Khmer Rouge Survivor Speaks Out Against Sexual Violence

After 10 days of forced marriage, the Khmer Rouge separated Sou Sotheavy from her bride and took her to yet another Takeo pro­vince prison.

“They raped me in a group,” she said Wednesday of her captors. “Five or six raped me. I asked them, ‘Why did you do it to me,’ and they said that raping a man would not bring them death.”

In a news conference, the 68-year-old transgendered woman said that for denying that she was a man, Democratic Kampuchea had punished her as though she were less than human.

But she said that 30 years on, she believed the Khmer Rouge tribunal would now recognize these punishments as crimes.

Her lawyers announced that in a complaint lodged Wednesday with the court’s Victim Unit, Sou So­theavy has applied to become a civil party and asked that the court in­vestigate the crimes she suffered—the first such complaint to the court for crimes arising from a victim’s gender.

Silke Studzinsky, one of Sou Sotheavy’s lawyers, said the definition of crimes against humanity in use at the court recognized only one gender crime, rape, and that the court was not yet sufficiently investigating sexual violence.

“It is about time to shatter the widespread myth that sexual crimes did not occur under the Khmer Rouge,” she said. “Studies demonstrate that evidence can be found that not all victims of sexual violence were killed, and in some cases, there are even surviving eyewitnesses.”

Sou Sotheavy, who is now the director of the NGO Cambodia Network Men Women Develop­ment, which works with prostitutes and sexual minorities, paused several times to cry as she told a crowd­ed room of what had happened to her.

“The three-year, eight-month and 20-day regime hurt me, forced me to take a wife, but I was not interested in that woman because I be­lieve I too am a woman,” said Sou Sotheavy. “If I did not marry, I would be killed.”

At an underground prison called Kreang Chhes in Takeo, other Khmer Rouge jailers had the same attitude.

“The prison chief raped me and even pointed a gun into my mouth. If I didn’t do what he wanted, I would be killed,” said Sou Sotheavy.

“This was not just killing. It was brutal beyond that. It was killing third genders like my friend into whom they inserted a custard ap­ple,” she said. “They raped many people who have died since. I am now the main one.”

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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