The Most Famous

POLITICIANS from Cambodia

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This page contains a list of the greatest Cambodian Politicians. The pantheon dataset contains 15,710 Politicians, 24 of which were born in Cambodia. This makes Cambodia the birth place of the 83rd most number of Politicians behind Armenia and Guatemala.

Top 10

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.

Photo of Pol Pot

1. Pol Pot (1925 - 1998)

With an HPI of 83.79, Pol Pot is the most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 101 different languages on wikipedia.

Pol Pot (born Saloth Sâr; 19 May 1925 – 15 April 1998) was a Cambodian revolutionary and politician who governed Cambodia as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea between 1975 and 1979. Ideologically a Marxist–Leninist and a Khmer nationalist, he was a leading member of Cambodia's communist movement, the Khmer Rouge, from 1963 until 1997 and served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea from 1963 to 1981. Under his administration, Cambodia was converted into a one-party communist state and went through the events of 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 Marxist–Leninist Khmer Việt Minh organisation and its guerrilla war against King Norodom Sihanouk's newly independent government. Following the Khmer Việt Minh's 1954 retreat into Marxist–Leninist controlled 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 Việt Cộng 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 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 to work on collective farms. Pursuing complete egalitarianism, money was abolished and all citizens were made 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 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 Marxist–Leninist 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, shortly after which he died. Taking power at the height of Marxism–Leninism's global impact, Pol Pot proved divisive among the international communist movement. Many claimed he deviated from orthodox Marxism–Leninism, but China backed his government as a bulwark against Soviet influence in Southeast Asia. To his supporters, he was a champion of Cambodian sovereignty in the face of Vietnamese imperialism and stood against the Marxist revisionism of the Soviet Union. Conversely, he was widely denounced internationally for his role in the Cambodian genocide and is regarded as a totalitarian dictator guilty of crimes against humanity.

Photo of Norodom Sihanouk

2. Norodom Sihanouk (1922 - 2012)

With an HPI of 78.77, Norodom Sihanouk is the 2nd most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.

Norodom Sihanouk (; Khmer: នរោត្តម សីហនុ, Nôroŭtdám Seihănŭ [nɔroːtɗɑm səjhanuʔ]; 31 October 1922 – 15 October 2012) was a Cambodian statesman, royal, and filmmaker who led Cambodia in various capacities throughout his long career, most often as both King of Cambodia and the Prime Minister of Cambodia. In Cambodia, he is known as Samdech Euv (Khmer: សម្តេចឪ [sɑmˈɗac ʔɨw]; "King Father"). During his lifetime, Cambodia was variously called the French Protectorate of Cambodia (until 1953), the Kingdom of Cambodia (1953–1970), the Khmer Republic (1970–75), Democratic Kampuchea (1975–79), the People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979–93), and again the Kingdom of Cambodia (from 1993). Sihanouk became king during French colonial rule in 1941 upon the death of his maternal grandfather, King Monivong. 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 it under one-party rule, suppressed political dissent, and declared himself Head of State in 1960. Officially neutral in foreign relations, in practice he was closer to the communist bloc. The Cambodian coup of 1970 ousted him and he fled to China and North Korea, there forming a government-in-exile and resistance movement. 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 declined 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 United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established the following year. The UNTAC organized the 1993 Cambodian general elections, and a coalition government, jointly led by his son Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, was subsequently formed. He 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 Queen 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.

Photo of Norodom Sihamoni

3. Norodom Sihamoni (1953 - )

With an HPI of 74.91, Norodom Sihamoni is the 3rd most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.

Norodom Sihamoni (Khmer: នរោត្តម សីហមុនី, Nôroŭtdâm Seihămŭni [nɔroːtɗɑm səjhamuni]; born 14 May 1953) is the 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 Queen Norodom Monineath and was Cambodia's ambassador to UNESCO, prior to his selection by a nine-member throne council to become the next king. Before ascending to the throne, Sihamoni was educated in Czechoslovakia and was best known for his work as a cultural ambassador in Europe and as a classical dance instructor.

Photo of Lon Nol

4. Lon Nol (1913 - 1985)

With an HPI of 73.98, Lon Nol is the 4th most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 35 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. After the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh, Lon Nol fled to the United States, first to Hawaii and Michigan and then to California, where he remained until his death in 1985.

Photo of Khieu Samphan

5. Khieu Samphan (1931 - )

With an HPI of 71.93, Khieu Samphan is the 5th most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 29 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 last surviving senior member of the Khmer Rouge following the death of Nuon Chea in August 2019 and Kang Kek Iew in September 2020.

