The final witness concerning the Kampong Chhnang airport worksite took the stand at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday and confirmed that Case 002/02 defendant Khieu Samphan, who was known as a member of the regime’s upper echelon to her unit chiefs, surveyed the airbase along with general Ta Mok.
Witness Khin Vat, 65, was working as a part of Division 502’s women’s unit when she was told that senior leaders of the Communist Party of Kampuchea were inspecting the airfield – then known as one of the largest forced labour sites during the Democratic Kampuchea era where cadres suspected of holding anti-revolutionary sentiments were sent for “refashioning”.
“I only knew that he came to inspect the airport worksite,” she said.
“My unit chiefs told me that he was the ‘Second Uncle’, but I had no idea what his responsibilities are. Ta Mok also went there with him.”
Vat was reassigned to the airbase from Pochentong Airport after her husband was purged by Angkar, the name by which the regime referred to itself, for his alleged links to the Vietnamese.
A week before his arrest, she had been forced to marry him to “adhere to party principle”.
“I was told that if I refused to marry him that Angkar would not be responsible for my refusal,” Vat said.
“[My husand] told me that if I told people that I did not love him, I would risk my life.”
During her time in the airfield, the witness said she did lighter jobs like rice farming as a part of the “weaker” Force 2 group, while Force 1 cadres were tasked with hard labour due to their supposed strength and good health.
“We woke up at 5am in to morning to attend the work assignment meeting . . . and then we went to the field around 7am to work,” Vat said.
“In the evening, we had our dinner at 5pm, then if there’s some job to do, like make fertiliser, we will continue that until 8 to 9pm.”
Her job, however, didn’t spare her from some of the atrocities that took place in the airbase.
“The food was rationed, but sometimes I had to drink more water to fill up my stomach,” Vat said.
“During the hot season, five to 10 people were also sick every day and some died.”
She added that she also heard “whispers about disappearances” and of some youth workers committing suicide due to overwork by running under trucks.
Tuesday’s witness Man Soeurm concluded his testimony during the morning’s proceedings. Vat will continue hers today.