The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Cambodian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Cambodian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Cambodian Politicians.
With an HPI of 78.53, Pol Pot is the most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 104 different languages on wikipedia.
Pol Pot (born Saloth Sâr; 19 May 1925 – 15 April 1998) was a Cambodian revolutionary, politician and a dictator who ruled Cambodia as Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea between 1976 and 1979. Ideologically a communist and a Khmer ethnonationalist, he was a leading member of Cambodia's communist movement, the Khmer Rouge, from 1963 to 1997 and served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea from 1963 to 1981. His administration converted Cambodia into a one-party communist state and perpetrated the Cambodian genocide. Born to a prosperous farmer in Prek Sbauv, French Cambodia, Pol Pot was educated at some of Cambodia's most elite schools. While in Paris during the 1940s, he joined the French Communist Party. Returning to Cambodia in 1953, he involved himself in the Khmer Viet Minh organisation and its guerrilla war against King Norodom Sihanouk's newly independent government. Following the Khmer Viet Minh's 1954 retreat into North Vietnam, Pol Pot returned to Phnom Penh, working as a teacher while remaining a central member of Cambodia's Marxist–Leninist movement. In 1959, he helped formalise the movement into the Kampuchean Labour Party, which was later renamed the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). To avoid state repression, in 1962 he relocated to a jungle encampment and in 1963 became the CPK's leader. In 1968, he relaunched the war against Sihanouk's government. After Lon Nol ousted Sihanouk in a 1970 coup, Pol Pot's forces sided with the deposed leader against the new government, which was bolstered by the United States military. Aided by the Viet Cong militia and North Vietnamese troops, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces advanced and controlled all of Cambodia by 1975. Pol Pot transformed Cambodia into a one-party state which he called Democratic Kampuchea. Seeking to create an agrarian socialist society that he believed would evolve into a communist society, Pol Pot's government forcibly relocated the urban population to the countryside and forced it to work on collective farms. Pursuing complete egalitarianism, money was abolished and all citizens were forced to wear the same black clothing. Mass killings of perceived government opponents, coupled with malnutrition and poor medical care, killed between 1.5 and 2 million people, approximately a quarter of Cambodia's population, a process which was later termed the Cambodian genocide. Repeated purges of the CPK generated growing discontent; by 1978 Cambodian soldiers were mounting a rebellion in the east. After several years of border clashes, the newly unified Vietnam invaded Cambodia in December 1978, toppling Pol Pot and installing a rival government in 1979. The Khmer Rouge retreated to the jungles near the Thai border, from where they continued to fight. In declining health, Pol Pot stepped back from many of his roles in the movement. In 1998, the Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok placed Pol Pot under house arrest and shortly afterward, Pol Pot died. Taking power at the height of global communism's impact, Pol Pot proved to be divisive to the international communist movement. Many claimed that he deviated from orthodox Marxism–Leninism, but China and later the US supported his government as a bulwark against Soviet influence in Southeast Asia. He was widely denounced internationally for his role in the Cambodian genocide and he was also regarded as a totalitarian dictator who was guilty of crimes against humanity.
With an HPI of 73.18, Norodom Sihanouk is the 2nd most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.
Norodom Sihanouk (; 31 October 1922 – 15 October 2012) was a Cambodian statesman, Sangkum and FUNCINPEC politician, film director, and composer who led Cambodia in various capacities throughout his long career, most often as both King and Prime Minister of Cambodia. In Cambodia, he is known as Samdech Euv (meaning "King Father"). During his lifetime, Cambodia was under various regimes, from French colonial rule (until 1953), a Japanese puppet state (1945), an independent kingdom (1953–1970), a military republic (1970–1975), the Khmer Rouge regime (1975–1979), a Vietnamese-backed communist regime (1979–1989), a transitional communist regime (1989–1993) to eventually another kingdom (since 1993). Sihanouk was the only child of Prince Norodom Suramarit and Princess Sisowath Kossamak, daughter of King Sisowath Monivong. When his grandfather Monivong died in 1941, Sihanouk became king amidst French colonial rule. After the Japanese occupation of Cambodia during World War II, he secured Cambodian independence from France in 1953. He abdicated in 1955 and was succeeded by his father, Suramarit, so as to directly participate in politics. Sihanouk's political organization Sangkum won the general elections that year, and he became prime minister of Cambodia. He governed the country under one-party rule and suppressed political dissent. After his father died in 1960, Sihanouk assumed a new position as Chief of State of Cambodia. Officially