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Legal aid budget to rise by half

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The government is to give the Bar Association a 50 percent boost in the legal aid budget by 2018 to pay lawyers who defend the poor for free.

The budget is currently 600 million riel, or about $150,000, and will rise to 900 million riel, or more than $220,000 in 2018.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the budget had been rising since 2013 when it was just 300 million riel, or $75,000.

“We expect the budget will continue to increase further. The budget is not enough, but it has made it easier for the poor and the victims who are unable to hire lawyers,” he said.

Cambodian Bar Association spokesman Yim Savy praised the budget increase.

“The amount is enough to help us defend cases for the poor, but it’s not enough for all the processes we need to cover. We still need more funding, but it’s better than 600 million riel,” he said.

Mr Savy warned that many civil society organisations that once helped provide lawyers for the poor had recently closed, leaving the burden almost entirely on the association.

He said the association would review its action plan for 2018 and request more money from the government if necessary.

He added the legal aid money was primarily intended to pay for defence lawyers to help poor people and children in criminal cases.

Adhoc human rights monitor Seoung Sen Karona said the budget increase showed a commitment to helping disadvantaged people access justice, while contributing to judicial reform efforts which have been previously criticised by victims and members of the public.

“In the past, we have seen cases of social injustice where poor people are unable to find a lawyer to defend themselves against wealthy opponents,” he said.

“If the government provides more funding for lawyers to help them, we hope the justice system will improve,” he said.

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