Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Conventional wisdom on KR marriages questioned

Conventional wisdom on KR marriages questioned

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Expert witness Peg LeVine gives her testimony yesterday at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02. ECCC

Conventional wisdom on KR marriages questioned

Expert witness Peg LeVine took the stand at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, arguing against the widely repeated accusation that many marriages during the regime were forced, and referring to studies that came to that conclusion as “biased”.

The tribunal is currently hearing testimony on charges of forced marriage against former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. LeVine, who is an anthropologist and permanent research affiliate at the Centre for Advanced Genocide Studies, said she was first inspired to delve deeper into the marriage situation after meeting a couple that denied being forced to marry.

“They described their weddings as being real,” she said in reference to this couple and other interview subjects. LeVine said the subject of forced marriage has long been a “heated topic that became emotional”, leading other studies of the subject to be biased.

In her own research, however, she tried to “track data that led to an outcome”, rather than finding data to fit a predetermined conclusion. As a result, she said, she was unable to find a single unbiased study that supported the conclusion that the marriages were forced.

“I did not conduct my research as a witch hunt,” she said at one point.

Defence attorney Anta Guisse read a quote from LeVine’s book in which she wrote “social pressure to describe the Khmer Rouge marriages as forced has been unyielding”.

“This is a complex topic and classifying Khmer Rouge weddings as forced in a country where arranged marriages are common is perhaps misleading,” Guisse quoted.

The defence teams have long argued there is a lack of evidence directly linking the defendants as national leaders to local marriage policies, and LeVine also testified that the nature of marriages during the Khmer Rouge was dependent on local authorities. LeVine did, however, acknowledge that the tradition of Khmer marriages was warped under the regime.

“There was a profound loss of access to tradition,” she said. The tribunal in recent weeks has heard from numerous witnesses and civil parties who testified to being forced to marry, and even consummate their weddings under threat of execution.

LeVine’s study found that approximately 40 percent of 192 couples reported being instructed to consummate their marriages, with only 9 percent reporting complying, and not a single person reporting being threatened with death.

“I tried not to even ask the question of whether or not they were forced, but I did come to the conclusion that they were not,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four

  • US' Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrive

    The first batch of 455,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the US touched down in Phnom Penh on the morning of July 30. They are part of the total 1,060,100 doses the US has pledged to provide to Cambodia through the World Health Organisation-led (

  • Governor: Covid subsides in capital

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the Covid-19 situation in the capital’s 14 districts has eased, with only two districts still recording a high number of infections. “Transmission cases in all districts are dropping, though they are relatively higher Meanchey and Por Sen Chey.