For Couples Wed by KR, Divorce Meant Death: Witness

Couples forced to marry by the Pol Pot regime would face death if they requested a divorce, while cadre would spy on newlyweds to ensure they were not holding secret religious ceremonies to honor their nuptials, the Khmer Rouge tribunal heard Tuesday.

Meas Layhou, who worked on the January 1 dam worksite in Kompong Thom province during the Democratic Kampuchea period, said the consequences for anyone who attempted to rebel against the matches made by the communist party were fatal.

“The newlyweds did not dare to get divorced, even if they did not consummate their marriage. If they dared to get divorced they would be killed by Angkar,” she said.

Ms. Layhou was married by the Khmer Rouge to a man her parents had selected for her as a possible match before the party took power in April 1975. “After my marriage the militia came to conduct surveillance…to see whether we celebrated any religious ritual after our marriage…. If we were found doing that we would have been taken away and killed,” she added.

Ms. Layhou also said members of her mobile unit would be locked in a cage if cadre deemed them to not be working hard enough.

“We would be threatened [that we would] be placed in a cage if we did not complete our quota, so we tried our best and usually we completed our work quota,” she said.

Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea—the regime’s second-in-command who is on trial for crimes including genocide alongside former head of state Khieu Samphan—questioned the witness on a story she told about people who were sent to a pagoda in Baray district to be killed.

“In the period when the music was played over the loudspeaker, there would be killings…when I was walking and reached the lake I encountered two soldiers who were armed and…I was asked whether I wanted to die,” she said of the incident. “I was very afraid…and I ran away to the other side of the lake,” said Ms. Layhou, admitting she did not witness any killings first hand.

Hearings continue Wednesday.

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