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‘Emaciation’ at dam site

Chhit Youk (left) gives his testimony before the ECCC in Phnom Penh yesterday during Case 002/02.
Chhit Youk (left) gives his testimony before the ECCC in Phnom Penh yesterday during Case 002/02. ECCC

‘Emaciation’ at dam site

Testimony on the conditions at the Trapeang Thma Dam continued at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, with a new witness sharing details about daily operations at the notorious worksite.

When the Khmer Rouge liberated his town in 1973, witness Chhit Youk spoke about how he was forced to hide his education and former life as a monk, and how his parents and other villagers were evacuated by the Khmer Rouge into the jungle never to be seen again, a move which he “did not dare question”.

Youk was drafted as a low-ranking militiaman, and was “told to monitor the activities of those who caused trouble”, though, he later clarified, that “only the centre had the authority to kill anyone”.

Later, Youk worked at the dam site as an assistant to Ta Val, commander of all mobile units, for four months. There, he heard about meetings on the dam that took place between district, zone and central party officials.

When questioned about disappearances, Youk said “we only whispered to one another if this or that worker disappeared for no reason . . . Nobody dared to ask about this issue. If I were taken away, that’s it, end of story.”

Youk was then reassigned as a labourer carrying fertiliser, another decision he “did not dare question”.

Eventually, he was assigned to distributing rice to some 20,000 workers. Units’ food rations were measured in empty condensed milk cans, Youk said, totalling about 250 grams. Orders on how much to distribute, he added, came from the unit chief.

According to Youk, work became especially difficult during the rainy season.

“Usually, workers became emaciated during the rainy season, their rations were reduced and they did not get adequate sleep because of the rain . . . About 50 per cent of them were emaciated,” he explained.

When Youk was reassigned to work carrying earth, he claimed to “manipulate the earth” so it appeared to meet the quota of 8 cubic metres per day, “because even if I started at 3am and finished at 8pm it was impossible”.

Youk also claimed he witnessed roughly 600 to 1,000 children in the work brigade, estimating their age to range from 7 to 16.

Proceedings will resume on Monday morning.

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