In contrast to previous witnesses’ recollections of starvation and brutal murders, former work group leader Chhuy Huy’s testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday suggested different conditions at the notorious Trapeang Thma Dam worksite.
Judge Nil Nonn began the session by relaying that Huy’s memory was affected due to a recent illness. Nonn told counsels to keep questions “precise” and “short”.
Huy told the court that he commanded a company of 55 workers and that he had attended meetings with worksite overseer Ta Val to discuss work quotas and dam construction.
“As the chief, I monitored workers on a day to day basis – I had to always be on standby,” Huy said.
Responsible for checking that quotas were met, Huy said “if workers failed to meet the quota, I asked other people to help so they might complete the quota for the day”.
Huy insisted he treated his workers fairly and also stated that military personnel had no say over task allocation or division of labour, “it was under the direct responsibility of the respective unit chiefs”.
According to Huy, soldiers “never laid any blame on the workers” for exhaustion and would “chat” with workers.
When questioned about food availability, Huy said that rations were reduced only during shortages that occurred “every 20 to 25 days”.
He also spoke of an “economic unit” with “four members who were charged to look for fish and four others to prepare rice” to feed the entire company each day.
Regarding health conditions, Huy claimed that he and all the workers in his unit “were given mosquito nets”.
Huy fell ill once, and said that while he was accused of “imaginary illness”, he was transferred to the task of “weaving five or six soil-carrying baskets each day”.
Huy also spoke of moments of rest, in particular “assemblies” held every one to two years in which “there was cheering” and “we had to line the street to welcome the leaders”.
Huy was unable to elaborate further on this point.
When counsels quizzed Huy on previous testimony which he claimed to have witnessed a man being shot, Huy seemed to recant, stating he only “heard a gunshot and concluded someone was killed”.
Huy also recalled that all workers were forced to submit biographies.
In his own he stated he had been a monk, yet the Khmer Rouge had “no issue with it at all”.
Proceedings continue tomorrow with testimony from civil parties.