A former cadre called upon the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday to “find justice” for her and her fellow soldiers for the grievous sufferings they endured from forced labour at the Kampong Chhnang airbase.
Civil party Kong Siek, 63, joined the revolution in 1975 after being encouraged by her brother, who was already a soldier, and after realising that she wouldn’t survive the dire living conditions in the rural cooperative that led her parents to look like “just skin and bones”.
When Phnom Penh fell in April 1975, Siek was assigned to the all-female Regiment 53 under Division 450, which was stationed at the Russey Keo Hospital.
She primarily worked as a cook for a full year until her regiment’s eventual transfer to the Kampong Chhnang airport site in 1977 after their division leaders were purged for an alleged betrayal.
“We were told to work hard until blood came out of our bodies . . . to avoid being arrested, because the leaders were arrested and we were all being suspected,” she said.
During the “refashioning”, Siek added that they were “punished by not being given enough food rations and being subjected to hard labour every day”.
From 5am to 9pm, she switched between digging canals, carrying earth and lugging about 20 to 30 cement bags weighing 50 kilograms each.
“[The Khmer Rouge] said that they waged this revolution for the liberty of the people . . . but they enslaved the people all the time,” Siek said.
“My hands could hardly hold the hoe anymore, but I had to work, because I feared for my life. So where is the liberty and freedom in all of that?”
Siek escaped and fled to the jungle after Vietnamese troops infiltrated the airbase.
Tuesday’s witness Yean Lon, who was accused of being a “chief executioner” by a previous witness, finished his testimony yesterday and denied that he was the Kampong Thma militia chief. He said he only took orders from superiors to oversee food distribution and “protect” villagers.
Witness Sam Hoeunh, 63, began his testimony yesterday. He was a soldier in Division 310 and had to undergo re-education after his division leaders were also purged for planning a coup against the Democratic Kampuchea regime.