In the predawn darkness of Aug. 8 last year, Nuth Sopheap arrived at a police station and saw her son Minea in handcuffs. The 19-year-old would not look his mother in the eye.
Hours before, by a roadside not far from his family’s home in Kandal, the province that rings the capital, Phnom Penh, Minea had been arrested with a friend. The latter, Sopheap would find out later, was found carrying a small amount of methamphetamine.
Via a relative, Sopheap was soon told the “negotiating” price — the bribe required to secure her son’s release from police custody — was $300. It had been three years since Sopheap, for health reasons, left her job as a seamstress at a garment factory. Her husband’s income from delivering vegetables to market barely supported the family.
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