Khieu Ponnary- Wife of Pol Pot

Khieu Ponnary was the first wife of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. She was born on February 3, 1920, in Battambang province to a father who worked as a court official.

She attended Sisowath High School, where her younger sister, Khieu Thirith, and their future husbands, Ieng Sary and Saloth Sar (later Pol Pot) also attended.

In 1940, Khieu Ponnary graduated as the first Cambodian woman to receive
a baccalaureate degree.

In 1949, she left Cambodia with her younger sister (who was engaged to Ieng Sary) for Paris where she studied Khmer linguistics.

Her sister married Ieng Sary in Paris in 1951 and took his name, becoming Ieng Thirith.

Upon returning to Cambodia Khieu Ponnary found a job as a teacher in her old school. She married Saloth Sar, who was working in ‘Chamraon Vichea’ private school as a teacher on July 14 1956.

In July 1961, Khieu Ponnary established a secret Communist women’s organization and secretly conducted revolutionary activities. In 1966, she left her job and moved to the jungle to join the revolutionary struggle with husband Saloth Sar (Pol Pot).

There she continued to write articles and spread revolutiony propaganda around rural areas.

During this time Khieu Ponnary was active in the communist resistance movement and attended almost every meeting of the revolutionary policies of Khmer Rouge cadres from all regions.

In 1971, Khieu Ponnary was put in charge of the Women and Children’s Directorate in the North Zone and in 1973, became secretary of the 43rd Zone in the Northeastern region (Kampong Thom).

After the fall of Lon Nol’s regime in Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, Khieu Ponnary was appointed president of the Democratic Women’s Union of Democratic Kampuchea, but did not appear in public with other top leaders, and seemed to disappear from view, unlike her sister Ieng Thirith.

It is believed that she began suffering from mental illness and paranoia around this time, and in 1979 after the Vietnamese lead invasion and the fall of Democratic Kampuchea, Khieu Ponnary was sent to a psychiatric clinic in China. Her illness was not cured and she later returned to Cambodia.

In 1979 (another source says 1982), the couple were childless, and Pol Pot divorced her, later marrying another woman, Mea Som, who gave birth to a daughter, Sar Patchata.

After her brother-in-law Ieng Sary joined the Royal Government in 1996, and was pardoned (later to be charged by the ECCC) Khieu Ponnary was still alive, although severely mentally disabled, who spent her time sitting in a wheelchair under the support of Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith’s family.

Khieu Ponnary, who had struggled with her mental disorders for more than two decades, and suffering from cancer, passed away on July 1, 2003 in Pailin City.

Khieu Ponnary’s cremation ceremony took place on Thursday, July 3, 2003, in a pagoda in Pailin, attended by about 500 people joined by monks, armed forces, former Khmer Rouge leaders, including Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.


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