Duo describe site’s brutality

Duo describe site’s brutality

A survey technician and a former village chief tasked to work at the notorious “January 1” dam site in Kampong Thom province told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday about the appalling working conditions at the site, which drove people to exhaustion and near death.

Pech Sokha, who testified via video link, was specifically brought from Phnom Penh by the regime along with three others to work as a surveying technician. The dam was meant to provide “agricultural irrigation for the nearby rice fields”, he said, but the dam’s projected benefits were overshadowed by the excessive labour that workers had to endure at the site.

“The overall image was that it was a happy act, but in reality, everything was horrible,” Sokha said. “The food was insufficient and the manual labour was hard . . . but no one dared to complain.” Sokha worked on the dam from its inauguration in early 1977 until a few months into 1978.

He never witnessed anyone die from starvation during his time at the site, but said he saw two people from his surveying team disappear.

“They were summoned by Angkar with a handwritten letter that they showed me and never returned. I assumed they were dead, because I never saw them again,” Sokha said.

Former Prey Sra Ngae village chief Or Ho also continued answering questions from the defence. Ho, who said he was later removed from his post due to Angkar’s “lack of trust” in him, spoke about the experiences of the 100-person unit he helped supervise.
“We were not allowed to let the workers take a rest,” Ho said. “If he or she could not really work, we asked them to work slowly.”

Workers who were unable to work due to sicknesses were transported to mobile hospitals located at the worksite and to district hospitals if their conditions worsened.

Ho said he counted himself lucky for not befalling the same fate as other leaders sacked by the Khmer Rouge. “I have no idea why they lost trust in me,” he said. “From most of those who were removed by Angkar, very few survived. But I was not sent for re-education.”

Sokha will continue his testimony today.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,