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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KRT witness tells court of forced marriage

Nuon Chea adjusts his glasses during Case 002/02 opening statements
Nuon Chea adjusts his glasses during Case 002/02 opening statements at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in October. ECCC

KRT witness tells court of forced marriage

A witness yesterday told the Khmer Rouge tribunal how she believed she would be executed if she didn’t consummate her forced marriage to a man she hardly knew.

Cheang Srei Mom said a militiaman was dispatched to eavesdrop on her and her husband’s first night together after their wedding, which she claimed was involuntary and arranged by her commune chief in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district.

“I had to sleep with my husband because I would be in danger if I did not,” the 59-year-old said.

In the current Case 002/02, former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea face, among other offences, charges over their regime’s policy of forced marriage and the subsequent rape it engendered.

Srei Mom said that in May 1977 she was summoned “urgently” to the commune office.

There she found her work unit chief, who declared “Angkar will marry you tonight”, she told the court, quoting the name used by the Khmer Rouge to refer to their overall organisation.

Srei Mom said the arranged groom, to whom she is still married, was also ignorant of the match, having been summoned on the pretext of herding cows.

She said she initially hated her husband, who she only knew “to some extent”, although they now lived “harmoniously” and have three children.

Chea’s international lawyer Victor Koppe challenged Srei Mom, reading a statement from her work unit chief denying there were forced marriages on her watch.

But Srei Mom maintained she was forced, adding another couple had been punished with hard labour for refusing to consummate their arranged marriage.

“My understanding was that if I did not consummate the marriage, I would be in trouble because my father had been executed just two days before, so I feared for my life,” she said.

She said she confirmed her father’s fate in 2013 upon visiting the site of the Kraing Ta Chan security office and finding his name in records of its thousands of victims.

Srei Mom said she saw former members of the Lon Nol regime being sent to the prison as well as truckloads of Cambodians who pretended to be Vietnamese in a bid to be deported.

The trial continues on Monday.

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