Ex-Cadre Tells of Feeling ‘Like a Dead Person’

A member of a disabled unit during the Pol Pot regime told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday how he “felt like a dead person” while at the Kompong Chhnang airport site and explained how perceived enemies at a separate location were thrown into bags and driven away in trucks destined for Tuol Sleng and Prey Sar prisons.

Keo Leour, who was installed as chairman of a disabled unit of 600 members called K4 in 1976 after wounding his leg in battle before the communists’ overthrow of the Khmer Republic, was transferred to the airport site in January 1978 and said many workers perished there due to overwork. 

“I felt like I was like a dead person, that I had already died, and I never thought I would survive—I thought I would die from overwork or exhaustion,” Mr. Leour said.

“I lost contact with my parents for several years at that stage and I was thinking of them and sometimes I wept while I was about to sleep. I was hopeless…because of the working conditions on site,” he added.

The witness, who joined the revolution in 1970, said he was sent for “tempering” at the Khmuonh Kab Srauv site in 1976 due to his membership of the North Zone, which had fallen out of favor with the regime’s upper echelons, before being relocated to Kompong Chhnang.

Despite the difficult conditions at the airport site, Mr. Leour said purges at Khmuonh Kab Srauv—which was described only as a rice field north of Phnom Penh’s Po­chentong Airport—were far more common, with four to 10 people arrested daily.

“People were arrested, these people were called to a meeting and they were asked to queue and the individuals names was called and he or she was tied up, kicked into a bag and uploaded into a truck,” said Mr. Leour.

He said the trucks were labeled with the names of Prey Sar and Tuol Sleng prisons, the latter of which more than 12,000 people are thought to have been killed during Democratic Kampuchea.

Upon being relocated to the Kompong Chnnang site in 1978, Mr. Leour said his disability and a lack of sufficient food made life at the site particularly arduous, but he dared not complain for fear of being labeled an “enemy.”

“In such a situation if we were to complain we would be accused of being a spoiled person and of being an enemy against Angkar, so we had to keep our mouth shut, bite our lip and just focus on working,” he said.

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