Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-cadre tells of Khmer Rouge marriage

Ex-cadre tells of Khmer Rouge marriage

Sa Lay Hieng testifies via video yesterday at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. ECCC
Sa Lay Hieng testifies via video yesterday at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. ECCC

Ex-cadre tells of Khmer Rouge marriage

Civil party Sa Lay Hieng, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, took the stand yesterday to testify about her forced marriage and of how she later fell under the movement’s suspicion, painting a picture of a regime willing to turn its back on its most faithful adherents.

The tribunal is currently hearing testimony related to the charge of forced marriage in the ongoing case against Democratic Kampuchea leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who are on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

“I joined the revolutionary movement in 1971,” Hieng said. “I was too young to analyse or understand the situation.”

Hieng, who was 21 at the time, was tasked with promoting communal living. Later the regime pressured her to marry.

“I refused several times when [local leaders] came to ask me [to get married], but finally the sector committee said that I was a stubborn person,” Hieng said.

She eventually decided it was too risky to keep refusing the committee’s overtures, and in 1976, out of fear, married a man she did not like.

One year later, just months after giving birth to their only child, her husband disappeared. The regime had deemed him a traitor working to sabotage the revolution after a bridge he was building collapsed.

“Despite the fact that I didn’t love him, we lived together and provided warmth for one another, and so I was in shock to lose him,” she said.

Her husband never reappeared, and she later learned he’d been sentenced to death. His designation as a traitor meant that Hieng lost her prominent position in the cooperative, and she and her baby, who died, were left to waste away from poor rations and overwork.

“The food we were given at the cooperative wasn’t sufficient, and I was skinny and grew sick and didn’t have enough milk to feed my baby,” Hieng said. “Everything we contributed earlier to the revolution and to liberating the country, those contributions were now lost.”

While Hieng was working in a labour camp for the wives of arrested men, she heard of cases of cannibalism at a nearby security centre. “[People] told me they heard of incidents in which prisoners were killed and their gallbladders were removed and eaten by the Khmer Rouge cadres,” she said.

During the testimony, Hieng also provided details about the Khmer Rouge’s alleged policy towards ethnic Vietnamese citizens – part of the basis for the court’s charges of genocide. She said many were rounded up and sent to Vietnam between 1973 and 1974.

But “smashing” – or killing – ethnic Vietnamese became common after fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese army intensified. Hieng’s uncle was married to a Vietnamese woman, she said, and her aunt and cousins were killed by the regime.

“They were all collected and taken away,” Hieng said. “They were not spared.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Government set to slash holidays

    The private sector has welcomed the government’s move to reduce the number of public holidays in the in the Kingdom – known for having the most public holidays in the world – by seven days. However, the government had just added the “Day of Remembrance” on

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • Kith Theang being held in PJ prison

    Kith Theang, the brother of prominent businessman Kith Meng, was charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court late on Monday and sent to the capital’s Police Judiciare (PJ) prison over the nearly 50kg of drugs found in a February 23 raid by authorities on the Rock

  • Sor Chandeth defends his criticism of Hun Sen

    Former senator Sor Chandeth has defended his choice of words when criticising Hun Sen, saying he was merely speaking metaphorically to attack the Prime Minister’s political life, not his actual person, as the latter seeks damages. [img] Chandeth spoke to The Post on Thursday,