As is the case with all sectors in the Kingdom, the country’s law students lack the practical experience crucial to a well-rounded university education.
“Law students must do internships because in a real trial their clients might be punished or jailed,” said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, an organisation thatoffers legal representation to the poor.
“In the United States, students go to the courts to see law being implemented and the process of a trial,” said Chin Malin, a lecturer of law and assistant dean of social sciences and international relations at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.
“Cambodian law schools lack access to courts or government administrations to facilitate those activities.”
Recent participation in international competitions and cooperation with international courts has been crucial to developing law in a country under increasing pressure to establish a trusted judicial system.
Legal organisations such as The Cambodian Defenders Project and Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia are giving students legal experience through internships or volunteers. A growing number of law students are also earning a chance to join in competitions as such as the Mock Trial funded by USAID and the International Counseling Competition.
“We want them to be a model for other students to be as good or better than they are,” said Margaret Ryan, a professor and coordinator of the English language-based bachelor of law at the Royal University of Law and Economics.
“We do not teach them to remember, but to analyse law.”
Chin Malin said that one of the biggest obstacles for Cambodian law students is overcoming an entire life of education that required them to memorise information instead of debating or analysing it.
Yun Sophan, a senior law student at RULE who represented her school in the country’s mock trial, said her preparation for the theoretical trial brought three benefits: the development of her analytical skills, enhanced advocacy skills and the confidence that she can succeed in a realistic court case.