Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bar members bemoan low payment for pro bono work

Bar members bemoan low payment for pro bono work

Attorneys from across the Kingdom attend the Bar Association congress yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Attorneys from across the Kingdom attend the Bar Association congress yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Bar members bemoan low payment for pro bono work

The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) yesterday said it would receive around $222,000 to provide pro bono services to poorer defendants in 2018, though many members said the influx of cash – while an increase – was still not enough to defend the thousands of clients bar members are charged with representing each year.

The announcement came from Soun Visal, the association’s president, at the body’s 22nd annual congress, with the BAKC head saying the government-allocated pro bono budget had been increased from $148,000 and as many as 200 lawyers were signed up to provide such services.

According to Visal, the BAKC had represented clients in around 5,000 cases since his taking over the association in October 2016. If the number of cases remains approximately the same next year, even the increased funding would allow for only about $44 for each case.

“We need more money, maybe double or triple the amount. We are now using the government’s money and our own Bar Association’s savings,” Visal said.

He added that the BAKC had so far lobbied for funding for pro bono services mostly in Phnom Penh and larger provinces, but next year would ask that at least five lawyers be funded in each province.

Despite Visal’s assurances of increased funding in the future, lawyers present at yesterday’s meeting were not happy with the compensation levels. One lawyer said the diminished services lawyers were able to provide on so little were an “injustice” to their clients.

As other lawyers started airing grievances, a Post reporter was asked to leave the meeting.

Yung Phanith, the lawyer assigned to defend political analyst Kem Ley’s murderer, Oeut Ang, said lawyers would get around $40 for Phnom Penh cases, with the figure going up to $75 for provincial trials that required travel.

However, this was supposed to only cover two court hearings – to inform the court of their assignment and the actual trial – and lawyers were left in the lurch if there were any delays or postponements.

“So when the court suspends [a hearing], we need to pay with our own money since there is no money covering that,” he added.

Not only is the pro bono compensation too little, he added, the cases prevent lawyers from taking on paying clients.

Choung Choungy, who frequently represents the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and its members, said it was unsustainable to expect lawyers to dip into their own pockets to fund a client’s defence, and resulted in sub-par representation to boot.

“Then we cannot meet their demands, or we cannot fulfil what our client wants. There are limits.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied