Forced marriage

Posted 11 មេសា 2014 / បាន​ធ្វើ​បច្ចុប្បន្នភាព 16 មករា 2017
Democratic Kampuchea Zone
Democratic Kampuchea District
Democratic Kampuchea Sector
Current Day District
Current Day Province
Alleged Crimes


[Disclaimer: The content in Closing Orders are allegations, which need to be proven through adversarial hearings. As such, the allegations below can not be treated as facts unless they have been established through a final judgmen.]

From the Case 002 Closing Order:


216. One of the five policies was to implement and defend the CPK socialist revolution was through the regulation of marriage by whatever means necessary. The CPK forced couples to marry as it took control progressively over parts of Cambodian territory before 1975 and continued to do so until at least 6 January 1979. The Co-Investigating Judges are seized of such facts occurring throughout the Cambodian territory.  

217. One of several objectives of this policy was to control the interaction between individuals, such that they were only permitted to marry and have sexual relations in accordance with CPK policy. The concept of marriage was reconstructed under the CPK regime in order for the CPK to replace the role of parents and to enable the mothers to go to work. The CPK had the objective of increasing population growth and “building up a family”. This objective was achieved by matching people with similar political status and marrying soldiers. Marriage was therefore a key means by which the CPK did “whatever can be done that is a gain for the revolution”.

Dates & Participation
218. There is evidence that the CPK forced people to marry as early as 1974. In September 1977, Pol Pot articulated a CPK objective of increasing Cambodia’s population to 20 million within ten to fifteen years. He also stated that marriage ceremonies were to be held for groups of couples at the same time. The policy relating to population growth was reaffirmed at a national medical conference opened by Pol Pot and attended by representatives of the CPK government ministries and offices, zones and sectors and the armed forces. The implementation of a system of marriages arranged by the Party authorities among the population and within the Party itself was disseminated through CPK publications and reported to superiors through CPK telegrams. A report from the West Zone to Angkar provides information about marriage statistics and birth statistics.

219. Official documents and statements refer to the supposed voluntary basis of such marriages: Pol Pot stated that “young men and young women [were to] build up families on a voluntary basis” and marriages were said to be based upon a person’s proposal of a spouse according to the decision of the command committee. Numerous witnesses state that they were forced to marry. Even those officials who stated that individuals freely agreed to marriage note that, in practice, people were not able to assert their opposition for fear of violence or death.

220. In furtherance of this policy, single people in their twenties or early thirties were forced to marry by CPK authorities, usually in official buildings or in public places. After being made to spend a short period of time together, couples were required to return to their daily work and were brought together only when the CPK regime required including in some cases to ensure consummation of the marriage. Some persons who did not agree to marriage in accordance with the Party line were deemed to be “enemies” however this was not applied in all instances of refusal

Profile of Persons Married
842.     Both men and women were forcibly married under the CPK regime. Most were in their twenties at the time of the marriage, however there were also occasions where the spouses were younger or older, although former CPK cadre state that persons were deemed eligible for and assigned to be married from the age of 20 for women and 25 for men. Several witnesses who were forcibly married were former monks who had been disrobed. Others were remarried after their former spouse disappeared.
Prevalence of Marriage

843. Of the marriages whose date can clearly be asserted, there is evidence that forced marriage occurred before 17 April 1975 in areas under the control of the CPK. For the period following this, witnesses testify to forced marriage occurring during the entire period of the regime in nearly every zone.

844. Throughout the country, people were typically married in mass ceremonies ranging from two couples to over 100 couples, with the majority of witnesses in ceremonies between 10 to 60 couples. Duch states that his wedding was not the norm at that time since his ceremony was without other couples present. One witness states that weddings were held jointly in order to avoid any waste of resources.

Role of the Authorities
845. A former sector secretary states that the policy of group marriages was pronounced at the highest level, and further detailed that he attended a meeting during which Pol Pot stated: “marry them in couples, two or three couples could be married, to not make it too difficult”. One witness’ marriage was arranged by their direct supervisor within the Ministry of Social Affairs, although the witness was told by Ieng Thirith that she had wanted to arrange for the witness to marry somebody else. A former district cadre states that in prisoners detained for “moral offences” who were widows or single persons were married based upon a policy of the upper echelon. A former district cadre affirms that people could refuse to be married, and that although marriages took place pursuant to decisions made by his superior sector, this “was not forced marriage”. However, he states that in practice, he decided who was to be married to whom based on his appraisal of their “personal histories” after which his decision was announced by the District Committee, and couples did not dare object to his choices for fear of execution. Similarly, he states that it was pronounced that they were free to divorce, but in reality anyone who split up a marriage “would have problems” and be sent to labour at a worksite.

846. Most witnesses attest to marriages being arranged by persons other than the individuals concerned or their families. Many witness state that marriages were arranged by “Angkar” or by “Pol Pot” or the “Khmer Rouge”. More specifically, some witnesses state that marriages were arranged by representatives of the administrative authority such as the unit chief, the district secretary, the district committee or chairman, the village chief, or the cooperative chief.

Rationale for Spouse Selection
847. Duch states that there existed a policy that marriages should follow the equation of “1+1=2” meaning that only individuals of the same standing, especially in terms of party membership and social status, should be married. This is corroborated by several witnesses across different zones. One witness also referred to a rationale that persons who were married to foreigners were re-married to Cambodian nationals.

