Despite recounting harrowing details of being raped by a man she was forced to marry during the Pol Pot regime, a woman told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday that she believed her husband was an “innocent man” who was “not brutal.”
Preap Sokhoeum, 62, was the latest in a long line of witnesses and civil parties testifying about forced marriages at the tribunal, where the Khmer Rouge’s second-in-command Nuon Chea and head of state Khieu Samphan are on trial for crimes including genocide.
In a now familiar tale, Ms. Sokhoeum explained that newlyweds were monitored by local militiamen to ensure they were consummating their nuptials, although she testified on Monday that no one ever directly ordered them to have sex.
She then gave further details about how she was eventually raped by her husband, despite managing to fend off his advances on the first night.
“Initially, on the first night he begged to sleep with me, but I refused and that was the night that I ran inside the house. I wanted to jump down and he said to me that if I was to jump down then I would be arrested,” she said.
The rape began days later while she slept, she said.
“When I woke up, I saw his hands on my body. When I tried to remove myself from his grip, he tightened his grip. He spoke to me that as a husband and wife we should sleep with one another, and when I refused, then he tore my shirt and pants. He tried to unbutton my shirt and when he tried to remove my bra he actually snatched it,” she said.
However, in an answer indicative of the complex rationalization of forced marriage under ultra-communist rule, Ms. Sokhoeum said she believed her husband—who was later killed by the regime —was not a brutal man.
“He was an innocent person. He was not brutal. If he was a brutal person he would have raped me on the first day,” she said. “I want to clarify with you that he was an innocent person.”
She broke down in tears when explaining how her family was killed as the regime attempted to root out those linked to the previous Khmer Republic, including her brother, who served as a soldier in the U.S.-backed regime.
“They killed the whole family. They did not spare any family members if they found out that we were related,” she said.
“That suffering and pain remains with me until nowadays…. It’s beyond words to describe our pain.”