Cambodian prison and a girl alone

I just met a girl tonight, and I have to write her story before I forget it… sometimes perhaps girls shouldnt travel alone – it’s probably best (MUM) if some of you don’t read this – as I plan to travel to Cambodia later in the year.

Whilst in Cambodia, H (I’ll call her to protect her identity), was travelling though the city of Kampot where she went to a nightclub. The way things went is she was overcharged for things, and lost her glasses, after the night was done she asked for them to turn the lights on to find her glasses, there was a fight about it and it ended up with her being hit by one of the waitresses who then called the police and told them that H had hit her with a flowerpot. (The information here was a little fuzzy but this isn’t the real story).

Once the police came she was told to pay the waitress $500USD and all would go away. She wouldn’t pay because she hadn’t assaulted her at all, in fact it was the other way around – and as a brave solo traveller she stood her ground. The police then detained her and she asked to call her embassy, they said no. The arguments continued and later that night she was told she could call her embassy if she had a phone, which she didn’t, she was then taken outside and put on a mat and told to sleep and she would be dealt with tomorrow. After that she was surrounded by 5 men who unzipped their pants and asked her ‘what happens now?’ Luckily the tragic story that our imaginations all go to now didn’t happen, and she was then taken to a small prison in the town. she was kept next to two men who had been detained for days already and had not been fed. she was never searched and was given bread and water which she shared with the men.

She continued to ask for her embassy, and over 24 hours later got away from them, got back to her homestay who sent her back to the police. During this escape she found a western man on a motor bike and gave him her name and asked him to call the USA embassy and relate her difficulties.

They detained her again and took her passport, saying that she would have to pay $500 to the woman, and that she was going to be detained in jail regardless for the assault (that she claims she didn’t commit). during the space of two days she asked for a lawyer and a translator, a lawyer was presented but the lawyer could only speak Khmer and not english – so was of no real help. Eventually they let her go, but kept her passport – she does not know why she was freed after 48 hours.

She then travelled to Phnom Penh where she went directly to the USA embassy who told her that they couldn’t help her and that she should go back and sort it out with the waitress – which is absolutely abhorrent and I can’t believe that an embassy would behave in such a way after one of their nationals had been abused, detained illegally and threatened with her life (did i not mention that – they told her if she didn’t do as they say that they would kill her).

She eventually got an emergency passport after being told by the Embassy to tell the local police that it was stolen, thus committing fraud – and with little help from the embassy and escaped through the border to Vietnam – because the Embassy security guard, who is Cambodian, brought the case to the Embassador and was shocked that his local people could treat a traveller in such a way. The Embassador of USA never spoke to H directly, but only through HER secretary. I just can’t believe it.

This girl, who definitely didn’t have luck on her side, had her lap top stolen by the staff at her guest house a week before this incident, and at the guest house she stayed in in Phnom Penh the man she shared a room with (her ‘friend’) stole from her $150USD.

The story is very sad, and very scary – but that’s not really what concerns me so much as the incredible actions of the embassy when one of their own is in danger. Isn’t the embassy your safe house when you are in a foreign country? Isn’t this where you are supposed to be able to go and be understood, protected and given options?

I can only hope that if anything happens to me whilst I am travelling that the Australian Embassy steps up when the American Embassy turned their backs.  

Barefoot and safe…

One Response to “Cambodian prison and a girl alone”
  1. Amy says:

    I wonder how accurate this gals story was. I would hope the US embassy would not have turned away their own.

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