While living under Pol Pot, writing in a secret diary was the only way to “let out the suffering and sorrow I felt inside,” regime survivor Oum Suphany told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday.
Ms. Suphany, a civil party in the second phase of the case against former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and regime second-in-command Nuon Chea, left Phnom Penh in early 1975 when the city was evacuated and went to her husband’s family home in Takeo province.
Soon, Ms. Suphany was forced to live in the Tram Kak cooperative, one of the regime’s “model districts.” She said she was forced to work on digging a pond and building roads, and did not dare fake illness to stay at home out of fear of her superiors.
“During the Democratic Kampuchea regime, we couldn’t go anywhere at our own will; we had to follow our team and our team chief,” Ms. Sophany said.
She told the courtroom that she also saw people bound together and being made to walk “to the south,” realizing only after the Khmer Rouge was toppled in 1979 that they were destined for the notorious Kraing Ta Chan prison.
“There were a lot of prisoners being arrested; having witnessed this event, I trembled with fear alone…. I was standing speechless,” said Ms. Suphany, who also told of the deaths of her older sister and two brothers-in-law under the Khmer Rouge.
Ms. Suphany, who in 1980 penned a book based on her experiences, was questioned by Victor Koppe, Nuon Chea’s international defense lawyer, over why her diary did not mention the dead bodies she claimed in her book to have seen on the roadside during her journey from Phnom Penh to Takeo.
“Sometimes I slept near dead bodies as well; there were so many dead bodies,” she said, explaining that the events were too tragic to write about at the time but remained fresh in her mind.
Mr. Koppe also grilled Ms. Suphany over an interview with a local newspaper in May 2013, in which she was quoted as saying that she had been subjected to forced marriage, when she told the tribunal she was in love with the man she married in 1975, who remains her husband.
Before an objection from the civil parties’ lawyers over Mr. Koppe’s line of questioning could be considered by the Trial Chamber, proceedings were adjourned. They will resume Monday.