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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Legal aid group shuts two provincial offices due to lack of funding

Legal aid group shuts two provincial offices due to lack of funding

But some say the Cambodia Defenders Project is just one of many NGOs facing a squeeze as the financial crisis tightens donor purse strings

THE Cambodia Defenders Project (CDP), a local legal aid group, has announced that it will close its offices in two provinces due to a shortfall of funds from international donors.

Sok Sam Oeun, the organisation's executive director, said that its offices in Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham will be shuttered at the end of June and that three lawyers and three staff will lose their jobs.

"We will close our offices in two provinces, and staff will be laid off at the end of this month," he said Monday.

"We have tried to ask donors to support this project, but [it] has not [attracted donors]."

Sok Sam Oeun added that the CDP offices in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces would remain open until the end of the year, and he emphasised that the group would continue its work in Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham.

"We will continue to work in the whole of Cambodia," he said.

"I am very sorry to have these offices closed. With them open in the provinces, they can help intervene quickly when people have problems."

Rights workers said that the closure of the two offices could have negative follow-on effects in the two provinces, since the CDP's legal activities were closely linked with human rights.

"[The group] helps provide defence services for the poor," Chan Soveth, an investigator for Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said Monday.

"The donors should consider this again.... If there is no monitoring by local organisations, there will be no balance and justice for the victims."

Systemic problem

But other rights activists say the shortfall in funding also appears to be affecting other Cambodian NGOs. One human rights worker, who declined to be named, said Monday that six staff from the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre (CWCC) in Siem Reap province had been laid off due to a lack of money.


Kong Lakhena, secretary general of the CWCC, did not confirm the layoffs but said the group has been holding discussions about the future of some staff as it awaits a funding approval from donors.

"The world economic crisis is also affecting Cambodia. We have asked for funds from donors, but those donors have also been impacted by the economic crisis, so it must affect us too," she said.

Sous Narin, Adhoc's investigator in Siem Reap province, said Monday that it was not only the CDP and CWCC that are facing a funding squeeze, and that increasing layoffs will have grave local effects.

"We are very concerned because these areas of work are all related to each other and help the people develop the country," he said.

"If any part stops working, it will create problems elsewhere."



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