|President of the State Presidium of Democratic Kampuchea|
April 11, 1976 – January 7, 1979
|Preceded by||Norodom Sihanouk|
|Succeeded by||Post abolished|
|Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea
April 4, 1976 – April 14, 1976
|Preceded by||Penn Nouth|
|Succeeded by||Pol Pot|
July 27, 1931 |
Svay Rieng, French Indochina
|Political party||Communist Party|
Khieu Samphan (Khmer: ខៀវ សំផន; born July 27, 1931) is a former Cambodian communist politician who was the president of the state presidium of Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) from 1976 until 1979. As such, he served as Cambodia's head of state and was one of the most powerful officials in the Khmer Rouge movement, although Pol Pot remained the General Secretary (highest official) in the party. Khieu Samphan is the second oldest living former Khmer Rouge leader, alongside Nuon Chea. On August 7, 2014, they were convicted and received life sentences for crimes against humanity during the Cambodian Genocide.
Samphan was born in Svay Rieng Province to Khieu Long, who served as a judge under the French Colonial government and his wife Por Kong. Samphan was of Khmer-Chinese extraction, having inherited his Chinese heritage from his maternal grandfather. When Samphan was a young boy, Khieu Long was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to imprisonment, leaving Samphan's mother to take up a living selling fruits and vegetables in Kampong Cham Province where he grew up. Nevertheless, Samphan managed to earn a seat at the Lycée Sisowath and was able to travel to France to pursue his University studies in Economics at the University of Montpellier.
Khieu became a member of the circle of leftist Khmer intellectuals studying in Paris in the 1950s. His 1959 doctoral thesis, "Cambodia's Economy and Industrial Development" advocated national self-reliance and generally sided with dependency theorists in blaming the wealthy, industrialized states for the poverty of the Third World. He was one of the founders of the Khmer Students' Association (KSA), out of which would grow the left-wing revolutionary movements that would so alter Cambodian history in the 1970s, most notably the Khmer Rouge. Once the KSA was shuttered by French authorities in 1956, he founded yet another student organization, the Khmer Students' Union.
Returning from Paris with his doctorate in 1959, Khieu held a faculty position at the University of Phnom Penh and started L'Observateur, a French-language leftist publication that was viewed with hostility by the government. L'Observateur was banned by the government in the following year. Despite this, Samphan was invited to join Sihanouk's Sangkum, a 'national movement' that operated as the single political party within Cambodia. Samphan stood as a Sangkum deputy in the 1962, 1964 and 1966 elections, in which the lattermost the rightist elements of the party, led by Lon Nol, gained an overwhelming victory; he then became a member of a 'Counter-Government' created by Sihanouk to keep the rightists under control. However, Khieu's radicalism led to a split in the party and he had to flee to a jungle after an arrest warrant was issued against him. At the time, he was even rumoured to have been murdered by Sihanouk's security forces.
After the coup of 1970 overthrew the government of Sihanouk, the Khmer Communists, including Khieu Samphan, joined forces with the now-deposed Head of State in establishing an anti-government coalition known as the Gouvernement royal d'union nationale du Kampuchéa (GRUNK). In this alliance with his former enemies, Samphan served as deputy prime minister, minister of defence, and commander-in-chief of GRUNK military forces.
During the years of Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1979), Samphan remained near the top of the movement, assuming the post of president of the central presidium in 1976. His faithfulness to Pol Pot meant that he survived the purges in the later years of the Khmer Rouge rule. His roles within the party suggest he was well entrenched in the upper echelons of the CPK, and a leading figure in the ruling elite.
In 1985 he officially succeeded Pol Pot as leader of the Khmer Rouge, and served in this position until 1998. In December 1998 Khieu and former Pol Pot's deputy Nuon Chea surrendered to the government of Hun Sen. Hun Sen however defied international pressure and Khieu Samphan was not arrested or prosecuted at the time of his surrender.
Arrest and trial
On November 13, 2007, Samphan reportedly suffered a stroke. This occurred one day after the former Khmer Rouge Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife were arrested for war crimes committed while they were in power. At about the same time, a book by Samphan, Reflection on Cambodian History Up to the Era of Democratic Kampuchea, was published; in the book, he wrote that he had worked for social justice and the defence of national sovereignty, while attributing responsibility for all of the group's policies to Pol Pot.
According to Samphan, under the Khmer Rouge "there was no policy of starving people. Nor was there any direction set out for carrying out mass killings", and "there was always close consideration of the people's well-being." He acknowledged the use of coercion to produce food due to shortages. Samphan also strongly criticized the current government in the book, blaming it for corruption and social ills.
The historian Ben Kiernan stated that Samphan's protestations (such as the fact that he regarded the collectivization of agriculture as a "surprise", and his expressions of sympathy for his "friend" Hu Nim, a fellow member of the CPK hierarchy tortured and killed at Tuol Sleng) betrayed the fundamental "moral cowardice" of a man mesmerized by power but lacking any nerve.
In April 2008 former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan made his first appearance at Cambodia's genocide tribunal. His lawyer, the late Jacques Vergès, used the defence that while Samphan has never denied that many people in Cambodia were killed, as head of state, he was never directly responsible for any crimes. On August 7, 2014, he and Nuon Chea received life sentences for crimes against humanity. His lawyer immediately announced the conviction would be appealed. The tribunal will continue a trial on his genocide charges as a separate process.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Khieu Samphan.|
|Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea
as Head of State
|President of the State Presidium of Democratic Kampuchea
as Chair of the Revolutionary Council
|Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea
|Foreign Minister of Democratic Kampuchea
|Party political offices|
|General Secretary of the Party of Democratic Kampuchea
None, party dissolved