They once married out of fear - if not they could be killed, sent away, raped, tortured.

The Khmer Rouge wanted them to prove their loyalty in this way. Forced marriage - the horrific act that brought them together, is now being tried as a crime against humanity in a tribunal.

But for these men and women, the most difficult of times led them to find love. Almost four decades after they were forced to marry, they have decided to have a real wedding. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 1978.

"I just felt fear. I didn’t love my husband at all.”

2016.

“Now that my husband and I know each other," she says, "we will be marrying out of love.”

 

 

 A portrait of groom Ly Lay Eun and bride Kae Khan in their home a day before their wedding ceremony, held for victims of forced marriages by the Khmer Rouge. Several couples have decided to have a formal wedding ceremony almost four decades after their forced marriage, a crime which is today being tried as a crime against humanity by a war crimes tribunal.

 

“I was terrified after hearing about the other couple getting killed, so I tried my best to understand her to avoid that same fate with her.”

 

 
 

 

“The relationship between my husband and I has gotten sweeter because we both feel that we are officially man and wife. 

There are no words to describe this.”

 

 

 

“I knew they would

kill me

if I said no.

It was just us

marrying to survive;

it was not

out of love.”

 

 

 A portrait of groom Morb Heang and bride Nou Sout in their home a day before their wedding ceremony, held for victims of forced marriages by the Khmer Rouge. Several couples have decided to have a formal wedding ceremony almost four decades after their forced marriage, a crime which is today being tried as a crime against humanity by a war crimes tribunal.

 

“No, it depends on us and

how we understand each other.

That’s how we have been able to build a family after the Khmer Rouge. 

It’s because of us working together and learning to compromise with each other.”

 


Only 'Lovers' Left Alive, Dene Chen

Photographs, Hannah Reyes

Translation, Chan Phalkun

Project featured on Al Jazeera America: projects.aljazeera.com/2016/02/cambodia-love/