Jonathan Mirksy

The Killer With A Gentle Smile

Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare

By

John Murray 656pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

'NO OTHER COUNTRY has ever lost so great a proportion of its nationals [one and a half don out of a population of seven million] in a single, politically inspired hecatomb, brought about by its own leaders.' Cambodia's nightmare lasted three and a half years (an astonishingly brief period considering all the suffering it saw), beginning in April 1975, when Pnomh Penh, the capital, fell to Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. From then on any human habit or custom could be deemed a capital offence, and Cambodia descended into the abyss.

This is the tiny but vastly horrible scene explored by Philip Short in his comprehensive and eloquent biography of a monster - a man whose gentle smile and pensive silences endeared him to many and whose deeds were denied by some on the Left long

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