Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government legal aid team to meet

Government legal aid team to meet

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Female inmates at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh. A voluntary legal aid team established by the government last month to represent poor women in the Kingdom is set to convene for the first time on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

Government legal aid team to meet

A voluntary legal aid team created by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month to represent poor women in the Kingdom is set to convene for the first time on Tuesday.

Hun Sen ordered the establishment of the group on February 18 to defend women who cannot afford to pay for representation.

Working under the prime minister’s direct supervision, the lawyers would not receive any salary from the government but would receive expenses when designated to help women in rural areas.

Hun Sen assigned the government’s chief lawyer, Ky Tech, to lead the team with a budget of some $500,000.

Tech told The Post on Monday that the group comprises 67 lawyers, with two based in each province and six in Phnom Penh. Another six lawyers would be on standby to help their colleagues across the country when needed.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen wants to have at least two lawyers in each province. We have arranged as such and on Tuesday afternoon we will convene at the Council of Ministers to announce the launch of our operations,” he said.

When asked how the legal aid team would reach out to poor women, especially in rural areas, Tech said: “We will establish a communication system across the country that makes it convenient for them to reach us.

“In each province, they can contact two lawyers who are stationed there. They can also contact our office in Phnom Penh directly,” he said.

Ky Tech said the team had already received more than 10 requests for legal representations, mostly from garment workers across the capital.

Prior to the establishment of the voluntary legal team, Prime Minister Hun Sen had also urged relevant institutions to find ways to help female prisoners with their legal cases.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Government chief lawyer Ky Tech is tasked with leading the voluntary legal aid team to defend poor women across the Kingdom who cannot afford to pay for representation. Pha Lina

He called for speedy proceedings and their release if they have corrected themselves or if they are found not guilty.

Ky Tech said there are separate legal teams for such cases.

“There is a bar association and lawyers from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to help the poor, but the [volunteer] team act as a separate entity."

“We help poor women across the country, and for female inmates who have already been convicted, it’s beyond our authority. We can only assist poor women whose cases are still proceeding,” he said.

Nuth Veasna, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons, told The Post on Tuesday that as of March 2, there were 2,511 female inmates across the Kingdom. That includes women who have been convicted and those who have been placed in pre-trial detention.

“We are looking to help expedite legal procedures in accordance with the law so that the women can be pardoned or have their sentences reduced,” he said.

Veasna said that following the prime minister’s appeal, he expects to see many female inmates pardoned or have their sentences reduced during the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday.

A Ministry of Interior report said as of December 10 last year there were a total of 31,686 inmates, 2,657 of them women.

Rights group Adhoc’s spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said while he welcomed the establishment of the voluntary legal team, he was concerned about the influence the team may have on the courts’ independence.

“We are worried that the courts’ or the judges’ performance will be influenced by [Hun Sen’s] legal team. They can lose their independence and therefore face difficulties in making judicial decisions."

“Not all the women are victims … it’s possible that some of them are actually offenders. So when the female offenders are represented by the government’s legal team, the judges will face challenges,” he claimed.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Life goes on’ if Cambodia loses Everything But Arms

    Cambodia's business sector is exploring ways to mitigate any fallout from a possible loss of access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement as talks continue before the 28-member bloc makes a final decision. The EU monitoring process is set to conclude in

  • Nesat beach: A magnet drawing tourists to the Kingdom’s coastline

    A white sandy beach lined by countless coconut trees awaits travellers off Cambodia’s southwest coast in Koh Kong province’s Srae Ambel district, about 170km from Phnom Penh. Over the past few years Nesat beach – a name inspired by a nearby fishing village – has

  • PM: Workers must train for Industry 4.0

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged the Kingdom’s workforce to seek more technical training and strengthen their skills if they are to avoid job losses resulting from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Hun Sen said the fourth industrial revolution is like a double-edged sword that

  • Huawei applies for OS trademark in Cambodia

    China's Huawei Technologies Co has applied to trademark the “Hongmeng” operating system (OS) in a number of countries including Cambodia in a bid to launch its homegrown operating system as a replacement for the Android OS, Reuters has reported. Huawei has applied to trademark the “