KR Survivor Describes Brutal Prison Conditions

A survivor of the Pol Pot regime on Tuesday told the Khmer Rouge tribunal of being shackled to the floor of an overcrowded prison cell along with at least 70 others, including women and their children, many of whom appeared malnourished.

Than Thim called life during the regime “a state of being alive but of being dead at the same time.”

He said he was arrested in 1978 after his young daughter falsely confessed under torture that he was a lieutenant in Lon Nol’s army, and was then thrown into Ang Roka prison in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district. The district is the focus of the second phase of the trial of former regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who stand charged with crimes against humanity.

“I saw a hall on the ground with a wooden floor and a wooden wall. It was about [a] 5- by 10-meter hall…. I was pushed into the room. There was a bad smell in the room from the urine and from the [excrement] and I felt like I was going to die,” he said.

The civil party said that he was shackled to the floor and received only a small ladle of food per day. “They did not have good health,” he said of his fellow prisoners. “They looked very bony.”

Mr. Thim, who had been recalled by the tribunal to provide further testimony after first recounting his experiences at victim impact hearings earlier this month, told the court that he was beaten by several cadre who tried to force him to confess to his supposed military links.

He said the Khmer Rouge would trick former Lon Nol officials into exposing themselves by claiming that they would be reinstated. Instead, the officials would disappear.

Others fell victim after falsely claiming to be former army officers in the hopes of earning promotions.

“For those who did not have any ranks, because they heard they would receive a rank, these people said they were a soldier or a first or second lieutenant,” Mr. Thim said. “These people were taken away…. After the announcement, they disappeared.

After Mr. Thim, the court heard briefly from former Khmer Rouge member Pech Chim and will continue with his testimony Wednesday.

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