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Surveyor tells court of dam site construction

A witness who worked on the notorious “January 1” dam site in Kampong Thom province spoke at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday about details of his job as a land surveyor for the site.

Pech Sokha, who was part of a four-man surveying team, was recruited from Phnom Penh to study the land along the Stoeung Chinit River in Kampong Thom’s Baray district.

The location subsequently became the site of the January 1 dam, which was intended to create a reservoir to supply an irrigation system, and which later became notorious for being one of the largest forced-labour projects during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

“I was asked to measure the land or survey the land on a daily basis. We had to implement the work according to the plan,” he said.

“During that time, it’s not a matter of whether I was happy with it or not. The matter was that Angkar assigned us to do the work, so we had to do it.”

The project, he added, employed about 20,000 workers who each had a quota of carrying the equivalent of 2 cubic metres of soil per day.

“Male and female workers had the same work to do . . . but I didn’t know if each worker could complete that quota,” Sokha said.

The site, he explained, “lacked hygiene” as there were many flies buzzing around as they worked and ate their meals.

But despite this, Sokha said that the workers were mostly cared for, and he “never saw anyone collapse”.

People who were seriously sick were sent to the hospital and pesticides were used to kill the flies. Workers were given ample warning through loudspeakers when an explosion to remove stones was to be set off.

Zone soldiers carrying AK-47s also patrolled the premises on foot to “guard the workers” and “be vigilant of any enemies”.

According to Sokha, the dam was scheduled to be completed a year after its inauguration in early January 1977. It was, however, never finished.

“The dam construction was not completed according to the plan. It took more time for it to be completed,” Sokha said.

Sokha concluded his testimony yesterday, and testimony from a new witness will begin on Monday.

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