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Even amidst famine, rice kept flowing out

Former Khmer Rouge warehouse manager Ros Suy’s life under the Democratic Kampuchea regime was governed by the orderly flow of goods into the country from abroad, and the constant flow of rice headed in the opposite direction.

After beginning his Khmer Rouge career as the head of a “transit area” where people – many of them defrocked monks – waited after their conscription to be sent to the front lines, Suy was transferred to Phnom Penh.

There, he faced a life of shipping, receiving and storing, punctuated only by occasional study sessions with co-defendants Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea; and the occasional arrests of his co-workers.

Goods came in: “There were things like materials transported from a foreign country, including hoes, fabric, steel and screws, etc.”

And goods went out: “Rice was not to be distributed to the zones and sectors; only the other way around . . . We had to transport the rice to the warehouse for export to foreign countries, and to be perfectly clear, we would never distribute rice back to the sectors and zones.”

According to Suy’s statement to the court’s co-investigating judges, even in the face of widespread starvation – Suy himself usually had nothing more than gruel to eat – the rice flowed out of the warehouses as fast as they could pack it.

“The machine in the rice mill at Kilometre 6 [warehouse] could be used to adjust rice quality automatically,” said the statement, read aloud in court yesterday and confirmed by Suy.

“That machine could pack 1,600 to 1,700 [100-kilogram] sacks of rice each day.

“If we operated only one rice mill, we would not meet their demand,” it continued.

“We had to run all four to five rice mills constantly.”

From time to time, Suy said, he would attend study sessions held by Chea and Samphan, each of whom had their own subject matter.

“During the study session with Mr Nuon Chea, he taught us politics. He taught us about the goal, the future goal,” Suy said. “Of course he talked about traitors, but I cannot remember the details.”

Samphan’s talks, on the other hand, were more mundane.

“I am not really here to act in favour of him, but the truth is that when he called the meeting, we could never hear him say anything other than to properly manage the materials in the warehouses,” he said.

According to Suy’s statement, Samphan also cut a less dashing figure.

“The president of the presidium did not do vital work,” it read.

“That’s why when going to meetings, you could see by his shoes or car that he wasn’t living in luxury like the others. He had no car and his shoes were worn out.”

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