Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-soldier tells of forced marriage, extermination at KRT

Ex-soldier tells of forced marriage, extermination at KRT

Civil party Seng Soeun testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC
Civil party Seng Soeun testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC

Ex-soldier tells of forced marriage, extermination at KRT

Notorious Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok ordered that soldiers who were wounded in battle were to be married off to eligible women, a retired soldier told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

Civil party Seng Soeun, 60, who himself was coerced into marriage by his superior, told the court that he had played the role of matchmaker for unwitting couples and had witnessed ethnic cleansing.

Soeun testified he was wounded in battle along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border after April 17, 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh, and placed as deputy chief of the “handicapped” unit in Takeo in the Southwest Zone.

He testified that after he was transferred to Sa’ang district in Kandal, he learned that the single men who were wounded in war were then arranged to marry local women.

“The chief of the area told me that those handicapped soldiers had been married to the women who were brought in from the pepper plantation,” he said.

“Those handicapped people were old, [so] marriage should be arranged for them, and that was the order from Ta Mok.”

In Sa’ang district, Soeun was instructed by his district committee chief, Sao Phon, to take the biographies of young men and women in the mobile units and pair them off according to age and whether they were “base” or “new” people. He said he made lists of proposed matches for up to 60 couples.

“It is difficult to describe about the situation of fear . . . Sometimes people died or disappeared without reasons. And that’s what made us think. If we were forced or instructed to marry, we just simply did,” he said.

Phon also assigned Soeun a wife – a deputy chief of the district hospital and a cousin of Phon.

“He spoke to me once and I refused; however, after the third time I agreed to the proposal,” he said. “I was afraid of him for one thing, and I also did not want to get married, but he insisted and I agreed.”

His wife was two months pregnant when he was transferred to Kratie province in 1978 following a purge – a transfer overseen by Case 003 accused Meas Muth – just before the fall of the regime.

He said while some couples disliked each other and refused the marriage, he was unaware if they faced repercussions later.

Soeun also testified to sneaking onto the island of Koh Kor and witnessing the execution of ethnic minorities. “I was there when the youn [an often derogatory term for Vietnamese] and the Chinese were cleansed – that was the word that they used . . . They did not want any other race except the Khmer.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10