Khieu Samphan is born the 27th of July 1931. He is the son of a provincial judge.
In 1955, Khieu Samphan receives a bursary to study at the University of Montpellier in France, where he publishes a thesis on peasantry and Cambodian politics. In his thesis he (already) defends the idea that the Cambodian economy can only become autonomous if it isolates itself from the international economy, with agricultural development serving as a foundation for the industry. He argues that the non-productive population in the cities should be reassigned to the agricultural sector. When he returns to Cambodia, Khieu Samphan becomes a professor and the founder of journal which opposes the regime of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the head of government. Khieu Samphan is later arrested by the government.
In 1962 he is elected deputy and he is appointed Secretary of the State for Trade by Norodom Sihanouk (1962-63).
Some time after his re-election in 1966, he goes underground.
In 1968, he joins the maquis Khmer Rouge (KR). He reappears in 1973 as the commander-in-chief of the KR. When they take over government control, Khieu Samphan becomes the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence until 1975, when he becomes President. He begins putting the ideas from his thesis into practice. He clears cities of their inhabitants, thereby provoking a vast human tragedy with hundreds of thousands of deaths.
In 1987 he organises the retirement of Pol Pot and succeeds him as the official head of Khmer Rouge. He keeps this title until he surrenders to the Cambodian government in 1998.
In July of 1989, he represents Kampuchea at the International Conference on Cambodia, organised in Paris. He later participates in the peace negotiations of 1997, but his movement boycots them.
After successive defections of many Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan pledges allegiance to the government of Phnom Penh in December of 1998.
Until the end of November 2007, Khieu Samphan lives freely in the Païlin region in north-west Cambodia, near the border of Thailand. This region used to be the stronghold of the Khmer Rouge and many former KR members had gathered there.
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