Tribunal Hears Brutal Tale of Rape, Forced Marriage

Following claims by an expert witness at the Khmer Rouge tribunal that marriages during the Pol Pot regime were not routinely forced, a witness on Wednesday recounted a harrowing tale of being forced to marry a man who tied her up and raped her with the help of local militiamen.

Over three days, trauma psychologist Peg LeVine told the court that marriages during the Khmer Rouge were not systematically forced across the regime, but were “conscripted” and held a function similar to performing “national service.”

Concluding her testimony on Wednesday morning, Ms. LeVine told Victor Koppe, defense counsel for the regime’s second-in-command Nuon Chea—on trial alongside former head of state Khieu Samphan—that she questioned the process in which some witnesses end up in court.

“I don’t question the integrity of civil party members and what they bring forward into this court. I have listened to those testimonies,” Ms. LeVine said.

“What I question, perhaps, is the judgment and the values, and the drivenness, perhaps, of some of the organizations that may have been involved in them getting to the point of being in this courtroom.”

After Ms. LeVine finished her testimony, 54-year-old Pen Sochan took the stand and described how she had been forced to marry in Pursat province when she was only 16 or 17.

“I tried to run away. I tried to beg them for mercy, but Comrade Om [a local cadre] said to me that I could not object because the wheel of history had to move forward,” she said. “We were forced to get married.”

Recounting a now-familiar tale of a miserable ceremony devoid of loved ones and traditional customs, Ms. Sochan said she was wed alongside 11 other couples to a 25-year-old man she had never met.

On the first night of their marriages, the couples were forced to sleep in a building partitioned into 12 small rooms. She said Comrade Om informed her that she would be killed if she refused to have sex with her new husband after three nights.

“She told me that I could refuse on the first night and the second night, but if it happened again on the third night I would be disappeared,” Ms. Sochan said.

Ms. Sochan fended off her husband’s violent advances on the first night because she was wearing two pairs of trousers, she said. Although her uncle begged her new husband not to attack her on the second day, she testified that by the third day she had been raped.

“During the third night, he tore my pants away while the militiamen were standing there and watching and I could not do anything because my hands were tied,” she said. “He then raped me.”

“I bled after the rape and the bleeding continued for a period of two months. Those militiamen who were watching us said that it was good that we could produce children for Angkar,” she said. “After they said that they laughed and they walked away.”

[email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News