This week I was able to attend another conference in which the Australian embassy laid out the requirements for their DAP (direct aid program) grant that they would be awarding. This $45,000 grant seemed like a perfect fit for our organization and since the meeting I’ve been helping to prepare our expression of interest necessary to qualify for the grant. The conference was also a great opportunity to meet others from similar organizations and learn about the work they’ve been able to accomplish and possible ways in which we could partner. Two previous grant recipients gave presentations on the work they accomplished as well; both the ADD and CPO. ADD has been working on raising disability awareness in Cambodia and ending discrimination and abuse against the mentally and physically disabled. CPO focuses on mental health literacy and specifically is seeking to address the lack of mental health professionals with the drastic need for them. They have been focused on community training projects. It was great to sit down that morning and learn about all the projects that the thirty or so others in room were working on.
Ive also been writing two new success stories for IBJ’s website. The first involved a man that was held in pretrial detention for eight months on suspicion of theft before a family member reached out to the IBJ office in the province. The lawyer was able to establish our clients innocence and secured his acquittal and release within a month of that meeting.
Here is the finished product of the second success story of a client I was able to interview after his release.
Keo Dara lives in a small village in the Takeo Province of southwest Cambodia with his wife and nine year old son. He is well liked in his community, as he is both the director and a teacher at the local primary school.
Dara cares deeply about his students and their wellbeing. Therefore, when he found out that fifty-five year old Sok Davuth had attempted to sell his students narcotics,he promptly alerted the authorities. Unfortunately, it took many reports by Dara to the police until action was taken against Sok Davuth.
On June 1, 2015, the police arrived at Dara’s home and asked him to come into the station to help clarify the details of the case. Happy to oblige, Dara went willingly with the police to the station. He thought that he was going to identify Sok Davuth as a drug trafficker to children and provide more evidence the police. Instead, he was arrested under Chapter X, Section 6 of the Cambodian Law on the Control of Drugs as an accomplice to Davuth and charged with drug trafficking!
While in disbelief that he was arrested under drug trafficking charges, Dara was confident that he would be released soon as he knew he was innocent. However, after five days in police custody, his confidence began to waver upon realization that he was facing up to five years in prison. Incredibly frightened and overwhelmed when police sent him to prison to await further discretion by the prosecutor, Dara was unsure of what to do and who to contact. He began to feel hopeless in the small room alongside 80 other prisoners. Luckily, he saw one of IBJ’s posters in the courthouse, which explained how to get in contact with one of their lawyers.
Dara called the office and Mr. Ly Kosal, IBJ’s provincial lawyer in Takeo, agreed to take the case and began to prepare for Dara’s defense. Dara was relieved and hopeful that IBJ’s representation would lead to the dropping of his charges so that he could return home to his wife, son, and students.
Within five days, Kosal prepared testimonies from local leaders that showed Dara’s good standing in the community and presented that evidence alongside the fact that the police had no evidence against Dara. After hearing Kosal’s well-prepared defense, the prosecutor dropped all charges against Dara and he was released from prison.
Dara is grateful for IBJ’s willingness to represent him and the successful outcome of his release. However, this is not always the case. Many Cambodians face several months of pretrial detention on charges as weak as those leveled against Dara due to lack of representation. IBJ continues to focus on reaching defendants as quickly as possible in order reduce prison overcrowding, expedite cases that congest the court system, and return innocent individuals to their family, friends, and community.
This story can be found with picture of our client and IBJ lawyer Sim Dalis on our website.
This Week I was also able to finally finish up updating the the salesforce system with what we our records in case management which was nice to accomplish before leaving.
Outside of work Ive continued to find new markets and side streets to get lost in all over Phnom Penh. The city continues to surprise and amaze me and only having a few days left has really kicked in. Ive been able to help contribute to creating new routes at the rock climbing gym and its been great having that community.