Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Rouge bride recounts forced marriage, labour

Khmer Rouge bride recounts forced marriage, labour

Khmer Rouge bride recounts forced marriage, labour

Though she started and finished her testimony in one session, witness Noem Sem covered a vast store of topics that shifted from the personal realm of her forced marriage, to the politicised arena of controversial witnesses.

It was a long day for Sem, 59, a rice farmer from Banteay Meanchey province who joined the revolution in 1968, after the authorities intercepted a letter from her brother about the movement that became the Khmer Rouge.

She followed him into the jungle and emerged a few years later as a singer and performer in a Communist Party of Kampuchea arts group based in Kampong Thom, where she said co-accused Nuon Chea presented political lectures.

“We had to sing the songs to educate people on the revolutionary course,” she said.

As part of the arts group, she travelled to Europe with co-accused Ieng Sary, who would become the minister of Foreign Affairs, entertaining groups with her singing voice.

Returning in 1975, she was forced, as were many women under the regime, to marry another cadre. The wedding was far from celebratory.

“During the time we got married, we wore the typical black clothes and there were only a few attendants,” she said.

She had a daughter with her new husband. Cadres ordered her back to the rice fields one week after giving birth.

She worked in the Ministry of Information and Propaganda, and only escaped purges with the direct intervention of Pol Pot, for whom her husband had worked as a bodyguard.

Near the end of her testimony, Nuon Chea’s defence probed into Sem’s relationship with previous witness Ton Rochoem, alias Phy Phuon, who she said she met in 2005.

An official in Malai district, where Sem resides, Phuon has been a source of contention since he said Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong was in charge of a work camp during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Namhong refuted the statement in the press the next day. Phuon, denying any political pressure, then recanted his remarks in the local media.

“If I told you that this individual gave testimony before this chamber, then publicly renounced that testimony, would you have any idea why someone in your district would [do] such a thing?” asked defence counsel Andrew Ianuzzi, who was stopped after the prosecution’s sustained objection.

Court is adjourned until Monday.


  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • NOCC to contest petanque, tennis axe

    The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia will lobby hard over the next few weeks for the inclusion of the Kingdom’s most productive medal-earning sport, petanque, along with vovinam and tennis after the disciplines were left out of the initial list of 30 preferred sports for