Tram Kok Cooperatives
|Democratic Kampuchea Zone|
|Democratic Kampuchea District|
|Democratic Kampuchea Sector|
|Current Day District|
|Current Day Province|
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 the have been established through a final judgment.]
Location and Establishment
302. The eight subdistricts of Kus, Samrong, Trapeang Thom Tboung, Trapeang Thom Cheung, Tram Kok, Nheng Nhang, Sre Ronong and Ta Phem were part of Tram Kok District, Takeo Province. Applying the CPK’s system of identifying administrative boundaries, they were located in District 105, Sector 13, Southwest Zone.
303. Not long after 1970, the CPK progressively organised those who were responsible for agricultural production in areas it controlled into small group cooperatives, which were later expanded into village cooperatives and ultimately subdistrict level cooperatives. In a cooperative, private property, such as rice paddy fields, was placed under the collective ownership of the State. The process of collectivisation occurred incrementally. For example, a witness who lived in Samrong subdistrict recalls that in 1975 the CPK started collecting private property and instituted communal eating. But it was not until 1976 that people were divided into different working units. In any event, it appears that by April 1977 all the subdistricts in Tram Kok District had been organised into cooperatives and appear to have remained in this state until the end of the CPK regime.
Structure and Personnel
304. Prior to 1975, the subdistricts of Tram Kok District were for the most part populated by local villagers. However, after the movement of the population from Phnom Penh, many former city residents were settled in Tram Kok District. Former Tram Kok District Chairman, [REDACTED], remembers being instructed by the Sector to prepare to receive the influx of people. He recalls sending approximately 3,500 to 4,000 families to the villages and subdistricts where they were organised into local cooperatives. As time went on, those people who settled in Tram Kok were occasionally moved en masse from area to area within the District.
305. The precise organization of the population in each cooperative depended on its leadership. However, in accordance with CPK policy nationwide, members were officially divided into three categories: full-rights, candidate and depositee members. These categories determined the degree of their involvement in the functioning of the cooperatives. The depositee category seems to have been broadly synonymous with the people moved from Phnom Penh and other locations which were under Khmer Republic administration up until 17 April 1975. This group was widely known as “new people” or “17 April people”. “New people” lacked political rights and could not be unit chiefs within the cooperatives. Cooperative members known as “base people” could hold either full-rights or candidate status. The candidate category was for those with alleged family or other connections or links to the enemy. In mid-1978, this three-fold categorization was proclaimed abolished. However, this abolition may have been mere pretence.
306. Several witnesses recall that in their cooperatives full-rights, candidate and depositee people were separated into different labour units designated one, two and three, respectively. In which unit people were placed depended on what facts they revealed about themselves in their biographies. The depositee unit was controlled by members of the full-rights and candidate units pursuant to the original policy that “new people” were not permitted to be unit chiefs. In the Nheng Nhang Subdistrict, these three groups lived and worked apart until 1978, at which time they were integrated. This may have been in accordance with the CPK’s nationwide abolition of the three categories. Each unit had several sub-units such as a carpenter unit, canal digging unit and cart unit. The head of each unit was a chairman who reported to the secretary of the subdistrict committee. In turn, the subdistrict committee reported to and received its orders from the district committee. Usually, messengers carried communications between the different levels, including invitations to meetings.
307. Every two weeks subdistrict committees met to discuss the “work plan”. These meetings were led by District Committee cadre. Following these meetings, the subdistrict chief would verbally disseminate the work plan to the cooperative members and urged them to strive towards three to four tons of rice, per hectare, per year. One former cooperative member recalls attending small unit meetings three times a month. At these meetings members criticised each other and admitted what they had done wrong.
308. The subdistrict made regular verbal and written reports to the district regarding the implementation of the work plan. Similarly, the district made monthly reports about the implementation of the work plan to the sector. This vertical chain of reporting on the implementation of the work plan at the bases extended all the way up to the Party Centre. Further, at least two witnesses recall the Zone Secretary, Ta Mok, visiting their cooperatives.
