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Woman forced to remarry after husband’s execution

Kul Nem testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC
Kul Nem testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Woman forced to remarry after husband’s execution

Less than a week after being shown blood-stained swords that hinted at the fresh execution of her husband, Nget Chat was forced to marry another man.

In a victim impact statement delivered before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, Chat described how in 1978 her husband, from Kampuchea Krom, was marched away with a group of people, ostensibly to harvest corn. He had just returned from fetching their two small children.

“I saw military men . . . who came and their hands were carrying swords, and the swords were stained with blood, and they asked me whether I recognised anything,” she said. She recognised the clothes of one of her comrades. “I was so scared at that time. I thought my husband would have already been killed,” Chat said.

Three or four days after his disappearance, and still mourning his loss, she was forced to remarry. Chat, at just 20 years old, was paired with a much older man. His wife, also from Kampuchea Krom, had been killed, too.

“They said if I opposed, I would be sent to the upper level,” she said. “I felt afraid that I would die and be leaving my children behind, so I did not dare to oppose.”

Chat spoke of her suffering after a fellow civil party in Case 002/02 – in which former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are being tried for crimes against humanity – also confronted the courtroom with details of the harm the regime had inflicted on him.

Kul Nem, now in his mid-60s, told the tribunal of the “unsettling” situation he found himself in when, without realising it, he was taken to observe women as potential future wives. Nem, who had a fiancée in his home village at the time, was told he had three days to decide.

In order to survive, Nem said he would leave the decision in the hands of Angkar – the all-seeing Khmer Rouge “organisation” – and was subsequently married to an ethnically Phnong woman.

“We had to follow the proverb: ‘We should not to put our feet into the water while the boat was moving’,” Nem said, explaining why he did not refuse Angkar’s instructions. He said his new wife, her body ravaged by forced labour and exhaustion, miscarried twice.

“I was very angry, but I kept the anger in myself,” Nem said. “People like Khieu Samphan knew what happened, and if he says he does not know, that is his right . . . but then we should know from where such a policy came.”

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