Survivor of Khmer Rouge’s January 1 Dam Tells of Death Taunts

A unit chief at the January 1 dam would threaten workers by asking, “do you want to die or live?” if they complained of illness and wanted to leave the worksite, a civil party told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday.

Un Ron, 62, who worked at the site in Kompong Thom province during the Pol Pot era, said workers would be threatened with “reeducation” or “refashioning” if they complained of being sick while at the dam.

“The unit chief would say ‘you want to die or live?’” Ms. Ron recounted. “If we fell sick we would be taken away and killed so we had to try very hard although we wanted to take rest.”

“After he made that threat, of course it was typical that when you were threatened then you had to force yourself to work, and those people who said they were sick, it was due to the lack of food and malnutrition,” she said.

Initially Ms. Ron said she understood the terms “reeducation” and “refashion” to mean a person would be killed but under questioning from Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea—who is on trial in the second phase of Case 002 alongside Khieu Samphan—admitted that she did not know anybody in her unit who was taken away for either of those purposes.

The civil party also told the court that Pol Pot visited the site accompanied by other high-ranking officials, however she was only made aware of his identity after he arrived.

“I saw four of them. My colleagues told me that one individual was Pol Pot. I did not know and recognize that individual or those people,” Ms. Ron said.

“They were wearing green clothes and one was walking in front of the other three and they were in vehicles. The individual which was described as Pol Pot, he was a bit fat and three guys were walking behind him, they were not big built,” she added.

Hearings continue Tuesday.

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