T he plight of women prisoners, many of whom wait years
for their trials, was highlighted by visits by human rights groups and monks as
part of the celebrations this week.
Perhaps one of the saddest sights for
the delegation, and the journalists who went with them, was a two-year-old girl
who was born in T-3 jail and has never seen life outside.
other jail visited called PJ, one frail looking 30-year-old prisoner said: "Our
biggest problem here is that we have not even been tried in court
She has been accused of defaulting on a $100 loan payment and has
been in the detention center for the past six months without trial, though
legally she cannot be so detained for more than 48 hours.
She is typical
of women at the two prisons. Six of the ten women prisoners at T-3 still await
trial, and most have little awareness about what legal redress they can
When the delegation led by the Venerable Maha Ghosananda and the
Minister for Secretariat of Women's Affairs Keat Sukun stepped into the dingy,
low-roofed women's prison in the PJ compound, the 18 prisoners inside broke down
They bowed and prayed with the monks and spoke of their
problems to the other visitors, the first they had had who were not from their
Overcrowding, insufficient food and disease are common
complaints, but Kek Galabru, president of the human rights NGO LICADHO says
women prisoners are generally held in better conditions than men.
are fewer in number, so their rooms are less dirty and crowded, and often they
get more food from the wardens," she says.
Even so, the 18 prisoners in
PJ share a single small room and bath.
"They are given about 200 grams
of rice everyday with soup or vegetables," says Dr Kau Sacha, a doctor with
LICADHO who visits both PJ and T-3 twice a week.
gastro-enteritis because of untreated water.
Most women prisoners have no
idea when or whether they will be tried.
One forty-year-old woman in T-3
finally had her trial last week after waiting for six years. She was found
guilty of killing her daughter but due to the length of time she has already
served, she will be released within days. The woman protested her innocence to
the delegation, claiming her daughter had committed suicide.
Her's is an
extreme case, most have waited for months before a trial for alleged bribery,
theft or murder.
One 17-year-old in PJ prison is accused of trafficking
in girls for prostitution. Another woman allegedly borrowed a motorcycle she did
The living conditions at T-3 for women are actually better
than at PJ. Of the ten, five share one large room and four share another, while
one woman described by Dr Kau Sacha as 'depressive' stays alone. She has been
waiting two years and four months for a trial.
T-3 was supplied with food
by UNTAC for a few months, and Galabru says that LICADHO has been offered food
aid from the World Food Program (WFP). It will begin to distribute food in
prisons as soon as adequate storage space is found.
The other major
problem is medicine, for which women usually depend on LICADHO doctors.