In the northwest of Cambodia you can visit the grave of Pol Pot. Pol Pot was leader of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 and is held responsible for the deaths of 1 to 2 million Cambodians. Is it not strange to visit his grave? In theory yes it is, but the Anlong Veng region is known as the last stronghold of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
So historically, this is a very interesting place. In this article you’ll read more about visiting this ‘bizarre’ grave and I’ll talk about some of the other sights you can see here, including his hideout. But first the question, who was Pol Pot?
Who was Pol Pot?
Pol Pot (1925-1998), his real name was Saloth Sar, was born in the small village of Prek Sbauv north of Phnom Penh. From 1949 to 1953 he studied electrical engineering in Paris, and in 1960 he joined the Communist Party. Together with his accomplices, he fought a guerrilla war against the then government.
In 1970, with the help of the Americans, the Republic of Cambodia was proclaimed by General Lon Nol. But the civil war continued and in 1975 the Americans left Vietnam (and also Cambodia). The country was left to its own devices and Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge came to power.
Although Cambodians were initially positive towards the Khmer Rouge, this soon changed. On the first day, Phnom Penh was evacuated. Everyone was forced to work in the countryside, money and private property were abolished, and enemies were killed without mercy.
The Khmer Rouge remained in power for 4 years and an estimated 1 to 2 million people were killed. That was almost a quarter of the 8 million people living in Cambodia. The country was liberated by the Vietnamese People’s Army in 1979 and Pol Pot fled into the jungle. Untraceable for 20 years until his death.
Practical information for visiting the sites of the Khmer Rouge
The town of Anlong Veng has about 10,000 inhabitants and is 2 hours away by bus from Siem Reap. It is possible to arrange a tour in Siem Reap, but you can also organize a guide on motorcycle in Anlong Veng. At the crossroads of the village there are plenty of people who can help you with this.
Prefer to explore the historical sites on your own? That is possible, but the road to his hideout is in a very bad condition. His grave is next to the road to Thailand and is easily accessible on your own. A guide and motorcycle will cost between 15 and 20 dollars and the tour will take about 3 to 4 hours. Below is a map and the main attractions of Khmer Rouge.
The hideout of Pol Pot in the jungle
Little is left of Pol Pot’s house, where he stayed for many years. All that remains is a skeleton and the outlines of a garden and a fence. This is the place where Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge had tried to take power back from the Vietnamese. In doing so, the Khmer Rouge had the support of the United States and the United Nations.
This is remarkable, but at the beginning of the 1980s it was not yet known what had taken place in Cambodia. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge managed to isolate the country in such a way that little information came to the public. Another factor was that the United States and Vietnam had fought a long war with each other until 1975 and that the Americans refused to support the Vietnamese. Around 1983, the atrocities of the old Cambodian regime were revealed….
In 1997, Pol Pot gave a one-time interview to American TV journalist Nat Thayer, where he argued that the goal was to wage a revolution, not to kill people….
The house of brother number 4, Ta Mok
It is possible to go even further into the jungle and visit some old houses of Khmer Rouge members. However, little is left of these. Another interesting place is the country house of Ta Mok (1926-2006), Khmer Rouge brother number four. In 1999 he was trying to cross the border into Thailand when Cambodian soldiers found and arrested him. While awaiting possible sentencing, he died in prison in Phnom Penh in 2006. Ta Mok is also known as the “Butcher,” a nickname given to him for the murder of 30,000 people in Angkor Chey province, in eastern Cambodia.
His old country home now houses the Anlong Veng Peace Center with three photographs on the wall. It is one of the few places where you can get information about the Khmer Rouge.
The grave of Pol Pot
Pol Pot died on April 15, 1998 at the age of 83. Several rumors were spread about his ‘sudden’ death. One story was that he had been poisoned because of a disagreement between the leading members of the Khmer Rouge. Also, the Cambodian army was nearby, perhaps that is why he wanted to end his life himself to avoid being arrested. But it is more likely to assume that he died because of old age.
For $2 you can visit his grave. Isn’t it very bizarre to visit a grave of someone who killed more than a million people? Certainly, although I was more interested in seeing who visits this grave and to what extent he is still honored in this last stronghold of the Khmer. But sadly, I was the only one.
The only thing there is to see is a pile of sand, a few garlands, a shelter and an open spot where you can find his grave.
Other sights of the Khmer Rouge around Anlong Veng
A number of other interesting sights are listed below:
Khmer Rouge Monument: Before you drive up the hill towards the border with Thailand and Pol Pot’s grave, you will come across a monument. This was erected to commemorate the people of the Khmer Rouge.
Tomb of Ta Mok and Son Sen: Halfway through the drive to Anlong Veng, the tomb of Ta Mok and Son Sen is located at a temple. Of Ta Mok, you know by now who he is. Son Sen was Minister of Defense under the Khmer Rouge regime. He is held responsible for the murder of 100,000 Cambodians in 1978 in the east of the country. In 1997, Pol Pot had him and thirteen members of his family killed for allegedly planning a coup to depose Pol Pot as leader of the Khmer Rouge. After Son Sen’s death, Pot ordered his body to be run over several times by a truck.
Ta Mok’s House: On the artificial lake of Anlong Veng, within walking distance of the center of the village is the former house of Ta Mok. Here you will learn more about the history of the Khmer Rouge and how its members lived in this region. The lake it is located on is also called Ta Mok Lake, because he ordered the lake to be built.
Do you have any tips, comments or ideas about Pol Pot’s grave and the Khmer Rouge sights? If so, feel free to leave a comment below.