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USF Libraries Exhibits

The Forced Labor Camp at Wat Ek

Arn Chorn-Pond, Cambodian Survivor

I was taken into a -- I realized I was taken into a temple. I was so happy. But they converted the temple into a killing, mass killing place. We were 500 of us were there, forced to live there and to die there -- and we were not prisoners. In the back of the main temple they used it as the main prison, to get people there, to punish people there. We sort of woke up at five o'clock in the morning and worked until twelve, and now like two or three months.

Sometimes they didn't -- now during the harvest, harvesting season, they did not give us food sometimes a week, for a week, sometimes a week and a half, two weeks. And when they have food, sometime they have -- they gave me -- they gave us a little rice. They put it on a tank of water, like a tank of water that can feed like 150 kids or 200 kids. They put a little bit of rice in there, so we just drink water. And when we go to pee, it upset. No more food.

And we were asked to watch sometime the Khmer Rouge kill, like one at a time, sometime twenty, sometime twenty-five. Sometime once a day, sometime three times a day, sometime four times a day they killed: in the morning, afternoon, in noon and afternoon and at night, too. And many time they ask us to come and watch the punishment. Some of the former MP, you know -- this guy, muscular, and I didn't see it. Foreigners are there; I never seen any foreigners in my life before, you know. I didn't know that there are foreigners there. I never know the world was round, either. I didn't have no knowledge of that.

But this guy is like muscular and tall, you know -- Cambodians, but he was MP or something -- and they punish him like every day until he was weak. They hit him in the joint. The Khmer Rouge made a special axe, like small axe, with which to hit people with the back of the axe. They used that to kill also in orange field nearby my center, and they hit the people right in the back of the axe in the head. Every victim they do that, so you can hear miles away. It's like my center is not far away; I can hear it. They hit people like -- you know, sound like coconuts, you know, in the skull. You can hear it from the back of the axe.

And their punishment, also, they play games with people. They play games. They use -- sometime they let the kids pee on the people, on adults' head, you know, before they go and take them to kill. And that's very disrespecting in Cambodian culture, to have a young man to pee. And we were forced to watch all the time.

Like, the Khmer Rouge would ask us to come around in a circle, like this lady is asked to cut her hair; she has long black hair, and the Khmer Rouge asked her to cut her hair. She said no, she loved her hair. And then they put her in a drum, a temple drum, and they bang the drum and they burn the drum from the inside, and she came out with the smoke, you know, and blood coming from her nose and from her eyes, and then they killed her. Some of the victims, sometimes they escort them in front of my center, and they would yell or scream at each other, saying, "Leave that woman! Leave her for me! Leave that woman's spleen for me!" That woman heard it, and she fall, fainted, and they took her. Most of the victims they also took -- all of them, they took spleen and the liver out.