At Tribunal, Farmer Recalls Disappearances

A rice farmer from Takeo province on Wednesday described to the Khmer Rouge tribunal how his elder brother—a former Lon Nol soldier—disappeared after being taken away for “re-education,” a common method of eliminating perceived threats to the regime.

Sao Hean, 67, a witness in the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, told the tribunal that he believed his brother was taken to the notorious Kraing Ta Chan prison and killed, but admitted during questioning by a defense lawyer that he had no proof of this.

Describing a life that typified that of many under Pol Pot’s reign between 1975 and 1979, Mr. Hean spoke of the abolition of private ownership in 1976 and how he and others in the Tram Kak district model cooperative were forced to work long hours in the rice fields—to meet “the quotas set by Angkar”—while surviving on meager rations that left many weak and ill.

“No one dared to complain [about] anything, we just complained by ourselves among one or two people and if it was overheard by the Khmer Rouge, the person would be disappeared,” he said.

Mr. Hean—who despite growing up in the district was not considered to be among the “base people” or “full rights” group, but was instead classified in the category of “candidate” due to having relatives who worked for the Lon Nol administration—said that those who complained, or even broke something as small as a spoon, were designated “enemies” by the unit chief.

Proceedings were adjourned early Wednesday so that the Trial Chamber could consider a request for “protective measures” for the next witness. A decision is due when hearings resume on Thursday.

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