neutral in foreign relations, Sihanouk was closer to the communist bloc in practice. The 1970 Cambodian coup d'état ousted him, and he fled to China and North Korea, forming a government-in-exile and a resistance movement there. He encouraged Cambodians to fight the new government and backed the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian Civil War. He returned as figurehead head of state after the Khmer Rouge's victory in 1975. His relations with the new government soured, and in 1976 he resigned. He was placed under house arrest until Vietnamese forces overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Sihanouk went into exile again and in 1981 formed FUNCINPEC, a resistance party. The following year, he became president of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), a broad coalition of anti-Vietnamese resistance factions which retained Cambodia's seat at the United Nations, making him Cambodia's internationally recognized head of state. In the late 1980s, informal talks were carried out to end hostilities between the Vietnam-supported People's Republic of Kampuchea and the CGDK. In 1990, the Supreme National Council of Cambodia was formed as a transitional body to oversee Cambodia's sovereign matters, with Sihanouk as its president. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords were signed, and the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established the following year. The UNTAC organized the general elections in 1993, and a coalition government, jointly led by his son Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, was subsequently formed. Sihanouk was reinstated as Cambodia's king. He abdicated again in 2004, and the Royal Council of the Throne chose his son Sihamoni as his successor. Sihanouk died in Beijing in 2012. Between 1941 and 2006, Sihanouk produced and directed 50 films, some of which he acted in. The films, later described as being of low quality, often featured nationalistic elements, as did a number of the songs he wrote. Some of his songs were about his wife Monique, the nations neighboring Cambodia, and the communist leaders who supported him in his exile. In the 1980s, Sihanouk held concerts for diplomats in New York City. He also participated in concerts at his palace during his second reign. Sihanouk is remembered for his role in shaping modern Cambodia, particularly in leading the country to independence, although his reputation was damaged by his association with the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
With an HPI of 67.89, Norodom Sihamoni is the 3rd most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 79 different languages.
Norodom Sihamoni (Khmer: នរោត្តម សីហមុនី, Nôroŭttâm Seihâmŭni [nɔˈroːɗɑm səjˈhamoniː]; born 14 May 1953) is King of Cambodia. He became King on 14 October 2004, a week after the abdication of his father, Norodom Sihanouk.He is the eldest son of King Sihanouk and former Queen consort Norodom Monineath and is the fourth monarch from the royal House of Norodom. Before his selection by a nine-member throne council as the next monarch, Sihamoni served as Cambodia's ambassador to the United Nations and UNESCO. He was educated in Czechoslovakia and was known for his work as a cultural ambassador in Europe and as a classical ballet instructor when he was still a prince. During his reign, Sihamoni has continued his cultural advocacy alongside supporting various philanthropic causes, while balancing his role as a constitutional monarch amid Cambodia’s political developments.
With an HPI of 66.40, Lon Nol is the 4th most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.
Marshal Lon Nol (Khmer: លន់ នល់, also លន់ ណុល; 13 November 1913 – 17 November 1985) was a Cambodian politician and general who served as Prime Minister of Cambodia twice (1966–67; 1969–71), as well as serving repeatedly as defence minister and provincial governor. As a nationalist and conservative, he led the military coup of 1970 against Prince Norodom Sihanouk, abolished the monarchy, and established the short-lived Khmer Republic. Constitutionally a semi-presidential republic, Cambodia was de facto governed under a military dictatorship. He was the commander-in-chief of the Khmer National Armed Forces during the Cambodian Civil War. On April 1, 1975, 16 days before the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh, Lon Nol fled to the United States, first to Hawaii and then to California, where he remained until his death in 1985.
With an HPI of 65.15, Jayavarman VII is the 5th most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.
Jayavarman VII (Khmer: ជ័យវរ្ម័នទី៧), posthumous name of Mahaparamasaugata, (មហាបរមសៅគាត, c. 1122–1218), was king of the Khmer Empire. He was the son of King Dharanindravarman II (r. 1150–1160) and Queen Sri Jayarajacudamani. He was the first king devoted to Buddhism, as only one prior Khmer king was a Buddhist. He then built the Bayon as a monument to Buddhism. Jayavarman VII is generally considered the most powerful of the Khmer monarchs by historians. His government built many projects including hospitals, highways, rest houses, and temples. With Buddhism as his motivation, King Jayavarman VII is credited with introducing a welfare state that served the physical and spiritual needs of the Khmer people.
With an HPI of 63.99, Hun Sen is the 6th most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.
