Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness recalls forced marriage at airport site

Witness recalls forced marriage at airport site

Witness recalls forced marriage at airport site

A former female cadre recalled her forced marriage to a stranger as a young girl and told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday how the memories “still continue to haunt her” to this day.

Witness Chum Samoeun, 55, joined the revolution when she was 13 in answer to a call to arms from the late King Norodom Sihanouk – a decision that, she said, she later regretted.

Samoeun was working as a rice farmer when she was relocated to work at the Kampong Chhnang airport construction site in mid-1976 after her commander, air force Division 502’s Sou Met – who was a suspect in the court’s Case 003 before his death – found that her father was a former Lon Nol soldier.

The airport construction site was notorious for being a place for “refashioning” cadres who might have tendencies to rebel against the Khmer Rouge, often due to ties with the previous regime.

In late 1978 at the airbase, Samoeun was among several cadres coerced by Khmer Rouge leaders into marriages with strangers – a common practice during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, and one of the criminal accusations at issue in Case 002/02.

“I did not love that man, but I had to force myself to marry him . . . because I was threatened that if I refused, I would never date a man in my life,” she explained.

“If I was caught smiling at a man, I would be killed.”

After the five-couple ceremony, Samoeun was instructed to consummate her marriage in a nearby hut where other cadres were standing guard outside.

“I was shaking like a mouse from fear when I was sent to the bedroom,” she said.

“I asked him not to do anything and he didn’t. I was fortunate enough for that.”

Earlier in the day, witness Him Han testified about the dire working conditions he had to endure in the Kampong Chhnang airbase.

Originally a part of Division 310, whose leaders were arrested for an alleged coup, Han and those in his division were reassigned to a new unit called Unit 17, which was treated worse than other units.

Han said yesterday that the overwork was intended to kill off the unit’s allegedly treacherous members.

“We worked eight hours in the day and four hours in the night and no rotations applied to our unit.

It was a method of execution and we could not protest.”


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australians protest Asean summit visit by PM Hun Sen

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Friday to protest against Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who claimed to have been gifted millions of dollars by the Australian government ahead of a special Asean summit this weekend. An estimated 300 protesters, the majority of

  • Peeling back layers of prehistory in Battambang

    When the man passed away, he had not yet reached 50. He belonged to a tribe that had settled near the Sangker River in Battambang province, likely cultivating the fields and raising animals. On the side, they hunted for boars, and even turtles, one of which

  • Phnom Penh smothered in smelly, dangerous haze as landfill fire continues burning

    A putrid haze that has bedeviled Phnom Penh since Monday night will likely continue as a landfill in Dangkao district continued to burn on Friday, creating health risks for the capital's residents. Workers at the Dangkao landfill on site on Friday attributed the fire, which