On the 7th January 1979 Pol Pot, the Cambodian revolutionary and General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea , was overthrown when Vietnamese forces captured the capital city Phnom Penh.

Pol Pot was leader of the Cambodian Communist group the Khmer Rouge who were formed in 1968. Areas of Cambodia already were already being used by Vietnamese communists as bases, which led to American carpet bombing campaigns in Cambodia. Although the significance of this campaign on the rise of the Khmer Rouge is debated by historians, the Khmer Rouge were able to seize power of the country in 1975. They renamed the country Democratic Kampuchea and set about introducing a form of radical communism that aimed to eradicate all Western and modern influences, in an attempt to create a purely agrarian society.

This upheaval saw the closure of schools, hospitals, and factories, and the abolition of banking, finance, and currency. Intellectuals were killed en masse, while others were sent on long forced marches into the countryside where they were subjected to forced labour on enormous collective farms. Millions died.

Although both countries were communist, relations between Cambodia and Vietnam declined by the end of 1978 as a result of border clashes and differing ideologies. Consequently, on the 25th December, Vietnamese armed forces launched an invasion of Cambodia supported by the newly-formed Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation. The latter consisted of Cambodian communists who had defected from the Khmer Rouge. After they captured Phnom Penh on the 7th January 1979, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forces fled into the jungle.

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