1st January Dam Worksite

Posted Mon, 04/07/2014 - 14:33 / Updated Tue, 02/03/2015 - 15:51
Democratic Kampuchea Zone
Democratic Kampuchea District
Democratic Kampuchea Sector
Current Day District
Current Day Province
Alleged Crimes

From the Case 002 Closing Order:

[Disclaimer: The content in Closing Orders are allegations, which need to be proven through adversarial hearings. As such, the allegations below can not be treated as facts unless they have been established through a final judgment,]

Location and Establishment
351. The 1st January Dam worksite was established to construct an irrigation system. The dam was built in order to form a reservoir blocking the river Stoeung Chinit, covering areas in Baray District and Santuk Districts of the current Kampong Thom Province, which according to the CPK system of identifying administrative boundaries were in Sectors 42 and 43 of the North Zone, subsequently redesignated Central (Old North) Zone, most likely whilst the dam was under construction. 

352. A series of canals were dug to irrigate the rice fields. The main artery was 20 metres wide leading to smaller canals of two to three metres wide. The 1st January Dam was linked by the main artery to a second dam known as the “6th January Dam”. The construction of the 1st January Dam started in late 1976 or early 1977 and was completed by the time the construction of the 6th January Dam started in early 1978.


Structure and Personnel
353. The construction of the 1st January Dam was under the responsibility of the Central (Old North) Zone Committee, the Secretary of which was Ke Pork, also a member of the CPK Central Committee. As a result, communication between the Zone and the Centre went through Ke Pork. Duch states that Ke Pork would go to Phnom Penh to attend the annual meeting of the heads of the Zones or when summoned by Pol Pot. A number of witnesses mention the importance of communicating by telegram.

354. The overall plan for the 1st January Dam was given by the Zone Secretary Ke Pork to the Zone Public Works Office, which was initially headed by Sao. Sao was assisted by a group of technicians that included [REDACTED] and Pech Sokha. Both [REDACTED] and  Pech Sokha had previously studied irrigation and hydroelectricity in Phnom Penh at Russei Keo School in Phnom Penh. [REDACTED] became the Zone Public Work Office Chairman further to Sao’s disappearance. [REDACTED] said he reported to Ke Pork, or to his forces when they would come to check the worksite. Some witnesses observed that these visits would happen regularly. Oeun, a senior cadre significantly involved in the construction, was eventually appointed Secretary of Sector 42, where the worksite was located.

355. The construction of the 1st January Dam and its supervision involved all levels of the Party hierarchy. Each level was assigned specific responsibilities and occupied a place in the formal chain of command from the unit chiefs to the subdistrict, district, and sector cadres up to the zone. Between one to two times a year a Zone Meeting was held, presided by Ke Pork and attended by subdistrict, district and sector committee members where work results were reported.

356. The composition of the Central (Old North) Zone sectors, districts and other committees changed overtime as some of their members were arrested and disappeared during the construction of 1st January Dam. The Secretaries of Sectors 41, 42 and 43 and some of their replacing cadres disappeared. Some were sent to S-21. The committees of the three sectors – 41, 42 and 43 – were in charge of gathering work forces from all districts to participate in the construction of the 1st January Dam. Sectors communicated to districts through meetings and reports. It was the same for districts and subdistricts, to whom they distributed work and gave orders as to the implementation of the plans. Workers were divided into units under the authority of a chief appointed by Subdistrict cadre and village chiefs. Meetings were the occasion to control whether quotas where met, whether orders were respected and people had to confess wrongdoings. “Lower echelon” had to report to the “upper echelon” about issues such as shortages of food or medicine, or construction and security matters. One former village Chairman explained that when work was not progressing according to plan members of the “lower level” were accused of treason, sometimes by their team leaders, and killed. Other witnesses report that unit chiefs and team leaders were involved in the decision making process leading to some of the workers being taken away or otherwise punished. Certain members of the local militia were seen carrying clubs, hoes, guns or knives and were known to perform killings. Some witnesses indicate that security people and some local cadres were from the Southwest Zone.

357. Pol Pot visited the 1st January Dam worksite at least once on its inauguration together with foreign visitors. Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, Ta Mok and Son Sen were also seen at the 1st January Dam worksite. Nuon Chea also went to the worksite and “encouraged people to try hard to preserve water for planting rice”. Ieng Thirith visited the 1st January Dam along with a Laotian delegation in April 1977. According to one witness, on that occasion, those who were to greet Ieng Thirith were given enough food and smart clothes and she was made aware of the shortages of medicine while visiting a hospital.

