Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction site
|Democratic Kampuchea Zone|
|Democratic Kampuchea District|
|Democratic Kampuchea Sector|
|Current Day District|
|Current Day Province|
[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
383. Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site was located in Patlang Village, Kraing Leav Subdistrict, Rolea P’ier District, Kampong Chhnang Province. Applying the CPK’s system of identifying administrative boundaries, it was situated in District 20, Sector 31 in the West Zone (Zone 401). The airfield is still present and covers 300 hectares. It is composed of two 2400 metre-long runways, a control tower and an administration block. The site was in total seven kilometres long and included the house of the site supervisor and the site kitchen (both of which were two kilometres southwest of the runway), as well as a tunnel which was under construction in the adjacent hill.
384. The need to build a new military airfield was discussed by the CPK Standing Committee at meetings in late and early 1976; the choice of Kampong Chhnang became official during the meeting of 19-21 April 1976. Witnesses place early 1976 as the starting point of construction.1661 Standing Committee minutes of a meeting show that, in any case, construction was already underway by May 1976. The site was still under construction in January 1979 and was never completed.
Structure and Personnel
385. The CPK Standing Committee took the decision to build an airport at Kampong Chhnang. The minutes of this meeting show that Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary were in attendance at this meeting. In May 1976, Son Sen, the Chairman of the General Staff reported at another CPK Standing Committee meeting, attended by Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, on the progress of construction.
386. The construction of the Kampong Chhnang Airport was under the control of Centre Division 502. This Division was created shortly after 17 April 1975, merging personnel from pre¬existing units. Like the other Centre Divisions, it reported directly to the General Staff and its Chairman Son Sen. Division 502 was notably in charge of the RAK air force and responsible for all airports in Cambodia. The Secretary of the Committee of Division 502 was [REDACTED] who visited Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site on a regular basis. Despite his denial in an interview, it appears that [REDACTED] was a leading cadre within Division 502. Witnesses have identified Lvey (deceased) as [REDACTED]’s Deputy for at least part of the time that Kampong Chhnang Airport was under construction. He was in charge of the direct supervision of Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site. Lvey held meetings about construction of Kampong Chhnang Airport every day and gave orders to his assistants and would visit the site daily. Furthermore, criticism/self¬criticism meetings were held for cadres. Regular meetings between the Chief of the General Staff Secretary and the senior cadres from the Centre Divisions and Independent Regiments were attended by the Secretary of the Committee of Division 502. During these meetings the cadres reported to Son Sen on various topics including the internal and external enemy situation and sought instructions for implementation at the Division level.
387. Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site functioned as one of the means of implementation of the purge process of RAK members as it was used as a tempering site for RAK members considered as “bad elements” from Division 502 itself or from other divisions or military units. It appears from these minutes of meetings and from letters and reports exchanged between Division 502 and S-21 that Division 502 actively participated in the purge of the RAK members. For example, at one of these military meetings on 9 October 1976, the Secretary of the Committee of Division 502 stated “it can be stipulated that the enemies have been basically eliminated, but it is imperative to take further measures to prevent this from happening a second, a third and a fourth and so on again time. The enemy will not be able to do anything to us so long as our military is politically hard and clean. It is imperative to strengthen the party politically, ideologically and organisationally. It is imperative to dare absolutely to conduct purges”. At another meeting in March 1977 he stated “it’s obvious that number of elements whom we had previously arrested really are enemy elements. More than 50 no-goods have been sent to S-21.There can only be reliability if five more platoon secretaries are removed”.
388. Several witnesses attest to the Charged Persons visiting Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site. One former cadre explains that in early 1977 Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary visited Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site and that they met with the leadership of Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site. One former worker states that he saw Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Ke Pork visiting the site, watching the workers and meeting with the leadership of Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site on several occasions between 1978 and the end of the DK period. Another worker saw Khieu Samphan visiting the worksite in late 1977. Similarly, a fourth witness explained that he saw Khieu Samphan coming to Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site by helicopter in late 1977 to observe the labourers’ work. Khieu Samphan’s driver from 1978 until the end of the regime states that Khieu Samphan never went to Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site during that period. Several witnesses also mention the presence of Ta Mok on several occasions at the site.
Living and Working Conditions
389. The number of workers at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site varied over time from a few hundred in early 1976 to more than 10,000 workers by 1977. It was a military construction site and almost all the workers, men and women, had been RAK members. 14 former workers at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site were heard as witnesses. Their testimony reveals that workers were sent to Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site for tempering or refashioning because of their perceived bad biographies or supposed links with traitorous networks. In addition to the “bad elements” from Division 502 itself most of the workers at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site were sent there because they were considered to be associated with the cadre of RAK units who had been arrested and sent to S-21, including from Centre Division 170 (a former East Zone unit), Centre Division 310, Centre Division 450 (former North Zone units5 and Centre Division 703, a former Special Zone unit. From 1978 most of the soldiers sent to Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site were sent because their leaders came from or were associated with the East Zone. They generally arrived by trucks in groups from the same military unit. However, there were also soldiers from the Southwest Zone and the West Zone. Furthermore, according to a witness working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (B¬1) at the time, some workers were also sent from B-1 to Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site. Finally, some workers or employees were first tempered at other locations, including Prey Sar (S-24), before working at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site.
