Witness Tells Khmer Rouge Tribunal of Forced Marriage

A witness at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Thursday told of how she and her family risked death if she did not agree to a marriage arranged by a Khmer Rouge chief in her sector.

Yi Laisov, who was born in 1958, told the court that during the Democratic Kampuchea period she worked as both a laborer tasked with hauling dirt at the Trapaing Thma Dam site and as a farmer in her home district of Phnom Srok, which was in Battambang province at the time.

Yi Laisov gives testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday. (ECCC)
Yi Laisov gives testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday. (ECCC)

In testimony that included frequent memory lapses and contradictions, Ms. Laisov recounted how her unit chief told her that she would be executed along with her family if she refused to wed the leader of a local children’s unit.

“I was told that I had to go back to my village in the morning to marry a man called Rhom and I told my unit chief that I did not want to get married and he replied ‘Please be careful; you will be killed,’” Ms. Laisov told the tribunal.

“I was told that if I refused to go back to my village to get married my whole family would be killed.”

Ms. Laisov added that she could not recall anyone who refused an arranged marriage and that at the ceremony, which was not attended by any of her relatives, three other couples were also asked to take vows.

Asked whether she remained wedded to Rhom following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge—which Mr. Laisov said occurred about a month after the marriage ceremony—she said she had not.

“I did not love him,” she said.

Ms. Laisov’s testimony was marked by frequent inconsistencies, with the witness explaining that her memory was slipping.

Following a question posed by Judge Claudia Fenz as to whether the witness was suffering from a memory “disease,” Ms. Laisov admitted “perhaps I cannot recall as other people can.”

During the prosecution’s initial questioning of the witness, Ms. Laisov claimed to have not witnessed killings at the Trapaing Thma worksite.

A prosecutor then read back to the witness an excerpt of her written testimony, in which she wrote of seeing a pregnant woman beaten to death by three Khmer Rouge cadres—leading Ms. Laisov to claim that she had in fact seen this execution.

“They were striking him with a stick and then he fell in the pit and then they dropped a stone on him to crush him,” Ms. Laisov said, later clarifying that she was referring to a woman.

Nuon Chea’s defense counsel, Victor Koppe, raised an objection to the witness being read previous statements and effectively asked to repeat the details.

“What I do find a bit unfortunate is that also all kinds of details were already read to the witness and it is remarkable that she first doesn’t remember any killing and now she seems that she did or does,” Mr. Koppe said.

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