Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness recalls regime’s fall

Witness recalls regime’s fall

Om Chy gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Om Chy gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Witness recalls regime’s fall

Khim Vat was 29 when the Khmer Rouge regime fell. She was loaded into a military truck at the Kampong Chhnang airport worksite that day, alongside pregnant women and children, and heard the sound of gunshots as the vehicle fled to the west.

During the second portion of her testimony before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, Vat, a former member of the communist militia, recalled the chaos of the Vietnamese invasion.

“Everyone tried to board a truck,” she said. “We thought we could not survive.”

Several women gave birth in the moving lorry.

“In my opinion at the time, capitalists were the rich and powerful . . . They oppressed us, and they did not let us have any freedom,” Vat said of her decision to supported the communist movement.

However, she described a similar enslavement under the Khmer Rouge leadership, including her forced marriage to a stranger disabled on the battlefield, and her demotion out of a military capacity and into the rice fields.

“I had no choice,” she said. “I would follow Angkar.”

With the conclusion of her testimony, the line of questioning in Case 002/02 turned again to the conditions surrounding the January 1 dam.

Om Chy, a slight, 63-year-old, testified about his role as a unit chief, supervising 500 workers as they built irrigation canals linked to the dam.

Chy said his unit worked 16-hour days clothed in a single set of tattered pajamas, without access to clean water or sufficient food.

Despite his senior status, he added, everyone had to abide by the regulations set forth by the Khmer Rouge or face being detained, re-educated or tortured.

“During the regime, every worker, including myself, did not dare refuse,” Chy said.

He remembered the public arrest of a teenage boy, the disappearance of neighbours who never returned and purges of his own senior leaders.

“We lost trust with each other and had to work on a daily basis to survive,” he said.

Close to his worksite was the Baray Choan Dek pagoda, a place he resolutely asserted was where “enemies” – suspected of being foreign spies or merely “inactive” workers – would be executed.

Chy was one of the few to enter the pagoda walls and return alive.

Before the regime fell, the security centre was transferred to another village and the unit chief was invited to the pagoda for a cadre meeting.

The space, he said yesterday, still held the evidence of its recent misdeeds.

“I actually saw blood stains on the wall in the dining hall . . . pieces of clothing strewn on the ground,” he recalled.

“The bad odour [from the corpses] was still lingering in the air.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all