Week 6: Conference

Last week we unfortunately lost our four Australian interns but they helped out tremendously while they were here, most recently on the prison story I posted last week. We have continued to investigate the cases and follow up with our witnesses to provide proof of our clients age and are currently exploring avenues of getting their ages medically proven. This could prove difficult as it would likely require the prison to allow them to be transported to a hospital where x-rays would be conducted. 

Ouk Vandeth Sim Dalis Jenessy Rodriguez and myself went to a consultation meeting amongst legal aid providers prepared by SEALAW (South-East-Asia Law) and Legal Aid of Cambodia. This meeting brought together representatives from seventeen different NGO’s that provide legal aide in some capacity. It was really informative and rewarding to see some of the work that others were doing all across the country and the different perspectives, methodologies, and specializations that they brought in providing free legal aide to those who needed it most. Some focused on migrant workers rights, or children, or victims of violent crimes, or political cases, or big test cases, while IBJ focuses on criminal defense. There was one unifying story behind all these organizations however, and that was that while maybe ten years ago there was an over abundance of funding, it was now steadily shrinking. Organizations that could once afford ten lawyers were now getting by with one to three lawyers and only part time work as well. It is clear that because Cambodia’s economy has grown and its civil society has improved since the 1980’s, foreign donors consider these are services that can and should be provided by the government. And they should, the main purpose of this conference was to begin to establish a legal aide network in Cambodia, and learn from representatives from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia on how they formed their networks, how funding was secured, and what challenges we would likely face in its creation.  While it seemed clear by the end of the meeting we were still a long way to go in creating a unified coalition that would proposition either the Cambodian Bar or Ministry of Justice for the establishment and funding of the program; it was great to see that everyone agreed that it was necessary and wanted to go forward. 

The next night I represented IBJ at a book launch for “Introduction to Legislative Drafting References and Techniques”. This book which was the combined work of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung a german group and the Ministry of Justice outlined a more inclusive manner of drafting laws that took power away from the executive and strove to include the legislative branch in the drafting and enacting of laws. The speakers ranging from the H.E. Joachim Freiherrr von Marshall german ambassador to Cambodia to the H.E. Any Vong Vathana Minister of the Ministry of Justice touched on the need for laws that had input from a broad spectrum of voices including civil society. They also spoke on how Cambodia has amazing laws on the book that are up to code and well beyond most UN signatories the main problem that  it faces is in the laws application and enforcement and how hopefully these new practices will address those problems. 

Outside of work this week I came down with an awful case of Tonsillitis that put me out of commission for a few days that I’m just now feeling as though I’m getting over.  The other American Jenessy is also leaving this week and will continue to work for IBJ’s head office in Geneva for the remainder of the summer. As sad as it is to see her go, we have planned a trip to Thailand and Laos that we will embark on tomorrow before we each return to work which hopefully will prove to very exiting. Next week I will cover the events of said trip.