The prosecution at the Khmer Rouge tribunal came out swinging yesterday, attempting to hammer expert witness Peg LeVine on alleged contradictions between her testimony and her research into marriage under Democratic Kampuchea.
LeVine on Monday had bucked conventional wisdom on the subject of the Khmer Rouge’s alleged policy of forced marriage, maintaining that none of her interviewees had been forced to marry – a stance she held firm on yesterday despite pointed questioning from prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian.
Koumjain questioned outright the validity of 29 of the 192 interview subjects included in LeVine’s study who were listed as having been married in 1979. Since the Khmer Rouge were officially toppled on January 7 of that year, Koumjian said, “unless [these marriages] took place in the first six days of 1979, all took place after the regime fell”.
“I would need to go back to my hard data,” LeVine said.
Koumjian also questioned why a list of questions that LeVine put to all of her subjects didn’t include one about whether their marriages were forced.
“There were times I did ask, but I was very careful not to lead,” LeVine countered.
Numerous witnesses and civil parties at the tribunal in recent weeks have testified to having also been forced to consummate their marriages, and Koumjian yesterday asked why nearly half – 84 of 192 – of LeVine’s interviews contained no information on that subject.
“In my hard documents, I have the other data,” LeVine responded, before allowing that many weren’t asked at all.
LeVine said she felt the prosecution was conflating coercion with force, and noted marriages are often arranged in Cambodia under intense social pressure and coercion. She also clarified her that her conclusion was not that forced marriages did not happen, but that they did not happen to her subjects.
The tensest point of the day came when Koumjian read a series of quotations from LeVine’s report that seemed to confirm that some subjects were forced to marry under threat of death.
“Angkar chose, I had to follow Angkar or I would be killed,” one such subject reported.
At the end of his questioning, Koumjian asked: “Do you acknowledge that many of the marriages were done under coercive circumstances against the free consent of those involved?”
“My answer is no,” LeVine replied.