Who's Who: Cambodia
The former defense minister of Cambodia, Lon Nol, orchestrated the coup that toppled Prince Norodom Shanouk in 1970. Following Sihanouk's exit, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces freely entered Cambodia in their pursuit of Communist fighting units. Lon Nol fled to Hawaii in exile when the Communists seized power in Cambodia in 1975.
The architect of the genocidal slaughter of two million of his own people, Pol Pot (a meaningless pseudonym; his given name was Saloth Sar) ruled the communist Khmer Rouge of Cambodia from 1975 to 1978. Seeking to create an agricultural utopia, Pol Pot ordered the execution of anyone considered to be educated or an intellectual. Traces of Cambodia's past were destroyed along with books and artifacts. Cambodia, renamed Kampuchea, was turned into a huge concentration camp where citizens were forcibly "re-educated" or put to death. Pol Pot fled to the jungle following the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea in 1978. He continued to live in the jungles of northern Cambodia and Thailand, and led guerrilla efforts until his death in 1998.
Norodom Sihanouk was appointed king of Cambodia by the French in 1941. He was able to gain independence for his country by 1954, with himself as head of state, rather than king. As war raged in Vietnam, Sihanouk sought desperately to preserve Cambodia's neutrality. Alternately taking sides with China and then the United States, he was not successful in preventing the war from spilling over into his country. In 1970, while he was out of the country, a coup took place that ousted him from power. He sought refuge in China and North Korea, before returning to Cambodia, once again as king, in 1993.