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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witnesses tell of Cham uprising, dam worksite

Witnesses tell of Cham uprising, dam worksite

Witnesses tell of Cham uprising, dam worksite

Cvil party No Sates finished her testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, telling the court of the aftermath of a crushed Cham rebellion in 1975.

Sates recounted the arrest of her father, who had participated in the 1975 rebellion in Svay Khleang, along with other Cham in the village.

“People in the village were accused of being White Khmers [royalists], American CIA agents,” she said, adding that those arrested “never returned”.

Seventeen and separated from her family, Sates was assigned to sort clothes left by the Cham that were taken away.

“As I was sorting through the clothes, I recognised the clothes from my relatives,” she said.

Later, Khieu Samphan defender Anita Guisse’s cross-examination culminated in an attempt to impeach Sates’ testimony. Guisse focused on contradictions between previous accounts given by Sates in 2000, 2008 and 2009, and her testimony of the past two days.

Pushed on why her recollection changed, Sates replied: “I am giving you answers when I can remember”.

Ultimately, Guisse relented, but not before objections from the prosecution and interjections from trial chamber president Nil Nonn asking Guisse to “take into account the civil party’s level of education” while formulating questions.

Sates concluded stating her suffering, saying “sometimes I wanted to kill myself”.

As she was “too overwhelmed” with grief, the civil party lawyers requested they read her questions to the accused on her behalf, which Nonn denied.

After Sates concluded, witness Sot Sophal began testifying on the Trapeang Thma dam worksite, saying he was 15 or 16 when he was assigned to work in a “special children’s unit” with “between two and three thousand children”.

Deprived of food and working from 3am to 11pm with only two breaks, Sophal witnessed workers fall unconscious and die.

“Some of them collapsed there and they tried to resuscitate the worker but to no avail,” he said.

Those failing to fulfil work quotas had their rations reduced, a third repeat offence meant being “tied with a rope to a wooden frame”.

Sophal knew a worker punished this way, saying: “This is how they warned him, if he didn’t change he would be killed,” which he later was.

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