One day after the highly anticipated – and criticised – appeal hearing of the Boeung Kak 13, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and police from every province in the Kingdom attended a Ministry of Justice and UN Office of Human Rights workshop on Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
The key issues on yesterday’s agenda were arrest and police custody, pre-trial detention and judicial supervision, access to lawyers and evidence rights.
“In many countries, allegations of human rights violations are often related to the conduct of criminal proceedings,” Geneva-based director of research at the OHCHR Marcia Kran said in her opening remarks.
Ministry of Justice Secretary of State Hy Sophea, however, made it clear that the workshop was a discussion, not a lecture.
“Cambodia has a position of self-determination as the owner of a nation. We will accept theories from developed countries – but don’t wear the woolen shirt in the hot season,” he said, asking attendees not to “insult” or “attack” the government.
The lack of lawyers in the provinces was a common concern shared by attendees, including Cambodian Center for Human Rights Executive Director Ou Virak, who said that there were simply too few lawyers in the provinces for criminal proceedings to run properly.
“The government really needs to look at public funding of legal representatives … there needs to be incentives for them to go to rural areas, like there are incentives for teachers in the education system,” Virak said.
Deputy secretary-general of the Cambodian Bar Association Nou Tepyrith said that the bar was increasing the number of lawyers it admitted by between 5 and 10 per year. Now the number is about 70.
He also echoed Virak’s sentiment, saying the biggest problem is the relatively low pay of lawyers in the provinces.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]