A former female cadre and wife of a leading Khmer Rouge military commander confirmed to the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday that defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan had direct knowledge of the goings-on at the notorious “January 1” dam site.
Witness Sou Soeun, 79, was married to now-deceased central zone chief Ke Pork, a member of the Khmer Rouge central committee and the main supervisor at the dam site.
Although she wasn’t privy to much of her husband’s work since she “was a woman”, Soeun said Pork reported activities in his zone to the two senior leaders.
“I only knew that Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were his superiors,” she said, adding that she especially “got to know” Chea when she worked as a cook in the capital around 1969.
After the fall of Phnon Penh in April 1975, Soeun was assigned to become a committee member of a district in Kampong Thom, near the January 1 dam site.
“I met Nuon Chea there. [He] was in charge of education and propaganda. He instructed the cooperatives, and he also . . . discussed the care of the people as well,” she said.
During her time as a district committee member, Soeun was in charge of female dam workers. She would visit the site for at least one day every two to three months, and yesterday defended conditions there.
“The workers in the January 1 dam site only had their personal strength, axes, hoes and earth-carrying baskets to do the work. But they had sufficient food,” Soeun said. “Sometimes sanitation is an issue, but you could imagine when there are thousands of workers, people relieved themselves in the open.”
According to her, the approximately 40,000 workers in the site were well cared for and rotated every three months when they “began to get tired”.
Soeun will continue her testimony today.
Meanwhile, the tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber has scheduled the first hearings for the Case 002/01 appeals.
The appeals relate to the trial chamber’s August 2014 judgment that found Chea and Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity.
The court is scheduled to hear testimonies from three witnesses between July 2 and 7.