William and Mary Law School

Week 4 in Cambodia

After submitting our report on the relationship between the 2001 Land Law and the 2007 Law on Concessions, Vlada and I were tasked to research specific cases of government takings, concessions, and evictions in Cambodia within the past few years. We focused our research on local newspapers and went through our firm’s last few years of archived materials. In the end, it was amazing to see how many cases there were. We slowly came to realize that land issues arising from concessions are widespread, leaving hardly any regions untouched and working for the benefit of various industries (many of the industries we’ve been researching over the course of our time here). Many of these disputes have turned into violent protests and one case in 2007 resulted in the death of two villagers.

When we weren’t researching eviction cases, we assisted our firm in conducting a due diligence report on a Cambodian subsidiary company preparing to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. While participating on a conference call with businessmen and lawyers from Hong Kong, the US, China, and Cambodia, Vlada served as an excellent translator, explaining questions that easily got lost in translation between the many dialects and accents. I served as a representative for our firm, phrasing our responses in the most clear and concise way for an international audience.

I also was able to put the research we had done on Intercountry Adoptions to good use when I helped an international agency fill out the appropriate forms for their domestic government in preparation for becoming one of their country’s two agencies responsible for Intercountry Adoptions in Cambodia once the program is re-opened.

This week, I went to a piano concert at a lovely restaurant with a group of French ex-pats and had dinner with a few American friends at a Khmer restaurant where the tables are set up on sand (even though you are in the middle of the city). The week was also full of my other regular activities, including swing dance and trivia night at the Gym Bar (arguably the best work out I get on Tuesday nights… brain exercises and arm lifts from raising my glass). We got 3rd place this week, so we are moving up the charts! I can’t decide if it is a good thing or a bad thing that we’ve become easily recognizable regulars.

Friday afternoon, we set out for another great adventure. A few new friends from our last weekend in Koh Kong, some new interns from the UN ECCC, and some colleagues set out for the coastal town of Kampot. This time we planned out the whole weekend; an evening cruise, night swimming in the river full of bio-luminescence, etc . Unfortunately, the rain had other plans in mind; but we made the best of it! We partied at Bodhi Villa on Friday night, enjoying the live music and fun surfer/back packer/ hippy atmosphere and dancing into the wee hours on a dock in the river. A few daring souls even went for a swim so the rest of us could benefit from seeing the water light up. We stayed at a really great (and really inexpensive) bungalow. It was the first time I slept with a mosquito net and I was thankful to have our Sri Lankan intern to show me the proper way to set it up. I’m pretty sure that without her help, I would have been a goner.

View from Le Bout du Monde Stairs at Le Bout du Monde

Saturday a few of us, myself included, went out paddle boarding on the river and then jumped in for a quick dip. We then boarded a river cruise, commanded by Bart the Boatman, and took in the amazing views while lounging around for the next 3 hours. Afterwards, the 8 of us took two tuk-tuks for a  45 minute journey from Kampot to Kep. Half of our group decided to voyage off to Rabbit Island for the evening, meanwhile the BNG group decided to stay at Kep so that we would have enough time to visit the abandoned French colonial mansions that line the waterfront (complete with bullet holes, memorializing the years of warfare in the area). Arriving at our hotel, the staff informed us that they had given away the inexpensive bungalow that we had reserved. On the plus side, we were able to stay in a $55 dollar/ night bungalow for only $28 (our previously agreed upon price for the other room). Since I’m not sure that I can possibly explain how amazing the bungalow was, let me just write this… it was a sliver of paradise. We returned to the waterfront to enjoy some of the famous Kep crab and Kampot pepper, before returning to our bungalow to swing on our own personal hammock and play cards over some White Russians, hot chocolate, and warm milk with honey.

Boat Trip to Rabbit Island

Sunday, we awoke to a delicious complimentary breakfast. Perhaps one of my favorite parts about former French colonialism is by far the culinary influence and the delicious crepes. Around noon, we took one of the scariest boat rides of my life across the Gulf of Thailand to Rabbit Island to meet with our friends for a day at the beach. We spent the afternoon jumping in the waves. My time in the water was cut short when a friend swimming close to me got stung by a jellyfish. Being extremely afraid of jellyfish, I high-tailed it out of the water as fast as I possibly could. After only two hours, we returned to take the boat back to Kep, which was a blessing in disguise because we got fairly burnt in only two hours despite the cloudy skies. The taxi ride back to Phnom Penh from Kep was a treat in itself because we got to drive by beautiful limestone mountains with steep cliffs that made me wish I was rock climbing. 

Beach at Rabbit Island

Well, that’s all for now. I look forward to sharing more with you next week! I hope all is well wherever you are reading this from.