25 January 2013
Cambodian Kids Behind Bars(1) Lina's Story- Why She Got Locked Up
"My name is Lina and I am a prisoner in Cambodia.
I have lived inside the prison for many years now.
Before I came into the prison I had a business, a life and a child who I love very much. Before I came into prison, I opened up a restaurant and had three men and three women working for me as waiters and cleaners.
The week before I was arrested, three policemen had come into my restaurant and asked me for money for protection. I told them no, I had just opened my business, I only had a small restaurant, I could not give them any money.
The next week I was arrested - on charges of human trafficking.
The police told me that I was trafficking the waiters and cleaners working at my restaurant, I told them
I was not involved in human trafficking, I was trying to run a small restaurant, however they told me
that a customer of mine had informed them that I sold girls through my restaurant.
I cannot remember my trial clearly – everything just happened so suddenly. At my trial, I did not
know who my lawyer was and even today I do not know who my lawyer is.
At the end of my trial the judge told me that my sentence would be six years, however, he then said
that I needed to give him some money for this sentence, and if I did not pay him this money, he would
increase my sentence.
I did not have any money to give to the judge, so when he asked me to give him $2000, I could not pay
it. He then gave me 16 years imprisonment.
I still have many years left to serve on my prison sentence."
Lina’s experience is not an uncommon occurrence for Cambodia's judicial system.
LICADHO has received reports of women who are imprisoned for crimes that they did not
commit and/or given harsher sentences for being unable to pay high unofficial fees.
Similarly LICADHO has received reports that prisoners in general (including men, women
and minors) are not allowed adequate access to a competent lawyer who can explain the legal
process and their rights to a fair trial and appeal.