he Angkor region, bordering the Great Lake with its valuable supply of water, fish, and fertile soil, has been settled since neolithic times, as is known from stone tools and ceramics found there, and from the identification of circular habitation sites from aerial photographs. For the whole Khmer country, there is more descriptive evidence from the accounts of the Chinese, who began to trade and explore the commercial opportunities of mainland Southeast Asia in the early centuries of the Christian era. The picture is one of small town-states, moated, fortified and frequently in conflict with each other. The Chinese called the principal country with which they traded Funan; it had a strategic importance in controlling the sea routes around the Mekong delta and the Gulf of Thailand. In particular it controlled the narrow Isthmus of Kra – the neck of the Malay Peninsula -which connected eastern Asia with India. Indeed, it was trade with India that gave the Khmers their primary cultural contacts, and introduced them to Hinduism and Buddhism. Khmer religious beliefs, iconography, art and architecture all stemmed directly from India, and this had a profound influence on the development of its civilization.
The 6th century sees the first historical evidence from local inscriptions. At around this time, the Chinese accounts begin to write of a kingdom called ‘Chenla’ in the interior, but this is a Chinese rather than a Khmer name. In the second half of the century there is a record of a city called Bhavapura, with its king, Bhavavarman I extending his rule from near the present-day site of Kampong Thorn to at least as far as Battambang in the west. He was succeeded by his brother, who ruled as Mahendravarman, who in turn was succeeded by his son, Isanavarman I. These three kings progressively conquered the Khmer part of Funan, while the western part was taken by other peoples, in particular the Mons of the kingdom of Dvaravati to the W of Bangkok, Isnavarman I was responsible for the temple at Sambor Prei Kuk, establishing the first of the pre-Angkorean styles of architecture. Under Isanavarman’s son, Bhavavarman II, who took the throne in 628, the empire disintegrated back into small states, and it took until 654 for Jayavarman I, a grandson of Isanavarman I, from one of these princedoms, to reconquer much of the territory. There is evidence that he ruled from Aninditapura, close to Angkor. On his death, the empire again collapsed, and his successors, including his daughter Jayadevi, the only ancient Khmer queen, controlled only the small kingdom of Aninditapura. The country remained this way until the end of the 8th century, when Jayavarman II became king in 790.
Jayavarman II’s conquests, first of Vyadhapura (SE of Cambodia), then Sambhupura (present-day Sambor), then N as far as Wat Phu, ind finally of Aninditapura, established his power. He settled first at t iariharalaya, an ancient capital in the region of what is now Roluos, Sut then, trying to go further NW, experienced an unknown setback -hich resulted in him relocating to the Kulen Plateau, some 30 km NE of Angkor. Here he pronounced himself ‘world emperor’ in 802, but it was many years before he was strong enough to move his capital back to Hariharalaya on the shores of the Great Lake, where he died in 835.
His son Jayavarman III succeeded him on his death. He seems to nave built the laterite pyramid of Bakong, which his successor, Indravarman I, had clad in sandstone. The date of his death is unknown, but most probably his successor took the throne with Molence. This king remodeled his capital, building in his palace the Preah Ko temple, dedicated in 880 and improving Bakong. He also began the baray of Indratataka, which his son Yasovarman I completed after he came to power in 889. This accession was a bloody one, involving a struggle with the crown prince, his brother, and destruction of the palace. Therefore he decided to move his capital to Angkor.
etween 1975 and 1979, Pol Pot presided over a communist regime known as Democratic Kampuchea. His harsh, utopian policies, derived in part from Maoist China, drove an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians–or one in five–to their deaths from malnutrition, illness or overwork. At least 200,000 more were executed as enemies of the state. The ratio of deaths to population made the Cambodian revolution the most murderous in a century of revolutions. ol Pot, Brother No. 1 in the Khmer Rouge regime, is a name that sends shivers down the spines of most Cambodians and foreigners alike. It is Pol Pot who is most associated with the bloody madness of the regime he led between 1975 and 1979, and his policies heaped misery, suffering and death on millions of Cambodians. Even after being overthrown in 1979 he cast a long shadow over the Cambodian people: for many of them, just knowing he was still alive was traumatic and unjust. He died on 15 April 1998. Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar in a small village near Kompong Thom in 1925. He had a relatively privileged upbringing and his education included, ironically, some time in a wat (Buddhist temple monastery). As a young man he won a scholarship to study in Paris and spent several years there with leng Sary, who would later become foreign minister of Democratic Kampuchea. It is here that he is believed to have developed his radical Marxist thought, later to transform in to the politics of extreme Maoist agrarianism. back in Cambodia, Saloth Sar became a school teacher, entering politics in the late 1950’s. Very little is known about his early political career.
Pol Pot (1925-1998) the Cambodian political leader, whose radical Khmer Rouge movement controlled the government of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Under Pol Pot’s totalitarian regime, about 1.7 million Cambodians were killed and Cambodia fell into economic ruin. Pol Pot was born Saloth Sar in Kompong Thom Province. At that time Cambodia was a Buddhist kingdom under French control. His parents had royal connections: his cousin was one of King Sisovath Monivong’s wives, his sister was a consort, and his brother Loth Suong made a career in the palace. Sar had a strict, sheltered childhood. In 1934 he joined his brother at the palace compound in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, and spent a year in a royal monastery followed by six years in an elite Catholic school. In 1948 Sar went to study radio electricity in Paris, where he joined the French Communist Party. He kept company with Khieu Ponnary, the first Khmer (ethnic Cambodian) woman to receive a bachelor’s degree, and they were married in 1956. Sar’s student friends included Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, and Son Sen. Each person in the group adopted a pseudonym. Sar chose “Khmaer Da’em,” meaning “Original Cambodian,” while the others chose more modern code names such as “Free Khmer” and “Khmer Worker.” Later, in the mid-1970s, Sar adopted the pseudonym he is most widely known by: Pol Pot (which has no particular meaning).