848. There is also evidence that when the army wanted their soldiers to marry, they would pick women from the villages or that marriages of soldiers were arranged through the use of numbers where groom with the number one was supposed to be married with the bride holding number one etc. Some witnesses refer to the marriage of women to “disabled” soldiers. Another witness states that if persons refused to marry, they would be married “to a Khmer Rouge handicapped soldier”.

Coercive Circumstances
849. Most witnesses state that they were forced to marry and/or feared to oppose the will of “Angkar”. It appears people generally did not know their future spouses before the ceremony and had no influence on the decision. Witnesses state that they were told to marry the person identified for marriage regardless of whether they liked it or not: one civil party specified that she could not oppose the wedding because she did not know to where she could escape; another witness had been sent to reeducation after she refused a previous marriage proposal, and thus she was afraid to not agree to get married, etc. Although some attempted to refuse, other witnesses state that if marriage was refused, the person would be sent to a mobile unit or worksite, “removed” from the unit or sent to be reeducated or “disappeared meaning that taken to be killed”  or they would be accused of being “traitors” or would be “smashed or killed by Angkar”. Others state they did not dare to object specifying that some people committed suicide either by drowning into the water or poisoning themselves.

850. Several witnesses have confirmed this fear of being killed. One civil party states that her sisters were forced to marry CPK cadre despite attempting to avoid the marriage by faking illness and they were later killed, along with other women who had refused to marry. Another witness states that if people made decisions on who to marry on their initiative, they would be taken away to be killed.

851. However, there are some instances where individuals successfully objected to the marriage. One witness states that in her unit, the women collectively denied marriage requests by a men’s unit and subsequently were not forced to be married. Another witness states that women refusing to marry were left in their working battalions and not forced to marry. A disrobed former monk repeatedly refused to be married and was not punished for his refusal.

852. Similarly, some witnesses state that their spouse had some degree of influence on the choice of their future spouce as a result of a request made to the authorities. One witness specified that he protested against his match because he loved another woman and was then allowed to marry the woman he preferred.

853. Duch states in interview that although a party cadre would propose marriage, proposals were made to couples known to want to marry. Another witness who himself arranged marriages states that most couples were satisfied and that those who were not were given “imagination counseling” after which they agreed to their marriage. Several other witnesses stated future spouces had some degree of choice in the marriage.

Marriage Ceremony
854. Witnesses refer to marriages taking place in diverse locations: in official buildings (the district office, the Party office, the military unit, the communal kitchen, a hospital, or at a meeting place, etc); or in public places (a vehicle parking area, a rice field, or at worksites, or cooperatives, etc). Some witnesses give evidence of marriages taking place in pagodas.

855. The marriage ceremony followed a similar pattern. Witnesses state that they were provided with new black clothing and krama scarves. Witnesses state that couples were brought together either sitting or standing next to each other or holding hands and being made to make vows to accept each other and to work to achieve the objectives of “Angkar” and the revolution. Others refer to spouces walking under a flag and reading out their spouses’ biographies. Witnesses give evidence of the absence of traditional Cambodian ritual such as the participation of monks.

856. With respect to who was present at the ceremony, most witnesses state that it was simply the other couples and the persons who arranged the ceremony, and that family members were not present, in particular the mother and father. Although one civil party gives contrary evidence of staying with their parents for three days after the wedding ceremony. Another witness states there was no celebration, the couples simply walked to their respective houses afterwards.

857. One witness who denies that forced marriage or mass ceremonies took place states that families participated in wedding ceremonies. According to another witness, Pol Pot had said that parents should attend marriages. Some witnesses state that weddings were followed by a shared meal. Duch states that for him, his family and the family of his spouse (whom he had authority to choose himself) were allowed to participate in his own wedding. He recieved preferential treatment due to his superior position, however he recognises that he was not able to express his wish to have his mother give him her best wishes during the ceremony.

Following the Marriage Ceremony
858. With respect to the consummation of marriage, one civil party interviewed stated that she did not dare to refuse to have sexual intercourse with her husband because the unit chief would have beaten her if she did because she saw this happen to another woman in her unit. Several witness stated that consummation of marriage was monitored by militias. One witness stated that a cadre told her that couples who refused would be sent to prison. Some people committed suicide because of these reasons. Another states that three days after the ceremony the unit chief told her to stay with her husband. She was very scared of her husband and there were militiamen eavesdropping below the house so she was forced to have sex with her husband. Another witness stated that couples were not monitored and Duch further stated that “[t]o my knowledge there were no measures to organise surveillance but some immoral cadre spied on the married people to find out whether they were sleeping together  (this was independent of the problem of forced marriages). I remember in particular, the case of Comrade Pang, regimental secretary and later secretary of the Military Hospital 98 Committee, who asked his subordinates to spy on married people to see if they were sleeping together. He was punished for this: he was first made to apologize to the married couples in question and then, as there were other allegations against him, he was arrested, transferred to S-21 and executed”.

859. With respect to whether people were made to stay together after the marriage ceremony, some witnesses state they were made to spend time together immediately after the ceremony before being separated. Other witnesses state that they were together for some time after the ceremony and then were made to meet more or less frequently (sometimes around once a week, sometimes once a month); some appear to have remained together after the ceremony; some witnesses state that they are still with their spouses whereas others state they separated.

860. Some witnesses refer to children born as a result of the marriage.