The Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) on Wednesday said it had provided legal assistance to a woman who was sentenced to 165 years in prison on nine criminal counts after she pleaded for a reduction of her jail terms.
The move followed CHRC’s recent visit to Prey Sar prison.
CHRC spokesperson Chin Malin told The Post on Wednesday that the government’s rights body had provided a lawyer for Pech Sonet, 24, and also found a centre to take care of her three-year-old son.
“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has already delivered a verdict but she appealed the sentence."
“We found an organisation to help take care of her son while her case proceeded. We need a proper place to provide her son with temporary care and education. Regarding her case, CHRC only offers legal aid on her request,” he said.
Malin said Sonet had not received a final verdict. If her charges are combined, her jail terms would amount to over 100 years. But by law, he said, a lawyer could argue mitigating circumstances so the court could consolidate her sentences before issuing a final verdict.
Chhouk Seiha, the executive director of Child Pedagogy Cambodia, said the NGO accepted her son last week and would offer him care and education.
“The law bars children from staying in jail with their mother to prevent them from witnessing life in prison,” he said.
Seiha said a baby-sitter is looking after Sonet’s son, who has learnt to sing and draw pictures.
A prison officer who asked not to be named said Sonet hailed from Kampong Chhnang province and was disowned by her parents for unspecified reasons.
She then came to find work in Phnom Penh where she met her boyfriend Taing Nimey whom she lived together without getting married until she became pregnant.
In 2015, the couple and two other friends were arrested while having a meal on the Prasith mountain just outside the capital. Police said at the time they had been following the gang for many months for their involvement in over 30 cases of robbery and murder.
Sonet’s boyfriend then resisted arrest and shot at police, prompting them to return fire in self-defence. He was shot dead, while Sonet and her companions were arrested.
While in prison, she was taken to the Japanese-owned Sunrise Hospital in Phnom Penh to deliver her baby, the officer said.