Working and Living Conditions 
358. According to most of the former workers and former local cadres, tens of thousands of people participated in the construction of the 1st January Dam. They were generally sent from the surrounding districts and sectors 41, 42 and 43. Workers were mostly young and middle aged men and women. Some of the workers were “new people” (some had been moved from Phnom Penh), Cham, or according to at least one witness, Vietnamese and Chinese.

359. People could not speak or move freely. Whistles or loud speakers  were used to gather the workers, who worked according to set times without rest or with strictly controlled periods of rest. Most teams worked night shifts. There was a fixed quota of soil to dig and carry per day and those who could not meet the quota were punished. Witnesses give account of the daily quota being between one to three cubic metres of earth per day. One former village Chairman explained he sometimes lied to the upper echelon and reported that his team had met its quota. Most of the hard labour was performed by hand but machines were also used. In most cases, food was insufficient. Men and women lived separately, in shacks or basic shelters. No mosquito nets, blankets or mats were provided and most workers slept on the ground.

360. Workers were treated differently depending on their unit and/or on whether they were “new people” or Cham. Cham and Buddhists were not allowed to practice their religion. Working times, quotas and discipline varied from teams to teams. Whilst two witnesses assert that food was sufficient another states that “new people” had less food than others. Other witnesses indicate that “base people” and CPK cadre had better clothing and better housing. Certain positions such as cooks, team chiefs or communication operatives were not accessible to “new people,” or to Cham or Sino Khmer. This and the unhygienic conditions resulted in many people becoming sick with various diseases. Medical care was not adequate; most hospitals were a long distance away, medics were not properly trained and not always stationed at the worksite. Medicine was insufficient and ineffective; traditional medicine such as “Ach Tunsay”, a tablet that resembled rabbit droppings, or liquid medicine was used.

361. Village chiefs or “Angkar” arranged the marriage of workers or of cadres such as [REDACTED] in 1976. Witnesses report that they were married in a ceremony with many other couples and one former village chief states “I arranged marriages for them. Sometimes 30 to 40 couples at the same time”. Most witnesses report that people were not free to marry whom they wanted and that people did not dare to reject the arranged marriage and protest for fear of being sent for refashioning. Although one former cadre explains that "if one of the two sides did not agree, a marriage would not be arranged, and they would leave the two persons aside” she adds “some couples did not get along after the marriage but both the man and the girl dared not complain”.

362. The 1st January Dam worksite was closely monitored. Supervisors walked around to inspect whether the quotas were being met and whether work was going according to plan. Construction was supervised at all levels, by unit chiefs, chief of group, subdistrict, district, and sometimes even by sector or zone cadre. They also had security personnel monitor the worksite and some witnesses report that spies infiltrated their teams. Any “mistakes” or “misconduct” had to be raised in the criticism/self-criticism meetings held in the evenings. Reeducation also applied to people who did not follow instructions. Some people were beaten or seriously mistreated. Everyone, workers and cadres, lived in a constant state of fear of being arrested and taken away to be killed.

363. Some people committed suicide, others died from diseases, starvation, and/or overwork. Accidents such as collapsing stones or soil killed others. However, one witness asserts that at least in his unit, no one died from starvation or overwork.

364. As Zone Secretary, Ke Pork was delegated the authority to make decisions with regard to executions in his Zone, and seems to have exercised such authority arbitrarily, at least as regards ordinary people, since it appears that he had to consult with higher Party authorities for the purges and killings of Party members and other cadre. Two witnesses report that measures were taken against people who had committed “moral offences” (although they were not necessarily killed).

365. People knew they would be arrested if they did anything wrong or did not follow orders, such as “stealing” potatoes, not meeting work quotas, being sick, “lazy” or complaining.

366. Most witnesses knew people who disappeared from the 1st January Dam worksite or heard of disappearances. Disappearances happened mainly at night. Workers would be called to attend meetings or to study, or were tied up and taken away into trucks or oxcarts, in effect disappearing. The reasons for the disappearances were not always known and people did not dare to ask since they were afraid of exposing themselves. Loudspeakers were played during the killings, in an attempt to cover the screams of the victims and thus to conceal the fate of persons disappeared. Many of the people who disappeared had perceived links to the former Khmer Republic regime, were Vietnamese or were people accused of having Vietnamese tendencies, being “new people”, or being Cham. “Base people” were also amongst those who disappeared.

367. Some witnesses saw the arrests, others heard of people being killed or sent to Security Centres. One witness saw one person being killed. The nearby Wat Baray Choan Dek Pagoda was known as a place where people were taken to be killed, but people were also killed in other locations.