episode 18

The Khmer Rouge

Cambodia, 1975

published the 5 may 2017


Lon Nol

The Khmer Republic followed the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia in 1970. It was led by Lon Nol, who was fervently anti-Communist and pro-American. The corrupt regime allowed him to proclaim himself marshal, then president of the Khmer Republic following fraudulent elections. The regime was hardly a model of democracy, carrying out massacres of Cambodian minorities. As the Communist threat loomed, Lon Nol fled to Hawaii. He died in exile in California in 1985.

Pol Pot

Typically of the Angkar regime, its leader Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, remained a shadowy figure, much unlike the personality cults that characterised other Communist regimes. The son of a relatively wealthy, well-connected family, he was a mediocre pupil but qualified for a scholarship to study in France. There he discovered Communism and took part in building projects in Yugoslavia. He returned to Cambodia after four years. A sociable man by nature, he was appointed secretary to the Communist Party’s representative in Kampuchea while teaching French literature and history. He went into hiding in 1963, becoming the Khmer Rouge brother number one. He spent his final years in hiding, surrounded by yes men, and increasingly weakened by illness. He died of a heart attack in 1998, aged 69.


S21 was the code name for Tuol Sleng, a high school in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh that was used as a detention and torture centre from 1975 to 1979. Nearly twenty thousand prisoners were held there, guarded by brainwashed teens, some not yet fifteen. On average, prisoners spent three months there. When the camp was freed, only seven survivors were found. S21 was run by Kang Kek Iew, alias Duch, a former teacher. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity in 2007 and condemned to life imprisonment.



  1. wikipedia (Khmer rouge)
  2. Le Monde (Vann Nath Illustrations)


  1. Ben Kiernan, Le Génocide au Cambodge 1975-1979, Race, Idéologie et pouvoir, Ed. Gallimard, 1998, 730p.
  2. François Bizot, Le Portail, naissance d’un bourreau, Ed. Folio, 2002
  3. Tian, L’année du Lièvre (3 tomes), Ed. Gallimard, 2011