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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-soldier tells of forced marriage, extermination at KRT

Civil party Seng Soeun testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC
Civil party Seng Soeun testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC

Ex-soldier tells of forced marriage, extermination at KRT

Notorious Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok ordered that soldiers who were wounded in battle were to be married off to eligible women, a retired soldier told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

Civil party Seng Soeun, 60, who himself was coerced into marriage by his superior, told the court that he had played the role of matchmaker for unwitting couples and had witnessed ethnic cleansing.

Soeun testified he was wounded in battle along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border after April 17, 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh, and placed as deputy chief of the “handicapped” unit in Takeo in the Southwest Zone.

He testified that after he was transferred to Sa’ang district in Kandal, he learned that the single men who were wounded in war were then arranged to marry local women.

“The chief of the area told me that those handicapped soldiers had been married to the women who were brought in from the pepper plantation,” he said.

“Those handicapped people were old, [so] marriage should be arranged for them, and that was the order from Ta Mok.”

In Sa’ang district, Soeun was instructed by his district committee chief, Sao Phon, to take the biographies of young men and women in the mobile units and pair them off according to age and whether they were “base” or “new” people. He said he made lists of proposed matches for up to 60 couples.

“It is difficult to describe about the situation of fear . . . Sometimes people died or disappeared without reasons. And that’s what made us think. If we were forced or instructed to marry, we just simply did,” he said.

Phon also assigned Soeun a wife – a deputy chief of the district hospital and a cousin of Phon.

“He spoke to me once and I refused; however, after the third time I agreed to the proposal,” he said. “I was afraid of him for one thing, and I also did not want to get married, but he insisted and I agreed.”

His wife was two months pregnant when he was transferred to Kratie province in 1978 following a purge – a transfer overseen by Case 003 accused Meas Muth – just before the fall of the regime.

He said while some couples disliked each other and refused the marriage, he was unaware if they faced repercussions later.

Soeun also testified to sneaking onto the island of Koh Kor and witnessing the execution of ethnic minorities. “I was there when the youn [an often derogatory term for Vietnamese] and the Chinese were cleansed – that was the word that they used . . . They did not want any other race except the Khmer.”

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