king), through his leadership during the terrible years, to his lonely end...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    More objective, non-sensational and honest than than "Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marc

  26. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen Verhoeven

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dobloug

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sath Solita

  30. 5 out of 5

    worxeid

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