Khieu Samphan (Khmer: ខៀវ សំផន, born July 27, 1931) was the president 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, though Pol Pot was the group's true political leader and held the most extensive power. Samphan is of Chinese-Khmer ancestry.
Samphan was born in Svay Rieng Province and was educated at the Lycee Sisowath; he came from a relatively privileged background, being the son of a judge.
A prominent member of the circle of leftist Khmer intellectuals studying in Paris in the 1950s, Khieu Samphan studied economics and politics there. His successful 1959 doctoral thesis, "Cambodia's Economy and Industrial Development" advocated national self-reliance and generally sided with dependency theorists in blaming the wealthy, industrialized states for the poverty of the Third World. He was one of the founders of the Khmer Students' Association (KSA), out of which would grow the left-wing revolutionary movements that would so alter Cambodian history in the 1970s, most notably the Khmer Rouge. Once the KSA was shuttered by French authorities in 1956, he founded yet another student organization, the Khmer Students' Union.