A former low-level work group leader at the Trapaeng Thma dam worksite told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday of his constant fear of having his past as a soldier for the Lon Nol regime discovered.
“From 1972 to 1975, I was a low-ranking soldier [for the Lon Nol regime]” said Tak Boy, who said he had “participated in the battlefield two or three times” against the Khmer Rouge before the Lon Nol regime’s collapse.
Boy returned to his village of Trapaeng Thma when the regime fell and joined a mobile work unit, which was later assigned to the dam.
“I felt fear, because I was a former Lon Nol soldier – if it was found out, I would be taken away and killed,” he said.
Boy was made chief of his work platoon, a subdivision of work units one step above squads, which were the smallest.
It was his duty to report how much work was accomplished each day to the chief of the company, who in turn reported to the chief of the battalion, Comrade Bo.
Bo advised Boy that “nobody in the unit should avoid work or they will disappear”. Later in the day, Boy described disappearances as sudden and with little warning.
“You do not know even if it is the worker beside you; one day he is gone,” he said.
Victims were often misled into thinking they were just being transferred to another unit, he added.
While Boy did not testify to witnessing executions directly, he stumbled across shallow graves and decomposing corpses on and near the dam worksite.
“I was going to relieve myself and I smelled the odour and saw a decomposed body was in the ground,” Boy said, describing a field near the site with many shallow graves.
He also claimed that “many corpses were buried at the base of the dam . . . We could smell it”.
Boy could deduce the presence of fresh graves because “the soil was soft and I could understand that there were bodies” when the surrounding soil was hard during the dry season.
Earlier in the day, Boy testified he had witnessed military trucks taking away “ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese” – the alleged victims in the genocide charges being heard in the current Case 002/02.
“Women and children had to pack their bags and go on trucks . . . I don’t know where they went”, he said.
Proceedings are scheduled to resume today.