Cambodian policewoman showered with gifts after being shamed for breastfeeding at work

ARCHIVE PICTURE: Police court officials stand in front of the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh during a questioning attended by staff of Tammy Davis-Charles of Australia, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

PHNOM PENH, – A Cambodian policewoman has been showered with gifts and messages of support after she was shamed online by superiors and forced to apologise over a photo of her breastfeeding at work went viral on social media last week.

The working mother this week received $2,500 from the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen – the latest public overture to her following intense public backlash over her treatment by superiors at the Stung Treng provincial police department.

“The support from Bun Rany Hun Sen instills pride in the woman to be a mother while working and breastfeeding her son,” the provincial administration said in a Facebook post accompanying pictures of the cash handover.

Provincial governor Mom Saroeun also gifted $125 to the policewoman, Sithong Sokha, who was last week forced to make a public apology for sullying the reputations of Cambodian women and the police force with her breastfeeding post.

Cambodian authorities have come under increased scrutiny for policing how women dress and behave, with campaigners calling out multiple violations of United Nations commitments to end violence and discrimination against women.

More than 30 civil society groups slammed “entrenched cultural norms” behind the censuring of Sokha, and various government departments condemned her treatment in a rare show of discord among officials under the one-party government.

The police backtracked and said she was punished only for posting pictures while on duty, and then published photos of her being handed gifts on behalf of the national police chief and provincial police department.

While the gifts suggest acknowledgement of wrongdoing, the police officials who sanctioned Sokha should be held accountable and forced to publicly apologise, said Chak Sopheap, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

“Appropriate measures must be taken to promote gender mainstreaming not only in the workplace but everywhere,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.