Supervisor Tells Tribunal of Fears at Dam Site

A former supervisor at the Trapeang Thma Dam worksite in Banteay Meanchey province told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday that he had feared for his life and explained how laborers were forced to work through the night as the dam neared completion.

Kan Thorl, who was made deputy of a platoon at the worksite, said he did not flee the site, despite the exhaustion and illness suffered by workers, because he was afraid of being killed.

“I didn’t have the courage to refuse that assignment,” he said. “I was afraid of them…. I was afraid of their regulations and their treatment against me,” Mr. Thorl said. “I was afraid I would be taken away and killed.”

The witness said work hours were initially from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., but that laborers were later forced to toil through the night as officials strived to finish the dam before Khmer New Year in 1977.

“When we were about to finish the project, we had to carry earth the whole day and 24 hours around the clock,” he said.

Mr. Thorl said that as many as five workers in his roughly 30-man platoon fell ill each day, which he blamed on unclean food and unfiltered drinking water at the site. Khmer Rouge medics were unqualified and ill-equipped, and “medicine” was usually limited to rabbit droppings, he said.

Asked about marriages at the site, Mr. Thorl recounted mass wedding ceremonies of 30 to 40 couples, but denied that the nuptials were forced.

“They knew each other in advance and they knew each other through their respective battalion chiefs,” he said.

“For example, a male worker would go tell their chief and the female worker would go and do the same, and they would agree to get married with one another. Then the marriage would be held for that couple.”

Hearings in the second phase of Case 002—in which Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea are on trial for crimes including genocide—continue Tuesday.

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