Bopha, who asked us not to reveal her real name, sits on the colourful rug that lines the floor of her rickety shack and, at night, serves as the family‚Äôs bed. She cradles her 10-month-old daughter, while her five-year-old son fiddles with her hair, asking for attention. “He really missed me when I was in prison,” says the 28-year-old mother-of-three who playfully fends off her son.
She reaches for a plastic bag that contains the family‚Äôs most treasured possessions, including her son‚Äôs medicine. While Bopha was in prison, he fell off his father‚Äôs scrap cart, lacerating his back. It was poverty, she explains, that made her agree when a local drug gang promised to pay her if she would transport a small batch of crystal methamphetamine, known locally as “ice”, from one end of Phnom Penh to another.
It was impossible to keep supporting her three children on the $1 her husband earned selling empty cans collected from the streets, she explains. But Bopha was followed by the police and arrested. Unable to pay the $400 bribe the local police demanded, she was charged with drug trafficking in November 2014. From then on, she says, her family‚Äôs situation went from bad to worse.