slave labor

Slave Labor

A Khmer Rouge fighter guarding Cambodians forced into farm labor

From that day she left the town, Ly-Sieng Ngo endured a living nightmare: Her days consisted of slave labor from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., starvation rations, ditch-digging, rice planting, and water carrying. "Fifteen pound buckets on either side of the pole, back and forth from the river, 120 times a day," she remembers. "You didn't know how you could do it, but I think when you have to do it, you have to do it." There were beatings or worse for those who tried to escape, broke down, or tried to get around the rules. "Some people were killed because they stole one sweet potato. They poured gasoline on these people and burned them in front of us, to show us," she remembers. "They buried some of them alive. This happened almost every day." Three times that she knows of, she herself was targeted for execution because of her family background. She was spared only by capricious good fortune, and by her own reputation as a reliable hard worker.