Witness Tells Court of Vietnamese Purges at Dam

Two witnesses who were stationed at the Trapeang Thma Dam worksite during the Pol Pot regime told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday of hearing about purges of Vietnamese people and those suspected of faking night blindness to avoid work.

Testifying for a second day, Kan Thorl, a former supervisor at the dam site in Banteay Meanchey province, said it was rumored that Vietnamese nationals were being targeted for executions.

Lat Suoy testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday. (ECCC)
Lat Suoy testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday. (ECCC)

“At that time, I heard about this,” Mr. Thorl said. “I heard other people say that any Vietnamese who were found would be sent away to be executed.”

“Everybody knew about it, even in the mobile unit,” he added.

Mr. Thorl said he once saw three bodies in a pit to the east of the dam site but claimed that he never witnessed anyone being killed.

Under questioning by Anta Guisse, a defense lawyer for Khieu Samphan—who is on trial in the second phase of Case 002 alongside Nuon Chea—Mr. Thorl declined to say whether he was ever ordered to physically harm his subordinates.

“In your instructions, were you told to impose bodily punishment on the workers under your command?” Ms. Guisse asked.

“I would like to refrain from answering this question,” the witness replied.

During the afternoon session, Lat Suoy, who was conscripted into the Khmer Rouge at the age of 15, recounted efforts to root out members of the former Lon Nol regime in Banteay Meanchey’s Preah Netr Preah district after the Khmer Republic fell.

“On 17 April, 1975 they came to all the villages and communes and then they screened those who had relatives who were the former Lon Nol soldiers. They would take them away and execute them,” Mr. Suoy said.

Echoing an anecdote told by Mr. Thorl in the morning, Mr. Suoy said cadre at the dam site designed a test to determine whether workers were faking night blindness to avoid working late shifts.

“They made a test. [Workers] were instructed to walk towards a pit and if they actually avoided the pit then they would be accused of pretending to have night blindness and they would be arrested,” Mr. Suoy said.

“If they actually fell into the pit, then they would be allowed to rest at night,” he said.

“If, after one or two occasions, they still repeated this imaginary sickness, then they would be taken away and killed.”

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