Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Crude movie reels of January 1 dam shows bleakness of project

Crude movie reels of January 1 dam shows bleakness of project

Crude movie reels of January 1 dam shows bleakness of project

A crudely edited black and white film captured during the Democratic Kampuchea regime was entered into the body of evidence at the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday, as the tribunal continued to hear testimony surrounding the “1st January dam” worksite.

The image shows rows of black-clad workers shovelling dirt in unison and people running at a tilt across the sloping landscape in criss-cross lines, earth suspended from their shoulders in baskets.

Witness Meas Lay Hou told the court she recognised the January 1 dam in the footage by the depth of the main spillway she helped construct 40 years ago. Workers were instructed to run when dignitaries arrived – from China and Laos – to show they were “proactive”, she added.

“I seem to not recall the purpose for building the dam,” she said yesterday. “I actually do not know where it started or where it ended.”

Questioned on arranged marriages, she said she married her husband alongside 25 other couples – most arranged by Angkar, another term for the Khmer Rouge authority.

She explained to the court that militia would keep watch over newlyweds for the first few days of their union, to ensure celebratory religious rituals were not performed and that the unions were consummated.

Lay Hou also said that child labour was present at the worksite. “Now, children and young adults do not have to work,” she said, “But then they had to work”.

This was confirmed by Hun Sothany, 60, who took the stand in the afternoon, and told the court that many workers in the mobile units at the dam were between the ages of 13 and 19.

She explained how “base people” and “new people”, who were typically better educated, and could not “live and mingle together”. As a result of this policy, her father, a former teacher, was separated from the family.

“New people” were also not allowed to be unit chiefs or to attend the dam’s inauguration, she said. “In relation to choice, we did not have any choice to make,” she said.

A counsellor from the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation sat beside both witnesses throughout the day.

The tribunal continues today.

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