During the Khmer Rouge regime, Kong Uth would watch as oxcarts and vehicles intermittently arrived at Wat Baray Chaon Dek pagoda and unloaded large groups of passengers.
Everything would be silent after that, she told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.
When the communist regime outlawed rituals of worship, the Buddhist temple was reappropriated and used as a workshop, a prison and an execution centre.
Though Uth said she could not remember the exact years her daughters were born, she remembers the smell that emanated from the gates of the pagoda.
Uth, a civil party who has lived in a village in Kampong Thom’s Baray district all her life, said she can still see the low gate of the pagoda from her home.
After the regime fell, she looked over the wall and watched as skeletons were excavated from several pits.
The skulls were collected as evidence, and some were preserved inside a stupa with blue doors.
Uth told the court she never learned where the prisoners came from.
“I never saw workers arrested,” she said, referring to the people she laboured alongside at the “January 1” dam worksite. Instead, she remembered disappearances.
A Cham Muslim woman named Yan was “called and taken away”, along with a boy of 14 or 15, called Try. “I did not know exactly what happened to him”.
In May, however, witness Meas Lay Hou recalled seeing a boy named Try imprisoned in a wooden cage in the forest near the worksite; no one saw him return.
Uth was also a victim of forced marriage under the Democratic Kampuchea regime, one of the crimes for which defendants Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea are being tried in the current Case 002/02.
“I did not want to get married, but they came to call me a few times and I had to go,” she told the court.
“People in my village did not take the courage to refuse the marriage.”
Looking down and drying her eyes, she added: “I remained married to him.”
The tribunal will take a recess and will resume on July 27.