309. A former member of the Sre Ronong subdistrict Committee recalls attending a meeting in 1977 or 1978 at which he was given instructions on “the purges of enemies within and outside the ranks, who had tendency for the Lon Nol people and as for the people in the party rank if they did not have good tendency, they were also purged…The enemies in the rank included cadres; as for the enemies outside the rank, they were ordinary civilians”. He also recalls reading copies of the magazine Revolutionary Flag which were distributed by the district to certain people in the subdistrict. The Number 6, June 1977 edition of this magazine contained a letter from the Central Committee to various districts, including Tram Kok, awarding them the Red Flag Award for “achieving the tasks of defending the country and continuing and building socialist revolution with the speed of the great leap forwards in consecutive years”. In this letter, the Central Committee sets out a comprehensive and detailed work plan for the latter half of 1977 and includes instructions on defending the country, building socialism and achieving three to six tons of rice per hectare, per year.
Working and Living Conditions
310. Cooperative members were not free to travel without permission. One witness states that he was only allowed to meet his family every ten days. Another witness states that he was permitted to see his family once every 20 days. Children who worked in the Pen Meas cooperative, Samrong subdistrict, were rarely permitted to see their parents and siblings. People were unable to speak freely to each other. Further, CPK cadre sometimes moved base people and new people out of their houses to live in different areas within the same district.
311. Witnesses performed a variety of labour depending on the sub-units in which they were placed. Working hours generally appear to have been approximately 7am to midday and 1pm to 5pm, except during harvest when people worked longer hours. However, at least three witnesses from Trapeang Thom Tboung, Samrong, and Nheng Nhang subdistricts recall working a third shift from 6pm until 10pm at night. Pregnant women were also made to work. Those working in rice paddy fields were given a certain number of hectares to complete. If they did not finish on time they would be lectured and accused of being enemies. Those who were not able to work were accused of pretending to be sick and sent for reeducation. Others who resisted were arrested and disappeared. One witness recalls “we were forced to work every day. We dared not refuse to work because we were afraid of getting killed”.
312. The rice harvested by the cooperatives was not automatically distributed to members of the subdistricts. Rather, each subdistrict reported to the district on rice yield. The district would then decide how much rice was to be collected from each subdistrict. It appears that some of this rice would then be sent for milling. Some subdistricts would under-report yields and stored the surplus rice to secretly distribute amongst its members. Nearly all witnesses describe a lack of food in the cooperatives. Some witnesses recall people dying of starvation, while others either did not see or deny that people died of starvation. Several witnesses attest that people were afraid to complain about the lack of food because they could have been punished or killed. Several District 105 documents also record the arrest of people who had complained about work and living conditions in the cooperatives.
313. Many people living in the cooperatives had health problems, particularly the “new people” who were not used to living in rural areas. Those who were sick were treated by subdistrict medics. However, treatment was rudimentary and the medicine used was locally produced. Patients were given intravenous medicine prepared from tree roots and herbal medicine. Patients were also injected with coconut juice mixed with penicillin. The medics were female CPK cadre who had not received any formal training. Many of them were only twelve to thirteen years old. When people died they were buried without the family being informed.
314. Group weddings were carried out in the subdistricts with as many as ten to twenty couples. Some of the couples knew each other, while others did not. Only people of the same political category (full-right, candidate or depositee members) could marry, with the consent of the unit chief. Weddings were held at night with the participation of the subdistrict committee and the chairmen of the cooperatives and units. One witness, [REDACTED], describes how another witness, [REDACTED], chairperson of the women’s unit and marriage coordinator at Nheng Nhang Subdistrict, arranged for her to marry a man whom she hated. She states that [REDACTED] told her that she had to marry, and consequently she felt she did not have a choice. On her wedding night she had sexual intercourse with her husband despite not consenting. She recalls that there were militia men under the house eavesdropping at the time. Another witness recalls the presence of militia men eavesdropping on a couple’s wedding night to check if they “got on well or not”. Conversely, two other witnesses, including [REDACTED], deny this ever occurred. Other witnesses recall that if a woman was not happy with her marriage she would be reeducated or counselled that it “was normal for a man to marry a woman and vice versa”. [REDACTED] denies that anyone was coerced into marriage while she was marriage coordinator. In addition, women from Tram Kok District were sent to Kampong Som to marry “handicapped” soldiers at the army’s request.
