I arrived in Phnom Penh last Sunday. I was very fortunate in that my flights went smoothly, and I was settled in my guest house with 25 hours of leaving! The guest house I am staying at is in a very central area in on of the four main roads, Preah Sihanouk, in a district called Boueng Keung Kang 1 that is home to most of the NGO’s working in Cambodia.
To get to and from work I go by tuk tuk, a motorized rickshaw. My inability to speak Khmer was a bit of a worry the first day when I was trying to describe where I was trying to go, everywhere I went I took a piece of paper with a map of where my office was and an address for my guest house. On my way back from work one day I tried to communicate with a tuk tuk driver where I was trying to go and I thought that my non-verbal communication was sufficient, and that he had a good idea of what my sheet of paper said. I was however, mistaken, and on the way back we pulled into a school. My tuk tuk driver got out and came back with a young girl in school there (presumably his daughter) who helped explain to him where I was trying to go! You must respect how much he did not want to say no to a passenger. I hope to haveto have a strong grasp on Khmer by the time I leave, knowing the language seems like one the best ways to really get into the Cambodia culture, and tell people where I am trying to go!
International Bridges to Justice (IBJ)
I started work on Monday, and spent most of the weeks reading annual reports, publications, grant proposals, and reports on the Cambodia criminal justice system. The goal is to assimilate quickly and be ready to get involved in many aspects of IBJ's work. IBJ in Cambodia has three main goals:
1) to provide high quality legal aid to the poorest of the poor and provide access to legal counsel for accused as soon as possible upon arrest;
2) to help establish collaborative relationships with justice stakeholders, so they can ensure human rights of accused are upheld; and
3) to inform individuals of their rights and empower them to exert these rights in context of Cambodian justice system.
I am really looking forward to looking at interviews from affected parties (justice stakeholders, prison chiefs, prosecutors, clients) in the provinces that IBJ is active in to analyze how IBJ’s work is affecting them, meeting with some of IBJ’s recent successful clients to learn about their stories, and learning about and improving the public defenders manual that IBJ uses.
This first week in Cambodia has been superb, I am really looking forward to the rest of the summer, and getting more involved in my work and the city. I would like to end with a massive thank you to Professor Warren and John and Brenda Scanelli, without whom this internship would not be possible at all.