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Civil party holds firm on account of Khmer Rouge marriage

Civil party Sou Sotheavy testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia earlier this week during case 002/02. ECCC
Civil party Sou Sotheavy testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia earlier this week during case 002/02. ECCC

Civil party holds firm on account of Khmer Rouge marriage

Under pointed questioning from defence teams, civil party Sou Sotheavy – who was born a biological male but identifies as a transgender woman – was unwavering in her account of her forced marriage to a woman in 1977, and the intimidation and threats that forced her to consummate the marriage.

Sotheavy testified that she and her wife were repeatedly called to “study sessions” to encourage them to engage in sexual intercourse. Eventually, the couple acquiesced out of fear of being killed.

When asked by the defence for Khieu Samphan whether the consummation was voluntary, Sotheavy was adamant that she was never interested in maintaining sexual relations with women. “If you listen to me carefully you will understand the nature of a transgender person like me… I said I did not like women,” she proclaimed. “I did it because of the Pol Pot regime.”

On Tuesday, Sotheavy testified that she had entered into an arrangement with the woman who later became her wife because the woman was also an orphan and was sympathetic to Sotheavy’s situation. The defence for Nuon Chea, however, questioned how Sotheavy knew about her wife’s family history and how she had known to discuss their arrangement without knowing that a forced marriage was imminent.

“We had known each other because we were part of the same mobile unit,” Sothveavy explained. “No one told me that we were required to get married on a specific day, but we had known about the plan of a forced marriage since February … My instinct told me the wedding would happen very soon.”

The defence also sought to pick apart Sotheavy’s claims that the Khmer Rouge had sent spies to verify whether the marriage was consummated.

“How do you know that they were looking to see if you were having sex and not looking to see if you were enemies, for example?” asked Nuon Chea defender Doreen Chen. Sotheavy responded that, while she did not hear of specific orders, she believed the behaviour of the spies confirmed her impressions.

Sotheavy lost 14 siblings and both of her parents to the Khmer Rouge. She was also forced to live apart from her wife around the time their baby was born, and never saw them again after the regime’s fall.

In a statement to the court, she bemoaned the loss of her loved ones. “I lost the warmth of my family, and there is nothing more important than that.”

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