Last Full Week in Battambang

Life & Travel

I cannot believe this past week was my last full week in BTB! I will be returning to Phnom Penh next Thursday, where I will work out of IBJ HQ until August 8th. I have absolutely fallen in love with Battambang and have made some truly great friends in my co-workers, who were kind enough to throw me a farewell party on Friday. They surprised me with a trip to my new favorite place - The Pizza Company, followed by some ice cream, and finally - Khmai Karaoke at a local disco. Later in the weekend I had a chance to visit one of the biggest tourist attractions here in Battambang the Phare Ponleu Selpak circus. The circus as well as the accompanying schools for visual, music, and circus are run by a local NGO that instructs Cambodian kids and young adults in these arts. The experience was wonderful (I'll include some videos below), as the circus incorporated a story line into the circus acts, and I was also able to visit an art gallery where I picked up a small watercolor painting. At the end of the show they announced that two of the students (ages 18 and 19) had been accepted into a renowned circus school in Quebec Canada - pretty cool stuff.  

Farewell Party

Farewell Party  Farewell Party  Karaoke

Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) Circus


I've been trying to savor work this week, and honestly could not have better memories to look back on once I've left Battambang. As all the necessary meetings have taken place, we are in the last phase of the Case Management System project. The categories have been finalized and relate to information regarding verdicts, types of evidence used in trials, at what stage the client was referred to our organization, etc. In order to mainline the system Rosemary and I are now working on the final stage of producing Guidelines for the system (kind of like a handbook), where we explain every category and the relevant criminal procedure, as well as examples and explanations of answer choices. For example, in the "Evidence Used" category there are many types of evidence which can be used as outlined by the criminal code. Each of them are listed as options to pick from in the database (i.e. Material Evidence, Witness Testimony, Expert Testimony). What Rosemary and I are working on is drawing from Cambodian law and international standards to define and explain each category so that the lawyer assistant and office assistants can have a better understanding of how to correctly fill in the CMS. Eng, a Cambodian intern in the Phnom Penh Office, will be translating the Guidelines into Khmai so that even less will be lost in translation (literally). 

On Wednesday I was able to participate in a great event. Earlier in the day, a Delegation from the Faculty of Law at Ubon Ratchathani University (UBU) in Thailand that included Deans, Lawyers, and 20 students were given a tour of the Battambang Provincial Court complex where I work. Later in the afternoon, Sothea (IBJ lawyer) and Kalyan (IBJ lawyer assistant) were heading to meet the Delegation at the University of Battambang (UBB) to discuss IBJ's work and Cambodia's Justice system and invited me to listen in - or so I thought. Unexpectedly, I was seated with the panel and somehow became part of it. Luckily, Sothea fielded most of the questions and because I have been working here for quite awhile, I feel quite acquainted with Cambodia's justice system and so I was pretty comfortable in front of the Delegation. The exchange was very interesting, as we discussed Cambodia's legal aid system compared to that of Thailand, how our organization attempts to build relationships with legal authorities, pre-trial detention, case statistics, and outreach programs aimed at increasing legal awareness - like our Street Law programs. The UBU Delegation was incredibly impressive, and I was honored to speak with them, meet the students, and learn about Thailand's legal system, as well as their law school. Afterwards, we posed for a few photos which I've included below:

University of Battambang Campus

UBB Campus    UBB Entrance

UBB Bridge

UBU Delegation

Thai Delegate    Thai Delegate

Group Photo

              Thai Student    Dean and Faculty    Thai Present

The final work related item I would like to touch on is just something I observed this week. The police station happens to be a few meters away from the office, so I often see detainees being brought into the station for questioning, booking etc. Today I noticed quite a few families with young children outside of the window, and saw that the police were preparing to bring around 10 detainees to the Battambang prison to begin their sentence. The families calmly said goodbye as their relatives got onto the police truck and I watched the families pass them a few large bags of food. What struck me was the moment when I saw a young child handed to a female detainee, who then got in the truck which was subsequently locked by the officer. Having done research on the prison system for work, I've become well aware of the many children who are raised in prisons for the duration of their mothers' sentences (mainly because there is no one else who can take them in), but it is really quite jarring to see a child carted off to prison with his mother. I think that will stick with me long after I leave Cambodia.
Prison Transport    Prison Transport
Overall a wonderful last week despite many reminders of the glaringly apparent issues the Cambodian legal system still faces. As IBJ continues to work towards improving these problems, I cannot help but feel honored to have worked with such a wonderful organization for the past few months (and two more weeks!).

Up Next: Case Management Training Leads to Round Two on the Bamboo Train + Back to Phnom Penh, and VIETNAM Weekend!