Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Women tell their pain under the Khmer Rouge

Women tell their pain under the Khmer Rouge

Women tell their pain under the Khmer Rouge

121011_02

Hong Savath (L), 47, cries as she speaks at a non-judicial Asia-Pacific Regional Women’s Hearing on gender-based violence held yesterday, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Hong Savath (L), 47, cries as she speaks at a non-judicial Asia-Pacific Regional Women’s Hearing on gender-based violence held yesterday, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Under the Khmer Rouge, Chum Ly Ly, 62, suffered much of what would now be recognised as gender-based violence.

Forced into work as an untrained “nurse”, she was regularly beaten by a unit chief in her village, who forced her to give him medical injections. In 1977 she endured a forced marriage to a man who later left her, sending her back into the path of the abusive unit chief.

It was only while preparing to testify on these experiences at a non-judicial Asia-Pacific Regional Women’s Hearing on gender-based violence that she told organisers of another painful secret: guards had raped her, just months after she had given birth.

“She saw the testifiers talk last year about their experiences. She hid her story for a long time,” project coordinator from the Cambodian Defenders Project Doung Savorn, said. “All the stories just came out when we prepared her to talk.”

One year on from Cambodia’s first non-judicial Women’s Hearing, more survivors of the Khmer Rouge are breaking the silence over the sexual violence they experienced, sufferings absent from the trial charges against the regime.

It might now be up to unofficial truth commissions such as the women’s hearing to hear the long-buried stories of its survivors.

Yesterday about 400 came to watch testimonials and experts speak at the second, now region-wide, hearing in Phnom Penh.

The event was also a chance for witnesses to speak for sisters and friends killed by the regime.

Fighting back sobs, 47-year-old Hong Savath struggled to answer the facilitator’s calm questions about her sisters’ forced marriage ceremony.

“My sister would not hold the hand of her husband... My father had told her she had to get married or she’d be killed,” she said. Running back to hug her mother, Savath’s sister had been dragged away from their parents and stabbed.

After the testimonials yesterday, speakers were supported by the hearing’s assistants, who held their shoulders and massaged their temples.

The reaction to the 2011 hearing had led to greater awareness and documentation, but it was doubtful the cases would be heard in the official justice process of the ECCC, Savorn said.

That was due to the closing order of Case 001, which cited the CPK’s policy on morality, forbading the abuse of women, as evidence rape wasn’t a crime used by the regime.

“It’s still far away from going to court... I think they investigated gender-based violence, but they cannot bring this case to the Khmer Rouge leaders.”

Accompanied by her niece, one of few family members to support her speaking out, Sok Samith, 53, said it was “very painful” hearing fellow testimonials.

“These three women they had it very hard. They were really violated by the Khmer Rouge. I don’t want to let the regime to be born again in Cambodia or in the world.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rosa Ellen at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Negotiations on EBA being held

    In an effort to defuse tensions, a senior government official said Cambodia is negotiating with the European Union (EU) on the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal, which allows the Kingdom to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free. The EU notified Cambodia on October 5

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • Chinese police escort deported scam suspects

    Ninety-one Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from victims in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam were deported from Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday under the escort of 182 Chinese police personnel. General Department of Immigration head of investigations Ouk Hay Seila told reporters

  • Sam Rainsy, government group set to clash at IPU Geneva meet?

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy has been invited to speak at the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, according to a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker. A government delegation is also set to attend the meeting, a National Assembly press release