315. The process by which people were identified as enemies and subsequently reeducated or arrested is explained by former District Secretary, [REDACTED]. He states that when people in the subdistricts were accused of wrongdoing they would first be reeducated by the village and subdistrict. If they continued to disobey, the subdistrict would ask for the opinion of the District Committee. The District Committee would then hold a meeting to discuss the matter and make a decision. For example, a report from Nheng Nhang Subdistrict to the district sets out the biography of an “enemy” listing various alleged offences. A return note on the bottom of the document from the District Secretary to the subdistrict instructs that he is to be arrested. [REDACTED] states that before any specific action could be taken, the Sector Committee would first be consulted. The Sector Committee’s decision would then be implemented by the District. If the decision was to reeducate, notwithstanding whether the individual was a CPK cadre or a civilian, he or she was arrested by the subdistrict militia and sent to Kraing Ta Chan Security Centre.
316. Several witnesses recall that “immoral acts” were punished. This is further confirmed by documentary evidence. One witness who attended Sector 13 Committee meetings recalls being told about a “one-husband-one-wife” policy where anyone committing immoral acts would be “smashed”.
317. The militia at the subdistrict level arrested, detained and interrogated people. According to some witnesses the militia did not have authority to carry out executions, which would be decided at the district level. One witness who lived in Samrong subdistrict recalls meetings at which people were accused of misconduct and he saw cadre shaving “X” shapes into the heads of men and women before parading them in front of the meeting: these people were then placed in a detention facility run by the subdistrict militia. Several District 105 documents confirm that the subdistrict militia would interrogate prisoners, using both “hot” and “cold” methods, before involving the district. For example, in a document which appears to be from one of the subdistricts to the district, the writer reports that in respect to one youth who was accused of repeatedly stealing, “I have even held (collective) meetings for judging him 3 times so far. Moreover, I have let the youths in the group and unit wrap his face up with a plastic sheet, shackle and interrogate him, but still he was not deterred”.
318. Prior to 1975, a witness who lived in Tram Kok subdistrict remembers cadre arresting people who were accused of being wealthy or having lots of paddy land. They were told that they were being sent away to study. After 1975 some of them returned to the subdistrict while others did not. During the CPK regime, cooperative residents continued to disappear. Often people were taken away at night. Former District Secretary [REDACTED] recalls in interview, “some people came to ask me, who was then the District secretary, for help with the disappearance of their relatives and children. I told them that I was not able to help with that. People came to make complaints to me about the disappearance of their relatives and children because their relatives had conflict about politics and were accused of being the traitors”.
Treatment of Specific Groups
319. The subdistrict militia kept a close eye on the persons who arrived from Phnom Penh. If they said anything against the CPK they were arrested and taken away. Former members of the Khmer Republic armed forces and the police of the Khmer Republic, especially those who had held the rank of officer, were closely monitored. Lists of former Lon Nol officers who arrived in the subdistricts were drawn-up and sent to the district. For example, a District 105 document from Nheng Nhang Subdistrict records the names of 11 former Lon Nol officers who had been placed in the subdistrict.
320. Two witnesses recall that Cham people in Tram Kok district were treated like everyone else. On the other hand, the Vietnamese appear to have been treated differently. One witness recalls that all the Vietnamese eventually disappeared from his village. A former teacher in the children’s unit in Nheng Nhang Subdistrict recalls that in 1976, the Subdistrict chief announced that Subdistrict members of Vietnamese ethnicity would be sent back to Vietnam. She remembers the arrest and execution of people who had lied about their ethnicity hoping to escape. She says that there were two phases in the treatment of the Vietnamese. In the first phase, the Vietnamese were in fact sent home. However, in the second phase, ethnic Vietnamese were taken away and executed. Several District 105 documents record the arrest of ethnic Vietnamese. A report from the Ang Ta Soam Subdistrict dated 26 April 1977 requests guidance from “Angkar” on what to do about the registration of Khmer Krom people. It appears that in several couples, only one person was Vietnamese, but both asked to be sent to Vietnam. Another report records that pursuant to a decision of “Angkar”, seven Khmer Kraom persons were sent back to Vietnam.
321. In parts of Tram Kok, the CPK banned religion and disrobed monks from as early as 1972. By April 1975 this policy was instituted district-wide. One witness, a former monk, recalls that after April 1975 all monks who had been born in Takeo or Phnom Penh were instructed to stay at Ang Rakar Pagoda in Tram Kok. CPK cadre later came and told them all to disrobe. Witnesses recall the destruction of Buddhist statues and the conversion of monasteries into meeting halls, detention centres, dining halls, pig farms and warehouses. People were not permitted to burn incense. Those monks who had been disrobed were sent to join the army or made to work. In addition, family members were not allowed to cremate bodies or hold funeral ceremonies.