The widow of Ke Pauk, the former director of the north and central zones during the Pol Pot regime, appeared at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday and claimed the “livelihood was fine” for workers at the January 1 Dam worksite in Kompong Thom province.
Sou Soeun, 79, who was a member of Kompong Cham province’s Chamkar Loeu district committee during the regime, painted a far less brutal picture of life at the dam than recent witnesses and civil parties at the tribunal, who have detailed the hardships of forced labor.
“The sleeping quarters for workers at the site were proper and they had proper living conditions. Their sleeping conditions and eating conditions were proper,” Ms. Soeun said.
“Workers could have decent food and meals; their livelihood was fine, Angkar supported the workers,” she said, using a term for Khmer Rouge leadership. She said members of the units she observed at the worksite were served dry fish and dessert.
When asked by Judge Claudia Fenz why people would never refuse instructions to work at the dam, the witness said people were generally willing to take part in the project.
“We were told—instructed— that we had to work hard so that we could solve people’s problems and we were told we had to work hard to build the country. No one threatened us,” she said.
The witness repeatedly claimed to remember little from the Democratic Kampuchea period, including events explained in a statement from her husband Ke Pauk, who died in 2002 and was suspected of mass atrocities.
Quizzed on an interview her son gave to the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, in which he explained how he would massage “Grand Uncle Pol” and was taught by Khieu Ponnary, Pol Pot’s wife, Ms. Soeun said she lived alongside the regime’s leader before 1975.
“I met them when I was living in the forest. I met them sometimes and they were referred [to] as bong,” she said.
Ms. Soeun’s testimony continues Friday.
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