Tou Sanmouth – The Original Khmer Rouge leader

Tou Sanmouth

Tou Sanmouth was not only a founding member of the Kampuchan Peoples Revolutionary Party *KPRP), but also the initial leader of the Workers Party of Kampuchea (WPK). This was the forerunner to not just the Communist Party of Kampuchea, but that of the leaders of Democratic Kampuchea.

Generally a respected figure, he was seen as far more liberal that the leadership of the Paris Clique that would soon follow. His death is stills a controversial one.

Kampuchea Krom

Tou Sanmouth like many other later leaders of the Khmer Rouge was born in Vietnam as a member of the Kampuchea Krom. Initially a professor he would later join the Viet Minh in Vietnam before later joining the United Issarak Front, and the Indochinese Communist Party.

In 1951 he would co-found the KPRP with Son Ngoc Minh. After years of ineffectiveness infighting and purges he was present at the 1960 meeting at Phnom Penh Railways station that formed the Workers Party of Kampuchea.

Workers Party of Kampuchea and Tou Sanmouth

In 1960 Sanmouth who still favored a united front with Sihanouk was elected leader of the party with Nuon Chea as his deputy and the at the time little known Po Pot as third in command – the highest ranked member of the Circle Marxiste.

In 1962 Tou Sanmouth, who ironically favored cooperation with the government was captured and killed. Although this “fact” has been questioned by many, such as the historian Ben Kierman who suggest he was killed by Pol Pot and his cohorts in order to give them strength in taking over the party and going after Sihanouk.

True, or not his death resulted in Pol Pot being made leader of the party. Nuon Chea his deputy and the rest of the Paris Clique gaining positions of power. The rest as they say is history.