The defence for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan yesterday sought to debunk evidence presented at the tribunal earlier this week that suggested the regime maintained a nationwide policy to regulate marriage and the role of the family.
On Tuesday, documents presented by the prosecution painted a picture of a regime aiming to increase the population by forcing women to marry men of its choosing.
However, defence lawyer Anta Guisse argued that the prosecution had taken those passages out of context, and claimed the regime had sought to boost the population by improving living standards – not by forcing people to marry.
“We should pay attention to the fact that we cannot look at what people said a long time ago and find in that the root of subsequent policy,” Guisse said. “Admittedly, [the documents] speak of an increase in the population, but this was done in a specific context.”
The two defendants, Samphan and Nuon Chea, who was deputy to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, are on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. The tribunal has recently heard testimony related to the charge of forced marriage.
Earlier this week, the prosecution had read a passage from Gina Chon’s and Thet Sambath’s book Beyond the Killing Fields, which included a quote attributed to Nuon Chea: “The man always wants to choose a beautiful girl, so that’s why we forced them to get married, and Angkar chose the wife.”
Angkar was the name for the faceless leadership of the Khmer Rouge.
However, Guisse argued that many of the documents presented by the co-prosecutors related only to increasing the population and not to marriage.
She quoted extracts from the documents presented by the prosecution that described efforts to improve the general health of the population by dispatching doctors, improving nutrition and eradicating diseases such as malaria.
“There was no link made to marriage here,” Guisse said. “Each time we referred to speeches made by the leaders of Democratic Kampuchea in regards to increasing the population, they always do so in relation to the issues of health and the development of the country, and in particular in improving the living conditions of the country.”
Nuon Chea’s defence team did not offer a response to the documents.