A woman who ‘borrowed’ a young girl as ‘collateral’ for a loan she had given to another villager kept the child chained to a post for eight hours a day over two years.
The shocking case of child abuse resulted in police taking the four-year-old girl’s ‘carer’ into custody – but have now decided not to charge her out of pity for her own poverty-stricken circumstances.
Police and child protection workers who went to a village hut near the Cambodian town of Kemarak Pumin found the girl sitting on the floor of the community building with a chain padlocked around her ankle, securing her to a post.
The Phnom Penh Post reported today that the girl had told police that on one occasion she was so thirsty that she had to drink her own urine.
Police said the ‘adoptive mother’, who had loaned money to the child’s biological mother – had taken the four-year-old as collateral against a loan, but found it impossible to care for the girl during the day because she had to go to work.
‘The adoptive mother said the girl used to get in rainwater and get messy and she feared she might leave the house and drown or get lost,’ said Srey Touch, head of the local police human rights and juvenile protection unit.
Police were alerted to the girl’s plight by Keo Chhon, a 60-year-old village resident who told the Post: ‘I felt so much pity for her. It is so bad.
‘I think all children have the right to be cared for, not chained up like a dog. I wonder why the other workers didn’t report it, but for me, I had to report it.’
Despite the treatment the girl had suffered, her biological mother said she could still not take her back because of her poverty. ‘I love her but I have no-one to look after her when I go to work,’ she said, repeating what the adoptive mother had told police.
Child abuse is common among poverty-stricken village families in Cambodia, particularly as adults are unaware of laws that protect youngsters.
Chhan Sokunthea, head of the women and children’s rights section of the child protection group Adhoc, said that youngsters are more often the subject of beatings and other abuse,
‘In Cambodia, 75 to 80 per cent are uneducated and they don’t know how to care for their kids,’ she said. ‘Rarely is there a case where the nighbour or relative makes a complaint.’