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Miniseries to examine forced marriage, Khmer Rouge tribunal

A new miniseries on the subject of forced marriage at the Khmer Rouge tribunal is set to air in December, with the producer hoping the show will help increase general awareness of the proceedings at the court.

A preview screening of the first of six episodes was held at the residence of UK Ambassador Bill Longhurst yesterday. The producer, Olivier Van Bockstael, was present, as were several experts.

The series, titled Time to Speak Out, is “designed for a Khmer audience”, according to Van Bockstael. The first episode featured two Cambodian hosts who explained the concept of forced marriage, as well as interviews with survivors and experts. When English-speaking experts were interviewed, their speech was dubbed in Khmer.

The episode provided background on forced marriage and explained why it was included in the charges facing Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. It also included harrowing interviews with survivors and tribunal testimony.

One of the survivors interviewed for the program described being nailed to the ground with bamboo stakes before being raped.Van Bockstael said the main purpose of the show is to give the average Cambodian a clearer understanding of what is happening at the court.

Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the court, said the information was conveyed in a “format which obviously simplifies things”, but praised it overall for increasing awareness and “portraying some of the substance in an informative way”.

Another of Van Bockstael’s main objectives is to “explore links between sexual violence during the Khmer Rouge and the situation in Cambodia today”.

Theresa de Langis, an expert on forced marriage, likewise noted Cambodia still has “a long way to go” in addressing gender inequality, and said Cambodian society is “wary of opening up those kinds of conversations”, but hoped programs like this one could help initiate a national dialogue.

Youk Chhang, a Khmer Rouge survivor and director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, echoed de Langis in a phone interview yesterday. “It’s still a contemporary issue,” he said, adding that he hoped the show could help with the process of “liberating women from the male-dominated society”.

Len Sievlan, a student of de Langis, explained that one continued negative effect of forced marriage is higher rates of domestic violence in those relationships. Sievlan said many feel they can’t escape the marriage they were forced into.

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