My Final Week| July 28, 2009
Well, it’s my last week in Cambodia! I have three more days of work, and then the weekend, and then I’m heading home! The flight home won’t take as long as the flight here -- a mere 30 hours instead of 36. I have to admit, I’m pretty excited to get back to the US, my family, my friends, my school...there’s so much to do in the next few weeks before classes start up again. But I’m also sad to be saying goodbye to Cambodia. I don’t know when I’ll make it out to this part of the world again.
In the last few weeks, I have been concentrating almost completely on three assignments. First, I was working on eLearning for IBJ. The eLearning program is a new initiative that IBJ is running. They want to train defense lawyers in Cambodia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, India, and other countries by using online interactive programs to teach them both the law itself and techniques and skills in and out of the courtroom. This is accomplished through a complicated hypothetical unique to each country. The hypothetical comes with a video and music from that country, as well as questions and answers for the trainee to study. My assignment was to write the Cambodian hypothetical.
I wrote about a week ago about the terrible land-grabbing problems here. Well, I wrote about the problems with huge companies and the government, but land-grabbing is much more extensive than that. (Just yesterday, I was talking to a woman who can no longer access her house because a rich man in town bought land surrounding the only road to her house, and he shut down the road, claiming it as his down despite the fact that it is a public road and he cannot lawfully buy it.) Because it has been on my mind lately and it is such a huge problem here, I decided to use it as the background of the hypothetical. I made up a man with a rich neighbor who has claimed this man’s farming plot as his own. When the man attempts to defend his plot of land, he is arrested and charged with robbery and battery. While this might sound a little far-fetched, it is not uncommon here. I cannot tell you how many times I have spoken with a defendant who is on trial for the very crime that their attacker inflicted on him or her, because the attacker wants to preempt a complaint to the police by the true victim.
In any case, beyond just writing out the situation, I also had to find the answers. I had to read the entire Code of Criminal Procedure several times, as well as the Constitution and any other laws that might be relevant. Lucky for me, this assignment focused on procedure, because the penal code has not been passed here - they are using the transitional law that was passed back in 1993 after the civil war ended. I finally finished writing the hypo as well as all the questions and answered that would be used, and reviewed the hypothetical with my boss, Vandeth. I have to say, it was very gratifying to have him read it over and only point out a few mistakes! I also needed him to give me advice on techniques that he, as an experienced attorney, uses when he is investigating and trying a case.
My other assignment with IBJ has been to interview past and current clients, to get their stories. I cannot write here about the things that I learned in these interviews, because they are confidential. But it has been quite a learning experience. I wrote awhile ago about my confusion as to defense work -- defense work is not only defending the innocent, but also the guilty, and that is something that must be reconciled. However, most of the people that I have interviewed have had serious injustices done to them by the Cambodian justice system, whether they committed a crime or not.
My final assignment was for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. This is the international tribunal that is trying the Khmer Rouge war criminals. At one point in the summer, I was feeling that I just did not have enough work, so with the help of Professor Warren, I went to the ECCC to see if there was anything that I could do there. Continuing my summer’s dedication to defense work, I got an assignment from the Defense Support Unit, doing research on corporate social responsibility in the context of international crimes. In other words, can corporations be held responsible as accomplices for human rights abuses or the commission of international crimes such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide? There have been a few domestic cases in the last few years, but not that many, so I needed to look into the literature and see if I could find any more information. It is an incredibly interesting assignment.
I need to tie everything up in the next few days, which might be a little difficult. Aside from finishing up work, I also need to buy souvenirs, pack up, figure out what I’m going to take to the US and what I will donate to charities here, and say goodbye to everyone I’ve met here. Leaving is always the worst part of traveling...but on the other hand, I have a new year in Williamsburg to look forward to!