Witness Paints Softer Picture of Notorious Dam

A former Khmer Rouge soldier on Monday painted a far more favorable picture of life at the Trapaing Thma dam worksite than previous witnesses at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, claiming that couples who committed multiple “moral offenses” were not physically punished, but merely forced to marry.

Speaking about his time at the dam site in the regime’s Northwest Zone, the man—who testified anonymously because he is a witness in the ongoing cases 003 and 004—said penalties for breaking the regime’s strict codes were relatively lenient.

“Workers who violated the regulations or disciplines or who committed the moral misconduct, the person would be refashioned by their respective unit,” he said.

“They would be reminded once and twice, and after a maximum of three times, if the workers could not be re-educated, then they would be arranged to marry amongst themselves,” he added, prompting prosecutor Dale Lysak to respond.

“So, a couple that was having an affair contrary to the party rules: You’re saying that those people, if they couldn’t be re-educated, that people, if they were having affairs, would be married? Is that what you’re saying?” Mr. Lysak asked. The witness said yes.

The witness—who also denied being a deputy of Ta Val, the chief of the Northwest Zone’s Sector 5 and the much-feared head of the dam worksite—said workers who could not fulfill their quotas would be sent for treatment at a hospital, and that there was no physical abuse at the site.

Earlier in the day, however, he explained how malnourished workers at a nearby dam site in Preah Netr Preah district were removed during a 1976 visit by Norodom Sihanouk.

“I noticed that the ones that were welcoming the late king father were wearing black clothes from the east, and I have no idea where the skinny and the sick had been sent to, and they had been sent away from the national road,” he said.

The witness’ testimony continues today.

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