Eleanor Wiebe, Q.C., travelled to Cambodia as a volunteer to teach a weeklong contract drafting course at the Lawyer Training Centre in Phnom Penh in January 2011.
The Khmer Rouge effectively destroyed the legal system in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when lawyers, judges, prosecutors and legislators either fled or were killed. It has been suggested by the end of the Khmer Rouge that only 12 trained legal professionals remained alive in the country. This was followed by Vietnamese occupation and continuing civil war, until the United Nations was able to assist in a cease fire and elections in 1993.
Reconstruction of a legal system in Cambodia is a daunting challenge, given the absence of those trained in law, functioning institutions or infrastructure and the poverty of the country. Since 1996, the Canadian Bar Association, with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency, has been supporting the development and strengthening of the legal profession in Cambodia. This has been done, in part, by support to the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, including their Lawyer Training Centre. This Centre trains Cambodian law graduates in both practical skills and theory to ensure competence before the Bar Association licenses new lawyers in practice.
With the long-term goal of ensuring that Cambodian lawyers can deliver their courses at the Centre, Eleanor’s role was to work in concert with a Cambodian lawyer assisting him with teaching as well as teaching the students enrolled in the program. The course was a series of lectures and exercises in drafting carried out over five days, with four hours of classes a day. Classes were taught in Khmer, so translation for the students and Eleanor was necessary. The course content was developed by Canadian volunteer lawyers in 2002 for the Centre and it has been supported and delivered annually through the CBA recruiting volunteer lawyers. Eleanor further modified it for delivery in 2011.
Eleanor enjoyed the enthusiasm of the 44 students, the opportunity to share her teaching knowledge with her Cambodian lawyer counterpart trainer, the warmth and hospitality of the Cambodia Bar, the beauty of the country and the +60 degree warmer temperatures than Winnipeg in January!
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