The Bar Association of Cambodia will establish a legal aid office in Thailand to help migrants who run afoul of the law.
Its president Suon Visal yesterday said the association plans to set up the office in Bangkok.
“We plan to establish a legal aid office in Thailand to help our labourers who need legal services because we do not have any of our lawyers there to help them,” he said, adding that the initiative was made in August following a meeting between the association and the Bar Association of Thailand.
“The Thais agreed and we are now preparing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with them by the end of the year in order to carry out our project,” Mr Visal noted.
He said the legal aid office will have a hotline to provide advice to migrant workers who face problems and the legal services will be free of charge.
“They don’t know where they can find legal advice when they have problems so it is necessary that our Bar Association deals with this in line with the government policy to help and protect our citizens abroad,” Mr Visal said.
He noted that the Bar Association of Thailand will provide space at its headquarters for the Cambodian legal aid office.
“Initially, we don’t have enough budget [to rent an office], and at least three Cambodian lawyers will be stationed there,” Mr Visal said. “We will require more than $10,000 per month and right now we are raising funds for the project.”
Chou Bun Eng, an Interior Ministry secretary of state and vice chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking of Cambodia, yesterday lauded the association over its plan.
“That is a good move because we need to have legal aid offices to help our migrant labourers who require legal aid but can’t find lawyers to defend them,” she said. “Although our embassy does a lot to intervene to resolve the labourers’ problems we need lawyers to defend them in court cases.”
Ms Bun Eng noted that in the past Cambodian migrant workers who went to work in Thailand illegally were exploited, including being sent to work on fishing boats.
“So, if we have a legal group in Thailand it can protect their interests,” she said.
Heng Sour, Labour Ministry spokesman, said the ministry supports the initiative.
“This legal office will complement the legal service at our consulate, including by providing legal advice to labourers,” he said. “We have hired Thai lawyers in the past to defend cases involving our labourers.”
Moeun Tola, executive director at Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights, also welcomed the move.
“I think it is good thing to have lawyers to help labourers in Thailand,” he said. “However, we are waiting to see whether it will benefit our workers.”