Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A pledge unrecognised

A pledge unrecognised

A pledge unrecognised

After a six-month whirlwind romance, Sou Li Lin and Mom Kannha decided that they wanted to tie the knot.

The celebration took place over the weekend in their home province of Kampong Chhnang, where the couple, dressed in traditional Cambodian wedding attire, declared their commitment to one another in front of family and friends.

But while to passersby it might have looked like any Cambodian wedding, this one was illegal.

Sou Li Lin and Mom Kannha are both women, and because of that, Chea Vannak, Kampong Chhnang commune police chief, said he was unable to grant the couple’s request for an official wedding.

The experience of Li Lin and Kannha echoes that of couples across the country who are unable to marry but permitted by officials to hold a celebration.

“We could not allow them to marry normally, because we have no law giving us permission [to do so],” said Vannak, who personally offered his own creative alternative.

Vannak paved the way for the couple to celebrate their commitment on Sunday within the boundaries of the law by ordering them to change the ceremony to an “ordinary party”, without a wedding certificate.

Article 6 of Cambodia’s Marriage Law, signed in 1989, states that “marriage shall be prohibited to a person whose sex is the same sex as the other”.

But Li Lin and Kannha, a lesbian couple, continued to prepare for a traditional ceremony anyway.

“I love traditional Cambodian weddings – that’s why I helped my mum to prepare it, even though we didn’t have permission,” Kannha said.

Levels of tolerance for such celebrations “normally come down to the characters and people involved”, rather than any official policy, according to Rainbow Community Kampuchea’s (RoCK) Collette O’Regan.

Similarly, chances of obtaining family books, documents that Cambodian law mandates all families keep to identify spouses and children, “come down to the level of relationships and respect the couple [has] with the local authorities,” she said by email.

Couples who have secured family books usually do so “through years of living peacefully and lovingly together and showing all their neighbours and the local authorities that their relationship is a real partnership”.

But the problems generated by the law are great.

“It puts [couples] in very vulnerable situations when they interface with state agencies because the state does not give any recognition or protection to their love and their relationship,” O’Regan said, adding that in the future, she hopes that recognition of same-sex relationships will be made official.

“It may take a few more years but there have been more and more positive developments happening in recent times.” In the meantime, “Cambodian solutions are found for Cambodian problems.”

Li Lin, who dressed in a traditional groom’s outfit for the occasion, said the lack of officialdom would not affect her relationship. “We just wanted to hold a traditional Cambodian wedding because my wife loves wedding dresses, and we think that we could love each other forever.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’