In Siem Reap’s prison: One woman’s story

By Kema Hodge

Walking down the cement sidewalk, I thought about what words would be exchanged in a room full of prisoners.

Andrea Ross and a woman named Marie helped to start a sewing class for the women at Siem Reap’s prison. I was there to interview them and ask why they chose to take this class, but I was also very interested in knowing why they received time.

Nary, a Journey’s Within B&B staff member, joined us to translate.

The first series of questions I asked were simple questions pertaining to personal information, such as: Name, age, reason for taking the sewing class, and so forth. When I ran out of basic questions, I dared to ask the one that intrigued me most: “Why are you in prison?”

Nary explained that the women did not have to answer the question and then patiently listened while the first woman opted to tell us her story. Even though I did not understand the Khmer she spoke, I followed the expression in her eyes. First, it was shy. She probably didn’t feel fully comfortable telling us her story. Then, her eyes grew big like she was getting into the yarn she spun. As she progressed, I noticed that her eyes revealed sadness, bitterness, and regret.

I turned to Nary when the story was finished to hear her translate. In short, the woman claimed she served as a lookout to her husband’s attempted armed robbery. After turning herself in, the police gave her 18 years.

Shocked by the length of time she was given for being a mere accessory, I expected to hear more inhumane sentences. However, no one else there had received nearly as much time as the first. Even the two women who were convicted of murder only received ten years. 

Corruption or lies? I doubt I’ll ever find out which. My guess is that it’s a little of both going on at Siem Reap’s prison.

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