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Ex-cadre tells of dam purges

Lat Suoy gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Lat Suoy gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Ex-cadre tells of dam purges

A former Khmer Rouge soldier and Trapeang Thma Dam guard between 1976 to 1977, Lat Suoy began his testimony by recounting the day the Khmer Rouge entered his village near the dam, on April 17, 1975.

“They came and screamed for all the relatives of Lon Nol soldiers, to take them away and execute them,” he said.

“They arrested my village chief Nea Rim and his wife and they were executed”, he added.

The recollection prompted an objection from the defence, who maintained that the alleged purges did not figure into the scope of the current Case 002/02.

However, the objection was ultimately overruled on the grounds that the purges established the existence of Khmer Rouge policy implemented nationally.

Suoy himself feared his relatives might be targeted as intellectuals by initial purges as “they had studied to grade one or two”.

Drafted into the ranks of the regime at age 15, Suoy said he did not know what the army was.

Taken into the jungle and separated from his parents, he “cried often”.

Speaking of his time at the Trapeang Thma Dam, Suoy testified that Ta Val commanded all mobile work units in sector five.

The witness claimed he knew Ta Val well, saying, “Ta Val was a very firm person”, and that “every time Ta Val came by, everyone feared him and tried to work harder”.

According to Suoy, subordinates carried out arrests at the worksite but the orders for executions came from Ta Val.

Suoy then described sanitary conditions, how workers had swollen bodies and would be poisoned from resorting to eating plants and mushrooms.

“Some had knees bigger than their heads.”

At the end of the session, Suoy confirmed the purge of Northwest Zone cadres by Southwest Zone cadres in 1977, in which he himself eventually became a target.

“Southwest Zone cadres came to arrest Northwest Zone cadres,” Suoy continued, naming Ta Val among the victims of the purge.

Once his superior was arrested, Suoy was next, but he evaded capture.

“I fled to my house and the Southwest cadres arrested me . . . I used Khmer traditional martial arts to knock down the security guard and fled”.

The day’s session ended with Suoy explaining how the purge continued,

“They accused my village of being traitors. They intended to arrest all of us.

We had to take refuge in the jungle”.

In the morning, witness Kan Thorl concluded his testimony, saying he had heard secondhand accounts that any Vietnamese people found were to be executed, an element of the genocide charges in Case 002/02.

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