A long-running custody battle between a Cambodian mother and UK-based father over their daughter resulted in a chaotic scene at the Phnom Penh airport yesterday morning when a scuffle broke out in the airport’s busy arrivals terminal.
The UK family fled Cambodia after the mother*, 35, turned up to meet them with around 25 friends and family members, in breach of a UK court order which said she must not be there when her daughter arrived, according to British barrister John Pike who has assisted her.
Airport staff said when the 5-year-old emerged from customs with her father and grandparents, she ran to her mother, who picked her up before the father attempted to take her back, which spurred the child’s two grandmothers to start fighting over the child, grasping a leg each.
An airport security officer who intervened said the girl sustained a minor shoulder injury and scratched arm, and started to cry that “she wanted to go home”.
Yesterday was meant to be the start of a court-ordered 10-day visit, but the British family left the country immediately on the advice of their lawyer, said another attorney representing the mother.
When asked why she had breached the order, the mother said she could not resist the urge to see her daughter.
“I love her so much; I just wanted to see her, so I came to the airport to greet her,” she said.
*The names of the claimants in the case have been omitted.