When Beit Boeurn discovered she was newly pregnant in 1977, her Khmer Rouge superior ordered her to abort the baby.
Testifying as a witness at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, Boeurn, then a mid-level cadre with the Ministry of Commerce, said she was forced to have the abortion after her husband was arrested in a widespread purge.
“After my husband had been arrested, Comrade Ta told me that I had to get rid of my foetus; then they arranged a medic for that,” she said. “I was injected with some medicine. Then the foetus was destroyed.”
“I was told that Angkar required me to abort that foetus,” she said, referring to the Khmer Rouge’s omnipresent ruling apparatus, often said to have “as many eyes as a pineapple”.
Boeurn wiped her eyes with a tissue as she spoke about her husband’s disappearance. She said he was arrested because of his connection to Ta Hong, the deputy chief in charge of domestic and overseas commerce. “[Ta Hong] was implicated as a traitor and he was arrested at his office,” Boeurn said, adding that Hong’s wife, children and grandchildren were also rounded up.
Her husband had a premonition that he too would be “sent away”. “We never met each other again,” she said. Once chief of a production unit in the Commerce Ministry – where she oversaw the sorting of coffee beans and cotton at Phnom Penh’s Tuol Tompoung pagoda – Boeurn too was rounded up in the wake of her husband’s arrest.
She was taken to Kok Ksach pagoda on the outskirts of Phnom Penh to be “tempered”.
Boeurn’s account was the first testimony to be heard since a final appeal verdict – handed down last Wednesday – found former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity and upheld their sentences of life in prison.
That decision brought the first phase of the trial, known as Case 002/01, to a close, but the second phase, Case 002/02, which carries more charges, including genocide, continues.
Boeurn was yesterday quizzed on a handful of study sessions she attended, as part of a trial segment focused on determining the role of the accused in the alleged crimes.
She said she saw Pol Pot, his deputy Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – whom she described as a communist party member immediately below Nuon Chea’s rank – at these education sessions, where participants were instructed to “smash” the enemy.