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A bride’s age troubles village

Weddings are normally happy occasions, but the illegal marriage this week of a 14-year-old bride and her 45-year-old groom in Siem Reap province drew much concern from onlookers.

According to multiple officials and villagers, the pair, Sreng Va and a 14-year-old, married on Wednesday in a ceremony in Varin district’s Srenoy commune.

Duong Thavary, chief of Siem Reap police’s anti-human-trafficking unit, said a series of complaints about the marriage were filed by local villagers.

“It is unusual” to see such an age gap, she said. “We will investigate this case to find out whether the girl is really in love or if she was forced to marry.”

The Cambodian Civil Code, introduced in 2011, says neither “men nor women may marry until they have reached the age of 18. However, if one of the parties has attained the age of majority and the other party is a minor, at least 16 years of age, the parties may marry with the consent of the parental power holders or guardian of the minor.”

But legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said “very few people” know about this rule.

“After the girl has her first monthly cycle some parents [still] think that she can be married,” he said, adding that complaints about underage marriages are rarely filed to the courts.

In Srenoy, commune chief Soun Ley said he did not give the couple permission to marry.

He said that after the wedding, “when I asked the girl, she said that she had loved the man for three year”.

The couple could not be reached yesterday.

Thavary said there were also concerns that the bride, who is under the age of consent, could be taken out of Cambodia by her Vietnamese groom.

“If the girl lives in Vietnam it might not be safe for her. There is a risk of human trafficking,” she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY

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