Forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge was physically and mentally harmful to both men and women alike, a legal expert said Monday.
“Both of them were victims, not just women,” said Duong Savorn, a project coordinator for the Cambodia Defenders Project, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “The organization forced them to marry those whom they didn’t know, whom they didn’t love.”
As many as 200,000 people were forced into marriage under the Khmer Rouge, which sought a communist agrarian utopia. With senior leaders facing trials for atrocity crimes next year under the UN-backed tribunal, the question of whether forced marriage was a crime has gained ground.
“Some of them have the misperception that in our culture it’s the parents who arrange their marriages and at the time the organization was like their parent,” Duong Savorn said.
So far, 138 people have filed forced marriage complaints to the tribunal through the Defenders Project. Duong Savorn said that was because people were afraid of offending their spouses, to whom they may still be married.
“They were under threat and intimidation,” Duong Savorn said. “This means that if they did not accept the arrangement, they would be sent for re-education, imprisonment or torture.”
“I was disappointed, that even at the time of the marriage I didn’t have a proper costume and I didn’t know whom I would marry,” said Sam Sitha, a resident of Prey Veng province who has filed a complaint with the tribunal. “I even had to borrow black pajamas for the wedding. I never had happiness from such a marriage. Since my divorce, I’m afraid of remarrying.”