A civil party at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday told of being buried up to her neck in dirt and tortured by soldiers as a child for attempting to find her parents and stealing a cassava.
Im Yen, who was born in 1968, said she attempted to flee her cooperative in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district in 1977 after being separated from her mother and father, but was caught by a local soldier and punished.
“I was separated from my parents from 1976, but I was allowed to visit my parents three times a month, and later on, my visit time was reduced to once a month only. As I was young, I missed my parents so miserably,” she said.
After having a number of requests to see her parents turned down, Ms. Yen tried to sneak away from her unit, but was caught, punished and threatened with death if she made another attempt.
“I was buried alive and nothing could compare to it. I was buried up to my neck; I could not move and could not do anything. I tried calling to my parents, but no one would answer my calls. It was the greatest pain I experienced,” she said.
Ms. Yen said her unit chief later tortured her after she was caught taking a cassava from an oxcart.
“When I was asked to climb up to the house, I was tied up and told that [it] was because I stole something. My legs were tied up and my hands were tied behind my back,” Ms. Yen said.
“I called the person ‘bong’ and asked for some water. I was deprived of food, I was so starved and hungry. I asked for food and water a few times…. The third time I asked, I was given the water,” she said, adding that the unit chief then beat her with a bamboo stick.
Ms. Yen—who was appearing in the first victim impact hearings in Case 002/02, where civil parties explain the suffering they went through during the Pol Pot era—said she was still reeling from the physical and psychological trauma of her experiences.
“Every time I recall [this], it is vividly living in front of my eyes as if I was living during the regime…. Healthwise, I am not that strong; during the regime I was too young and forced to overwork,” she said.
The civil party also directed a question to Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who are on trial for crimes including genocide, asking the former regime leaders why children were subjected to brutality.
“Why did you two inflict torture on children like myself? What were you thinking about when you did that?” she asked.
The two defendants—Khieu Samphan in the courtroom and Nuon Chea in his holding cell—did not answer, reserving their right to remain silent when posed questions by civil parties.