Samdech Hun Sen (; Khmer: ហ៊ុន សែន, UNGEGN: Hŭn Sên [hun saen]; born 5 August 1952) is a Cambodian politician and former military general who served as the prime minister of Cambodia from 1985 to 2023. Hun Sen is the longest-serving head of government in Cambodia's history. He is the president of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has governed Cambodia since 1979, and a member of the National Assembly for Kandal. His full honorary title is Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen (Khmer: សម្តេច អគ្គមហាសេនាបតី តេជោ ហ៊ុន សែន, UNGEGN: Sâmdéch Âkkô Môha Sénéa Bâtei Téchoŭ Hŭn Sên [sɑmɗac ʔakkeaʔ mɔhaː senaː paɗəj tecoː hun saen]; meaning "Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander Hun Sen").Born Hun Bunal, he changed his name to Hun Sen in 1972, two years after joining the Khmer Rouge as a soldier. He fought for the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodian Civil War and was a Battalion Commander in Democratic Kampuchea until defecting in 1977 and fighting alongside Vietnamese forces in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. From 1979 to 1986 and again from 1987 to 1990, he served as Cambodia's foreign minister in the Vietnamese occupied government. At age 26, he was also the world's youngest foreign minister.Hun Sen rose to the premiership in January 1985 when the one-party National Assembly appointed him to succeed Chan Sy, who had died in office in December 1984. He held the position until the 1993 UN-backed elections which resulted in a hung parliament, with opposition party FUNCINPEC winning the majority of votes. Hun Sen refused to accept the result. After negotiations with FUNCINPEC, Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen agreed to simultaneously serve as First and Second Prime Minister, until the coalition broke down and Sen orchestrated a coup d'état in 1997 which toppled Ranariddh. Since 1998, Hun Sen has led the CPP to consecutive and often contentious election victories, overseeing rapid economic growth and development, but also corruption, deforestation and human rights violations. In 2013, Hun Sen and the CPP were reelected with a significantly reduced majority. Allegations of voter fraud led to widespread anti-government protests. In 2018, he was elected to a sixth term in a largely unopposed poll after the dissolution of the opposition party, with the CPP winning every seat in the National Assembly. He led the country during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and after the 2023 election formally announced his resignation as prime minister and was succeeded by his son, Hun Manet. He remains as party president and member of parliament, and was appointed as President of the Supreme Privy Council to the King. He will take over as President of the Senate after the 2024 Senate elections, giving him the role of head of state when the monarch is out of the country.Hun Sen has been prominent in communist, Marxist–Leninist and now state capitalist and national conservative political parties, and although Khmer nationalism has been a consistent trait of all of them, he is thought to lack a core political ideology. He has been described as a "wily operator who destroys his political opponents" by The Sydney Morning Herald and as a dictator who has assumed highly centralized power in Cambodia and considerable personal wealth using violence and corruption, including a personal guard said to rival the country's regular army.
With an HPI of 62.89, Khieu Samphan is the 7th most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.
Khieu Samphan (Khmer: ខៀវ សំផន; born 28 July 1931) is a Cambodian former communist politician and economist who was the chairman 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. Prior to joining the Khmer Rouge, he was a member of Norodom Sihanouk's Sangkum government. After the 1967 leftist rebellion, Sihanouk ordered the arrest of leftists including Samphan, who fled into hiding until the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975. On 7 August 2014, along with other members of the regime, he was convicted and received a life sentence for crimes against humanity during the Cambodian genocide, and a further trial found him guilty of genocide in 2018. He is the oldest living former prime minister and the last surviving senior member of the Khmer Rouge following the deaths of Nuon Chea in August 2019 and Kang Kek Iew (Duch) in September 2020.
With an HPI of 61.48, Jayavarman II is the 8th most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.
Jayavarman II (Khmer: ជ័យវរ្ម័នទី២; c. 770 – 850) (reigned c. 802–850) was a Khmer prince who founded and became the ruler of the Khmer Empire (Cambodia) after unifying the Khmer civilization. The Khmer Empire was the dominant civilization in mainland Southeast Asia from the 9th century until the mid-15th century. Jayavarman II was a powerful Khmer king who declared independence from a polity inscriptions named "Java", which most probably refers to the island of Java in the Indonesian archipelago. Jayavarman II founded many capitals such as Mahendraparvata, Indrapura, Amarendrapura, and Hariharalaya. Before Jayavarman II came to power, there was much fighting among local overlords who ruled different parts of Cambodia. No inscriptions by Jayavarman II have been found. Future kings of the Khmer Empire described him as a warrior and the most powerful king from that time frame that they could recall. Historians formerly dated his reign as running from 802 AD to 835 AD.
