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Witness recalls forced marriage at airport site

A former female cadre recalled her forced marriage to a stranger as a young girl and told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday how the memories “still continue to haunt her” to this day.

Witness Chum Samoeun, 55, joined the revolution when she was 13 in answer to a call to arms from the late King Norodom Sihanouk – a decision that, she said, she later regretted.

Samoeun was working as a rice farmer when she was relocated to work at the Kampong Chhnang airport construction site in mid-1976 after her commander, air force Division 502’s Sou Met – who was a suspect in the court’s Case 003 before his death – found that her father was a former Lon Nol soldier.

The airport construction site was notorious for being a place for “refashioning” cadres who might have tendencies to rebel against the Khmer Rouge, often due to ties with the previous regime.

In late 1978 at the airbase, Samoeun was among several cadres coerced by Khmer Rouge leaders into marriages with strangers – a common practice during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, and one of the criminal accusations at issue in Case 002/02.

“I did not love that man, but I had to force myself to marry him . . . because I was threatened that if I refused, I would never date a man in my life,” she explained.

“If I was caught smiling at a man, I would be killed.”

After the five-couple ceremony, Samoeun was instructed to consummate her marriage in a nearby hut where other cadres were standing guard outside.

“I was shaking like a mouse from fear when I was sent to the bedroom,” she said.

“I asked him not to do anything and he didn’t. I was fortunate enough for that.”

Earlier in the day, witness Him Han testified about the dire working conditions he had to endure in the Kampong Chhnang airbase.

Originally a part of Division 310, whose leaders were arrested for an alleged coup, Han and those in his division were reassigned to a new unit called Unit 17, which was treated worse than other units.

Han said yesterday that the overwork was intended to kill off the unit’s allegedly treacherous members.

“We worked eight hours in the day and four hours in the night and no rotations applied to our unit.

It was a method of execution and we could not protest.”

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