Pol Pot was a Cambodian politician and revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until 1997 and took part in orchestrating the Cambodian genocide. From 1963 to 1981, he served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. As such, he became the leader of Cambodia on 17 April 1975, when his forces captured Phnom Penh. From 1976 to 1979, he also served as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea (30th Prime Minister of Cambodia).
He presided over a totalitarian dictatorship, in which his government made urban dwellers move to the countryside to work in collective farms and on forced labour projects. The combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions, malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population. In all, an estimated 1 to 3 million people (out of a population of slightly over 8 million) perished as a result of the policies of his four-year premiership.
After Cambodia lost the Cambodian–Vietnamese War in 1979, Pol Pot relocated to the jungles of southwest Cambodia, and the Khmer Rouge government collapsed. From 1979 to 1997, he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Until 1993, they clung to power as part of a coalition government that was internationally recognized as the rightful government of Cambodia. Pol Pot died on 15 April 1998, while under house arrest by the Ta Mok faction of the Khmer Rouge. Since his death, rumours that he committed suicide or was poisoned have persisted.