With an HPI of 61.41, Norodom Ranariddh is the 9th most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Norodom Ranariddh (Khmer: នរោត្តម រណឫទ្ធិ; 2 January 1944 – 28 November 2021) was a Cambodian prince, politician and law academic. He was the second son of King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia and a half-brother of King Norodom Sihamoni. Ranariddh was the president of FUNCINPEC, a Cambodian royalist party. He was also the first Prime Minister of Cambodia following the restoration of the monarchy, serving between 1993 and 1997, and subsequently as the President of the National Assembly between 1998 and 2006. Ranariddh was a graduate of the University of Provence and started his career as a law researcher and lecturer in France. In 1983, he joined FUNCINPEC and in 1986 became the chief of staff and commander-in-chief of Armée nationale sihanoukiste. Ranariddh became Secretary-General of FUNCINPEC in 1989, and its president in 1992. When FUNCINPEC won the 1993 Cambodian general election, it formed a coalition government with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which was jointly headed by two concurrently serving prime ministers. Ranariddh became the First Prime Minister of Cambodia while Hun Sen, who was from the CPP, became the Second Prime Minister. As the First Prime Minister, Ranariddh promoted business interests in Cambodia to leaders from regional countries and established the Cambodian Development Council (CDC). From early 1996, relations between Ranariddh and Hun Sen deteriorated as Ranariddh complained of unequal distribution of government authority between FUNCINPEC and the CPP. Subsequently, both leaders publicly argued over issues such as the implementation of construction projects, signing of property development contracts, and their rival alliances with the Khmer Rouge. In July 1997, major clashes between troops separately aligned to FUNCINPEC and the CPP took place, forcing Ranariddh into exile. The following month, Ranariddh was ousted from his position as First Prime Minister in a coup d'état. He returned to Cambodia in March 1998, and led his party in the 1998 Cambodian general election. When FUNCINPEC lost the elections to the CPP, Ranariddh, after initially challenging the results, became President of the National Assembly in November 1998. He was seen as a potential successor to Sihanouk as the King of Cambodia, until in 2001 he renounced his interest in the succession. As the President of the National Assembly, Ranariddh was one of the nine members of the throne council which in 2004 selected Sihamoni as Sihanouk's successor. In March 2006, Ranariddh resigned as the President of the National Assembly and in October 2006 was ousted as President of FUNCINPEC. The following month, he founded the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). Accusations and a conviction of embezzlement drove him into exile again. He returned to Cambodia after being pardoned in September 2008 and retired from politics. Between 2010 and 2012 he unsuccessfully attempted a merger of his NRP with FUNCINPEC. In 2014, he launched the short-lived Community of Royalist People's Party (CRPP) before returning to FUNCINPEC in January 2015. He was subsequently re-elected to the FUNCINPEC presidency. Ranariddh remained out of public view since suffering a car accident during the 2018 election campaign, which saw the death of his second wife. He made frequent visits to France for medical treatment, and died in November 2021 in Aix-en-Provence.
With an HPI of 60.40, Norodom of Cambodia is the 10th most famous Cambodian Politician. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Norodom (Khmer: នរោត្តម, Nôroŭttâm [nɔˈroːɗɑm]; born Ang Voddey (Khmer: អង្គវតី, Ângk Vôtei [ʔɑŋ ʋɔˈtəj]); 3 February 1834 – 24 April 1904) was King of Cambodia from 19 October 1860 to his death on 24 April 1904. He was the eldest son of King Ang Duong and was a half-brother of Prince Si Votha and King Sisowath. He was elected to the throne in 1860 but would not be crowned until 1864 due to the fact that Siam held the royal regalia (the royal crown and other artefacts). In 1863, he signed a treaty with France by which he gave France control over Cambodia's foreign relations in exchange for personal protection against his enemies. The treaty saved Cambodian independence, but French control over Cambodia's internal affairs strengthened continually until the end of his reign (full independence was not restored until 1953). His reign of 43 years and 188 days is the longest in Cambodian history in terms of verifiable exact date. Upon his death, he was succeeded by his half-brother, Sisowath. He is the progenitor of the House of Norodom which has been the ruling royal house of Cambodia since 1941.
Pantheon has 27 people classified as politicians born between 800 and 1953. Of these 27, 5 (18.52%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Norodom Sihamoni, Hun Sen, and Khieu Samphan. The most famous deceased politicians include Pol Pot, Norodom Sihanouk, and Lon Nol. As of April 2022, 4 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Ang Mey, Son Sann, and Sisowath Sirik Matak.
1925 - 1998
1922 - 2012
1913 - 1985
1125 - 1218
800 - 835
1944 - 2021
1834 - 1904
1875 - 1941
1095 - 1150
1896 - 1960
1237 - 1298
1840 - 1927
Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 16 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.