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Victims recall families’ demise

Nuon Narom appears on screen as she gives her testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh during Case 002/02 yesterday.
Nuon Narom appears on screen as she gives her testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh during Case 002/02 yesterday. ECCC

Victims recall families’ demise

Following one day’s adjournment due to a defence walkout last week, ECCC proceedings resumed yesterday with the hearing of two civil party’s testimony on harms suffered at the January 1 dam worksite , as well as the chamber’s response to the defence’s document presentation grievances.

Survivor Nuon Narom began the day’s testimony by describing how work was divided by gender. Men dug the soil while women like Narom carried it, with quotas to displace 2 cubic metres of dirt daily.

The work was so toilsome, Narom said, “the skin on my shoulders came off”.

Narom recalled workers fainting and collapsing, and when one female labourer in her unit requested rest, she was beaten.

“She was told that if she could not finish the work there would be no meal for her,” Narom continued.

As Narom recalled her experience, she broke into tears several times, first when she described the experience of nearly being “taken away”, and thinking “it was my time now”.

After completing her statement, judges gave her the chance to direct questions to co-accused Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – as per procedure – whom she pressed on the death of her family members and why so many people were accused of being “enemies”, tearfully imploring “what was the purpose of all that?”

Civil party Chao Lang took the stand in the afternoon, recounting how she was separated from her family, and weeping as she told the chamber of their eventual fate.

“My elder sister and her husband were chained to an ox cart, their 3-year-old child was also chained, and they dragged them across the forest,” Lang said, explaining they had been accused of being “White Khmers” for possessing salt.

Prior to adjournment, Lang spoke of her parents dying from exhaustion, her mother being denied the water used to rinse rice to quench her thirst.

“How cheap was her life that even when she begged for the waste-water she was not allowed?” Lang asked.

Just prior to Lang’s testimony, trial chamber president Nil Nonn delivered a response to the defence’s walkout over the prosecution’s use of “written records of interview” (WRIs), which Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe contended are not acceptable as documentary evidence as they cannot be challenged.

Nonn reiterated the court’s previous ruling on Koppe’s objection.

“While parties may be expected to rely more heavily upon contemporaneous documents rather than [WRIs] in the context of these hearings, the chamber has never excluded reference to [WRIs],” he said.

Nonn noted that “the absence of . . . opportunity for confrontation are relevant considerations in assessing what – if any – probative value and weight will be accorded to any [WRIs] and to civil party
applications”.

Regarding Koppe’s “disparaging statements” directed at judges on Thursday, the chamber will deliberate on an appropriate action, Nonn said, adding that “the chamber wishes first to offer Mr Koppe an opportunity to correct his behaviour”.

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