Pannasastra University team wins annual trial competition, making it two victories in a row at the prestigious event
Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
Pannasastra University was crowned National Champions for the second year running.
Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) was crowned national champion for the second year running at Cambodia's third annual mock trial competition that concluded Friday.
Eight teams from seven Cambodian law schools competed for the title over three days at Phnom Penh's Royal University of Law and Economics.
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said such events are an important way to support the training that students receive in the classroom.
"It allows them to experience the real-world pressures and decisions that legal professionals make on a daily basis and to put lecture-hall theory into practice" he said.
The competitors assumed the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a civil case depicting a fictitious property dispute in Siem Reap.
Moeng Theara, from the winning PUC team, said the competition was stiff, but that teamwork won over the judges at the end of the day.
"We understand now that teamwork is very important - without it we could not have won," he said.
"Good communication skills are essential to being a championship team, and that is probably the most valuable lesson I have learnt from this competition."
The younger generation of Cambodian students ...[has] an enormous potential to effect change ...
Johnson said the judges were impressed by the dedication and intelligence of all of the competitors and noted that the current generation are using the Internet, legal databases and mock trial competitions in ways that would have previously been impossible.
"The US Embassy believes that that the younger generation of Cambodian students, in law school and elsewhere, have an enormous potential to effect change throughout the country," he said.
"The students from Pannasastra were judged against an established set of criteria and stood out for their skill in questioning and developing a rapport with witnesses as well as making effective use of their exhibits."
Moeng Theara said his five-person team studied every day for two weeks leading up to the mock trial as they were inexperienced in property law. Everyone had to work "very hard" to feel prepared for the competition, he said.
The teams also attended a two-day interactive training workshop in which they learned basic examination and case-analysis skills.
Sary Maria, of the Pannasastra team, said that learning how to cross-examine a witness was the most challenging aspect of the mock trial.
"I had to learn how to control my feelings and how to control the witness at the same time," she said.
"Sometimes the witness is talkative and sometimes they are quiet, but as lawyers we must always be in control of the situation, and I think that is not easy."
The mock trial was presided over by three judges: Reed Aeschliman of USAID, James Turpin of the United Nations and Tan Senarong, a judge at the Kandal Court and at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
The event is part of USAID's Cambodia Program on Rights and Justice, which has introduced a number of initiatives in legal education, such as a client counselling competion, legal clinics, legal ethics and alternative dispute resolution.