D. Legal Aid Budget and Data/Court Monitoring
While the legal aid budget increased to $220,000 in 2018, it is still difficult to adequately
provide legal aid for thousands of indigent clients for a few reasons. 121 First, the shortage of both
domestic and international funding only allows for legal aid lawyers at trial (where they meet their
client for the first time), who are unable to provide an adequate defense due to lack of time,
preparation and resources. 122 These lawyers cannot get to know the defendants fully, and lack the
funds for both transportation to the rural areas where these crimes occurred and the funds to gather
all the evidence adequately. 123
Second, the lack of economic resources available to courts and judges greatly impacts the
efficiency of the courts and leads to corruption. 124 Public confidence in the judicial system is low and
bribery is far too common at many stages of the Cambodian judiciary. 125 Since bribery often goes
unpunished, there must be more cases charging and convicting those officials accepting bribes to
build accountability. 126 The lack of proper disciplinary measures as well as the misuse of disciplinary
procedures damages public confidence in the Cambodian judiciary and reform in this area should
enforce appropriate disciplinary tools. Salaries should commensurate with the workload, in order to
remove the incentive to accept bribes. This is easier said than done, but perhaps international
assistance would allow the government to achieve “tangible results more quickly.” 127 Additionally,
an independent third party should manage the funds for a judicial budget; however, the government
would have to agree to outside regulation. 128 Foreign pressure through soft pressure tactics such as
public declarations on the issue by foreign states might assist as tougher forms of pressures such as
economic and diplomatic sanctions may not be appropriate at this moment. 129
Third, issues with case management are a significant issue and mechanisms for juvenile justice
data collection continue to be pushed for by several legal aid organizations in order to improve case
management. 130 At the moment, only twelve out of the total twenty-four Courts of First Instance have
an official electronic database system that is kept up to date. 131 However, data collection and
centralization from at least half of these courts is an improvement from previous years when there
121 This is an increase from 2013 when the legal aid budget was only $75,000. While this is an improvement, it is still
difficult to allocate sufficient amounts for pro-bono services for the entire country especially in light of the increased
detention of drug offenders. Pech Sotheary, Legal Aid Budget to Rise by Half, KHMER TIMES (Aug. 30, 2017),
122 Cambodia follows a civil law system rather than a common law system which has a pre-trial investigating judge.
123 See generally Rodriguez, supra note 40.
124 IBA Human Rights Institute, supra note 105, at 8.
126 Abby Seiff, Cambodia: Corruption in the Judiciary ‘Endemic’, INT’L BAR ASS’N (Sept. 21, 2015),
http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=63af01f5-7bf3-4433-8edb-bbeb512395d7. For example, in
February 2015 Judge Ang Mealaktei was removed from his position as a high-ranking judge after accepting a five-million-dollar bribe. However, his removal was done without the proper disciplinary procedures. IBA Human Rights Institute,
supra note 105, at 33.
127 See generally Rodriguez, supra note 40. As stated earlier, Cambodia is not ready to take ownership of an effective
state sponsored legal aid system and is in need of outside support.
128 Sarah Krys, Justice v. Corruption: Challenges to the Independence of the Judiciary in Cambodia, GLOBAL
ANTICORRUPTION BLOG (Oct. 12, 2015), https://globalanticorruptionblog.com/2015/10/12/justice-v-corruption-
129 Id. See also IBA Human Rights Institute, supra note 105, at 20.
130 See generally Rodriguez, supra note 40.
131 Since Cambodia is based on a French civil law system, the Courts of First Instance are comparable to trial courts in a
common law system. Id.