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Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare by [Short, Philip]
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Length: 560 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Language: English

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Pol Pot was an idealistic, reclusive figure with great charisma and personal charm. He initiated a revolution whose radical egalitarianism exceeded any other in history. But in the process, Cambodia desended into madness and his name became a byword for oppression.

In the three-and-a-half years of his rule, more than a million people, a fifth of Cambodia's population, were executed or died from hunger and disease. A supposedly gentle, carefree land of slumbering temples and smiling peasants became a concentration camp of the mind, a slave state in which absolute obedience was enforced on the 'killing fields'.

Why did it happen? How did an idealistic dream of justice and prosperity mutate into one of humanity's worst nightmares? Philip Short, the biographer of Mao, has spent four years travelling the length of Cambodia, interviewing surviving leaders of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge movement and sifting through previously closed archives. Here, the former Khmer Rouge Head of State, Pol's brother-in-law and scores of lesser figures speak for the first time at length about their beliefs and motives.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2950 KB
  • Print Length: 560 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; New Ed edition (25 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group (AU)
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #115,343 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.3 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars like all who have attempted to unravel the explanation of ... 18 September 2014
By gordon mcbride - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are a number of books about this appalling period of history but this is the clearest explanation of what is an essentially inexplicable period of human suffering in this benighted country. Short, like all who have attempted to unravel the explanation of how one small section of a society could treat their fellow citizens so inhumanely, doesn't have an answer to that question. But he clearly spells out the background of the perpetrators and follows closely their transmogrification to the ghastly beings they became. Pol Pot was but one of them, albeit probably the worst. I read this book in Cambodia during the period leading up to and including the sentencing of the last two of Pol Pot's henchmen. They got life. They are lucky. The lives they took amounted to an entire class and a generation.
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a crime 12 April 2015
By Guy LaBossiere - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Unbelievable history of tyranny and cruelty! This poor country would have been better off without the outside interference from others.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, Mao - all faces of evil - why do people continue to support these types of people? 18 February 2015
By Graham and Frances - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Pol Pot will go down in history along with Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other despots and murderers of the 20th Century but why do people willingly do their bidding? I found this book a compelling read that I was unable to put down until I had completed it. The book is full of characters and information all supported by what appears to be sound research. Do not become bogged down by trying to remember the many details and the characters involved. This is an exciting read and you can always read it again if you want the details.
Short's book is a masterpiece in explaining and researching not just the history of Pol Pot, but also how he fit into the Khymer or Cambodian psyche and why his reign of terror was able to happen. I read this novel whilst travelling throughout Cambodia and it was invaluable in helping me understand this wonderful country and how such a recent past history could occur to a people who are courteous, friendly and helpful.
Short's book is a serious study that makes the maximum use of the little material that is available on this era.
Read it if you are interested in how one person can lead a nation to turn on itself and how citizens can turn on each other with such vengence despite the obvious cost to the population and nation as a whole. It has happened so many times in recent history in so many places and it happening again now but it too easy to lay the blame on just one person. It takes many to let a disaster like this happen. Short's book helps explain how it happened in Cambodia. Where is next?
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Idiots running the show 1 November 2006
By Tom Munro - Published on
Pol Pot (a title rather than a name meaning brother number one) has the reputation of commiting genocide against his own people. After his overthrow museums were opened celebrating his infamy. This book gives his history against that of Cambodia and the region as a whole. The author Short makes the case that Pol Pot (real name Saloth Sar) rather than trying to commit genocide against his people introduced a slave state and the deaths were a side product.

Pol Pot was a person of medicore talents. He repeatedly failed his teacher training exams and came to run what became the Cambodian Communist Party because of the unexpected deaths of those above him.

His organisation was a small one which was run as a puppet organisation by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese had a de-facto agreement with Shinouk the head of state of Cambodia that they could occupy parts of the eastern provinces of Cambodia so that they could supply their forces fighting in what was South Vietnam. For this freedom of movement the Vietnamese did not try to oust Shinouk.

Nixon the US president widened the war by bombing eastern Cambodia and then later invading it. The aim was to restrict the movement of arms and supplies to the Vietnamese forces fighting in the south and to prop up the American backed government. In addition the US supported a coup to oust Shinouk and he was replaced by Lon Nol who with US support started a campaing against the Vietnamese forces in Cambodia. The initial bombings and invasion by the American backed South Vietnamese forced the communist forces deep into Cambodia. The Vietnamese also had to fight against the attacks of Lon Nol.

The bombings led to plentiful recruits for the Cambodian Communists and the North Vietnamese armed them to safeguard their flank. Lon Nol was an incompetent leader and the Cambodian communists with huge numbers of recruits armed by the Vietnamese were able to achieve power.

Nothing in achieving power suggested that Pol Pot had any real ability. Once in power he started to show how stupid and how brutal he was. His first move was to empty the cities. Short suggests that this stupid move costs the deaths of around 20,000. This figure includes the killing of what could be seen as class enemies. Army officers, government officials. Whilst Pol Pot faced a real problem, Phnompen had been swelled by refugees and it would have been difficult to feed them his solution was moronic and the product of a simple ideology. He wanted everyone to become peasants. Short shows that aid would have been available and closing down the cities of Cambodia was simply lunacy. However lunacy followed lunacy. Money was abolished and a barter economy was put in place. All citizens were forced to work on the land and to produce rice. As there was no money this policy was backed up by brutality. If anyone disagreed they were killed. Very large numers of people died as a result.

In his second year in power Pol Pot decided to improve the rice production by a series of changes to the irrigation system. As a large percentage of the work force were digging ditches not enough rice was produced and another 500,000 or so starved to death.

Eventually Pol Pot attached the Vietnamese and they retaliated and overthrew him. It is from this time that the museums of genocide date from. Most were set up by the Vietnamese as propoganda to justify what they did. The torture centre S 21 used mainly to torture party members into making false confessions emerged as a genocide museum etc.

The Vietnamese invasion did not end Pol Pot's life. He went on to marry at 60 and to have a family dying of what could be described as natural causes. His army was supported by the United States, Thailand and China in their fight to regain power in Cambodia.

The book is one that is fascinating to read and one of its strengths is to put Pol Pot's career in the context of the history of Cambodia. Quite a lot of time is spent looking at Shinouk's career and the movement of Cambodia to indepenence. The book concludes by saying that the tragedy continues as Cambodia is now an autocracy ruled by a former Kymer Rouge deuputy governor and corruption is rife with the economy being a basket case.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pol Pot and the banality of evil 17 May 2006
By Thomas Riggins - Published on
This is a great book-- well researched and written by someone who has carefully studied his material. He details not only the history of Cambodia, the role of Buddhism, the influence of Cambodian culture and the impact of Marxism and anticommunism along with US and French imperialism in the rise and fall of Pol Pot, but also how useless it is to make all sorts of moral judgements about the man and his deeds (they were objectively terrible and criminal) without a great deal of knowledge about Cambodian society.Several things stand out: 1. Pol Pot and his followers had about as much to do with Marxism as Jesus had to do with the policies of Nero, 2. that both the US and China have dirty hands in all of this, 3. and that Pol Pot never thought he had ever done anything morally wrong. This book will tell you as much about the human condition as it will about Pol Pot. Read it and weep.