A Kampong Cham woman has approached the rights group Adhoc for support in contesting what she maintains is the wrongful imprisonment of her son, who is under the Kingdom’s age of criminal responsibility, but has been jailed since August after being arrested and convicted for raping a 5-year-old girl.
Last Friday, the 47-year-old approached Adhoc with a birth certificate issued in Kampong Cham stating that her son was born on November 15, 2003. At the time of his arrest, he would have been only 12, some 15 months shy of 14 – the age at which Cambodian law allows the imprisonment of minors.
Kun Sovanarith, the boy’s court-appointed lawyer at the time of his trial, said he was sentenced to three years and six months in jail, adding that the 30-day window for appealing the verdict had since closed. “During the hearing, [his] mother said he was 13, but there was no document to prove it,” said Sovanarith.
However, Mean Prum Muny, investigator at Adhoc, said his NGO is looking for a lawyer to help with the case. “In this case, even though the verdict went into effect, we still have a way to work on it. That is, to demand a retrial because we have new evidence,” Prum Muny said, referring to the birth certificate.
The Kingdom has struggled to implement juvenile justice reforms, and Prum Muny said yesterday that he believed the detention of minors, even over the age of 14, is a matter of grave concern. “Minors between 14 and 18 should be detained separately from adult prisoners,” he said. “I don’t see a separation in Cambodia.”
Youths placed in this situation, he added, “will have problems in rehabilitation . . . they see the bad activities of adult prisoners”.