The focus of the Khmer Rouge tribunal shifted to forced marriage on Monday, with a woman explaining how she only agreed to marry a man more than 20 years her senior because some who refused such demands later disappeared.
Forced marriage is one of the final topics the tribunal will delve into in the second phase of Case 002—in which the Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea and head of state Khieu Samphan are facing charges including genocide. Prosecutors will attempt to prove that the regime implemented a nationwide policy that forced people to marry and have sex in order to increase the country’s workforce.
The woman, a “civil party” to the trial who was only identified as 2-TCCP-274 due to her role in ongoing investigations, said that she was forced into a marriage in 1977 after her first husband died.
“They said that ‘Comrade, you have to get married,’” she said. “I told them that I didn’t want to get married yet because I have a child already and they said that I had to get married otherwise action would be taken against me.”
Refusal to obey the orders of the local officials in Kompong Cham province could have been perilous, she said.
“I did not dare to protest any longer because I observed there were cases where people protested or refused to get married and then they disappeared,” she said.
She depicted a joyless ceremony by lantern light—void of all the traditional food, music and celebration of a typical Khmer wedding—alongside 12 other black-clad newlyweds.
About 23 or 24 at the time, she said she was also not fond of her new husband, who was about 48 years old.
“I did not like him. I was forced to get married, so I was so angry and I could not eat,” she said.
“He had an ugly physical appearance. He had dark skin and he spoke with an accent. He looked intimidating,” she said. “I did not love him at all.”
Her testimony continues today.