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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness tells of seeing Chea, Samphan at site

Witness tells of seeing Chea, Samphan at site

A Khmer Rouge tribunal civil party yesterday recalled she was ordered to “work harder” during a visit by former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan to her Takeo worksite in 1977.

In her relatively short testimony, rice farmer Ung Saroeun – whose 1-year-old son died of measles during the Democratic Kampuchea regime – recalled her encounter with the men under whose reign her husband, father, brother and uncle were executed.

She told the chamber the high-ranking trio arrived at the site in Tram Kak district with southwest zone leader Ta Mok, alleged Tram Kak district chief Ta San and the chief of the Leay Bor commune, considered one of the regime’s “model communes”.

Carrying earth on her shoulder at the time, Saroeun said she was told by her unit chief after the visit that three members of the delegation were Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Pol Pot, who she said stood about 5 metres away.

“At the time we were digging a canal … We were facing towards the east and the vehicle was approaching from the west,” she said, estimating there were hundreds of workers at the site, including civil party Chou Koemlan, who previously testified about the delegation.

“I did not know that they were senior people, because the unit chief told me that the Angkar representative came to visit the worksite so that we had to work harder,” she added, quoting the name used by the Khmer Rouge for their organisation.

After Saroeun was evacuated from Takeo provincial town to Tram Kak district in 1975, separated from her family and assigned to a work unit, her 1-year-old and several other children died in the care of old women from the district.

Her father, brother, uncle and husband, a former Lon Nol soldier, also died, she said, after being taken away by the Khmer Rouge to Takeo province’s Kraing Ta Chan security centre, where thousands were executed.

“We were separated in 1976,” she said of her husband, whose name she saw, along with those of other relatives, on inmate lists from the prison. “Since that time I have not seen him again.”

Once caught stealing food, Saroeun said she was released after a warning. However, she recalled two friends were “raped then killed” after such an infraction, while a 15-year-old boy was killed for stealing rice.

The trial continues on Monday, with US journalist Richard Dudman set to testify.

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