390. The living and working conditions varied depending on how much of a “traitor” the worker was perceived to be. Several witnesses explain that work took place from 7am to 5pm, with a break from 11am to 1pm. Other workers would work night shifts only, whilst those workers perceived to be the biggest traitors would be made to work day and night. People worked seven days a week.
391. For the construction of the runway, workers had to cut trees, pull out the tree stumps and collect all the plant roots to prepare the ground, as well as dig, bulldoze, break rocks, compress and compact the earth, carry and mix cement and sand, fill the tarmac with concrete and level the ground surface. Other soldiers were working on the hill alongside the runway either in a quarry or drilling a tunnel. Several witnesses state that workers were regularly injured or killed by rocks. One witness saw the death of a person who was hit by fragments projected by a rock explosion. Although the vast majority of the work was done by hand, there was some Chinese machinery on the site. Numerous Chinese technicians provided technical assistance at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site throughout the period of construction. Workers were under strict guard control.
392. For some groups of workers, the food rations were insufficient. Cadres and other workers, notably those working with the Chinese experts, had better food rations. Ill workers were transported to Kampong Chhnang hospital by ambulance. Witnesses explain that a number of workers died from starvation, illness, overwork and exhaustion. A cadre also explained that the suicide of workers occurred on a weekly basis. One cadre states that the corpses of those who died at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site were buried in the forest near Steung Pagoda.
393. Witnesses observed the disappearance of numerous workers at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site. They noted a correlation between the daily criticism/self-criticism meetings and the disappearances. During those meetings workers were criticised for being sick or lazy, for work mistakes, for minor offences such as stealing tobacco or for having alleged connections with the Vietnamese. Several witnesses saw trucks transporting workers outside of the airport who never came back. Many witnesses said they could not be sure about the real fate of the disappeared persons as they did not see the execution.
394. A worker states that he saw people arrested when he visited Lvey’s office, specifying that Lvey was always present when people would be arrested.
395. Several witnesses understood that the prisoners who had disappeared had been killed; they indicate that it was mainly workers from or associated with the East Zone. One witness heard that people were taken to be killed west of the airport. Another states that he saw dead bodies in pits at Piem Lok Mountain, approximately five kilometres from the airport; he presumed that those bodies were those of workers from Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site but he could not state so definitively. One former cadre from identified a pit containing workers who had been executed in 1977; he had seen trucks carrying people stop at this pit site. A short while after the truck stopped he heard screams from the location and, seven days later, he smelled the odour of decomposing corpses. However, there are no human remains currently visible at the surface at this site. None of the witnesses personally observed the execution of workers from Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site. There is no evidence of any executions taking place at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site itself.
396. It appears that some of the workers were sent from Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site to Phnom Penh. Some witnesses understood that workers taken into the trucks would potentially be sent to Phnom Penh, Prey Sar (S-24) or S-21. One witness states that he saw 30 workers from the East Zone tied up and transported by truck along National Road 5. A former guard at S-21 explains that he believed he was sent to S-24 to be refashioned because his brother, [REDACTED], who used to be at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site, was arrested and sent to S-21 in late 1978. Other witnesses corroborate that some workers
from Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site were sent to S-21, as were some Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site cadres. It appears that Yim Sam Ol alias Nha, mentioned as one of the people who disappeared from Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site, was sent to S-21 in late 1978. Duch also explained during his trial that his brother in law, a cadre at Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site, was transferred to S-21. Notwithstanding the above evidence, some witnesses state that to their knowledge there were no disappearances, arrests or killings of workers.
397. Numerous workers (including a number of witnesses) were subsequently reintegrated into RAK and sent to fight in the conflict between Democratic Kampuchea and Vietnam.
398. The construction of Kampong Chhnang Airport Construction Site was still ongoing when the Vietnamese reached Kampong Chhnang Province in early 1979. At that point work ceased and workers were moved from the area. The majority of workers went 20 kilometres south to the Romeas train station in Teuk Phos District (District 14). Workers were told they were to be armed to fight the Vietnamese. However, soldiers from the East Zone were separated from the rest and executed at Mongol Khan Pagoda in Tuol Kpos Village and at the former French fort in Kbal Lan Village (Aphivoat Subdistrict, Teuk Phos District). These mass killings of East Zone soldiers occurred after 6 January 1979.