Contributed by Vinicius Haesbaert

This is a special occasion for IBJ-Cambodia. On September 5th, we commemorated our 170th edition of Community Legal Education programs in the provinces in the country!

The events started in 2009 as a way to inform citizens of their basic rights. By raising awareness on their rights, we aim at encouraging them to demand their rights be respected if they are ever arrested or accused. Campaigns are conducted by the Defender Resource Centers (DRCs) in the provinces. The targeted venue and audience are preferably far from the city center, where access to justice is extremely limited.

The 170th edition was held in Takeo (DRC-1) at the Commune Hall of Baray Village. On the way to the venue from the city center, it is possible to admire the natural beauty of the surroundings. Takeo was the capital of Chenla Kingdom, and is also known as the “cradle of Khmer civilization”.

The 42 people, including local police officers and authorities, took part in the presentation led by Mr. Ly Kosal, the Provincial Lawyer.

Throughout the morning, people discussed several foundational concepts in criminal justice and human rights, such as the role of a lawyer, the criminal code and right to early access to counsel. Mr. Ly Kosal mentioned examples of case studies that were related to the reality in the village. They discussed self-defense, marriage certificate – a huge issue in Cambodia – as well as land disputes, mentioning specific problems due to the lack of validity of land certificates issued before 1979, in the Khmer Rouge regime, also known as the Year Zero for the country.

Mr. Chan Vanny, the Provincial Investigator, assisted the presentation by providing clarifying examples and by handing and explaining a poster that informs them on their basic rights, such as the condemnation of torture, the right to have a lawyer, and right to see a lawyer.

In the end of the session, the commune chief expressed his gratitude to host such an important event in their village. “It is extremely important that we know our rights to have a lawyer and we thank IBJ for that”, he said in conclusion.

IBJ Cambodia hopes to keep reaching more and more citizens throughout the whole country!

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