Photo of Hun Sen

6. Hun Sen (1952 - )

With an HPI of 71.46, Hun Sen is the 6th most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Hun Sen (; Khmer: ហ៊ុន សែន, Khmer pronunciation: [hun saen]; born 5 August 1952) is a Cambodian politician and former military commander who has served as the prime minister of Cambodia since 1985. He is the longest-serving head of government of Cambodia, and one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. He is also the president of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and a member of the National Assembly for Kandal. His full honorary title is Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen (Khmer: សម្តេចអគ្គមហាសេនាបតី តេជោ ហ៊ុន សែន, pronounced [sɑmdac akkĕəʔ mɔːhaː seːnaː paɗəj teːcoː hun saen]; meaning "Lord 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. 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 is currently serving in his sixth term as prime minister in de facto one party rule.Hun Sen has been prominent in communist, Marxist–Leninist and now free-market 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. In foreign policy, Sen has in recent years strengthened a close diplomatic and economic alliance with China, who have undertaken large scale infrastructure projects and investments in Cambodia under the Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, Sen has frequently criticized Western powers in response to their sanctions on Cambodia over human rights issues and has overseen a number of diplomatic disputes with neighboring Thailand.He has been described as a "wily operator who destroys his political opponents" by The Sydney Morning Herald and as an authoritarian leader who has assumed a 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.

Photo of Nuon Chea

7. Nuon Chea (1926 - 2019)

With an HPI of 70.71, Nuon Chea is the 7th most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Nuon Chea (Khmer: នួន ជា; born Lao Kim Lorn; 7 July 1926 – 4 August 2019), also known as Long Bunruot (Khmer: ឡុង ប៊ុនរត្ន) or Rungloet Laodi (រុងឡឺត ឡាវឌី Thai: รุ่งเลิศ เหล่าดี), was a Cambodian communist politician and revolutionary who was the chief ideologist of the Khmer Rouge. He also briefly served as acting Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea. He was commonly known as "Brother Number Two" (Khmer: បងធំទី២), as he was second-in-command to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, General Secretary of the Party, during the Cambodian genocide of 1975–1979. In 2014, Nuon Chea received a life sentence for crimes against humanity, alongside another top-tier Khmer Rouge leader, Khieu Samphan, and a further trial convicted him of genocide in 2018. These life sentences were merged into a single life sentence by the Trial Chamber on 16 November 2018. He died while serving his sentence in 2019.

Photo of Jayavarman VII

8. Jayavarman VII (1125 - 1218)

With an HPI of 70.49, Jayavarman VII is the 8th most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Jayavarman VII, posthumous name of Mahaparamasaugata (Khmer: ជ័យវរ្ម័នទី៧, c. 1122–1218), was king of the Khmer Empire. He was the son of King Dharanindravarman II (r. 1150–1160) and Queen Sri Jayarajacudamani.The only one prior Khmer king that was a Buddhist of his reign. He built the Bayon as a monument to Buddhism. Jayavarman VII is generally considered the most powerful of the Khmer monarchs by historians.

Photo of Norodom of Cambodia

9. Norodom of Cambodia (1834 - 1904)

With an HPI of 69.64, Norodom of Cambodia is the 9th most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Norodom (Khmer: នរោត្តម [nɔroːtˈɗɑm]; born Ang Voddey (Khmer: អង្គវតី [ʔɑŋ ʋɔˈtəj]); 3 February 1834 – 24 April 1904) was the King of Cambodia from 1860 to his death in 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). He reigned for 43 years and 188 days and was succeeded by his half-brother Sisowath after his death. He is the ancestor of the House of Norodom which has been the ruling royal house of Cambodia since 1941.

Photo of Suryavarman II

10. Suryavarman II (1095 - 1150)

With an HPI of 69.56, Suryavarman II is the 10th most famous Cambodian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Suryavarman II (Khmer: សូរ្យវរ្ម័នទី២), posthumously named Paramavishnuloka, was a Khmer king from 1113 AD to 1145/1150 AD and the builder of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world which he dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. His reign's monumental architecture, numerous military campaigns and restoration of strong government have led historians to rank Suryavarman as one of the empire's greatest kings.

Pantheon has 24 people classified as politicians born between 800 and 1953. Of these 24, 5 (20.83%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Norodom Sihamoni, Khieu Samphan, and Hun Sen. The most famous deceased politicians include Pol Pot, Norodom Sihanouk, and Lon Nol. As of October 2020, 1 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Pen Sovan.

Living Politicians

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Deceased Politicians

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Newly Added Politicians (2020)

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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 12 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.