was no electronic recordkeeping and most court documents were kept in dusty backrooms of
courthouses with little access by lawyers. 132 The Legal Aid Technical Working Group was informed
by the UNOHCHR in November 2017 that Cambodia is working towards an electronic database at
each provincial court, which will be able to produce statistical reports and will begin to consider the
creation of a centralized database at the Ministry of Justice. 133 Currently, the data that is collected
does not include several “quantitative indicators,” such as dates of trials, which would allow us to
measure pre-trial detention periods. 134 Better data collection, including electronic databases, will
allow for more quality data monitoring and ensure better implementation of the Juvenile Justice Law.
Fourth, an independent mechanism to monitor court proceedings, particularly those involving
juveniles, would create a visible presence in the courts for observers and monitors of proceedings. 135
World Vision reports that “the weakest spot in the system [is] the failure to establish an independent
National Preventative Mechanism to monitor and prevent torture and ill-treatment in places of
detention” since “children who are convicted of a crime in Cambodia are almost exclusively
sentenced to prison.” 136 However, due to rising political tension over the past year, it has become
increasingly difficult for NGOs to secure the necessary permits to visit prisons and there is much
resistance to allow any NGOs to enter prisons. 137
E. Using a Culturally Specific Model that Recognizes Patron-Client Relations and Buddhist
There is not a one-size-fits-all model for justice. Cambodia must incorporate measures that
are rooted in the desires of its people in order to have a greater chance at making a long-term impact
and satisfying victims’ needs. In many rural areas, a preference remains for a punitive approach
consistent with local customs, traditions, and cultures. 138 Social relationships in Cambodia are
hierarchal and the majority of Cambodians favor feudal or paternalistic local government. 139 While
principles of fairness are interpreted differently, it is important to note that patron-client relationships
are less about power and more about nuanced reciprocity. 140 This is why Western conceptualization
of justice and civil society often have “low relevance and applicability to Cambodia.” 141 Additionally,
132 Legal Aid at the Court of Appeal in Cambodia, supra note 37. Additionally, another issue with only having paper
copies is that court clerks will often ask for bribes in order to retrieve documents for lawyers.
133 See generally Rodriguez, supra note 40.
134 Verstraeten, supra note 90, at 30.
135 Krys, supra note 128.
136 Handley, supra note 100.
137 See generally Rodriguez, supra note 40. See generally Hul Reaksmey, NGO Law Having Negative Impact on
Freedoms of Assembly and Political Participation: Community Group, VOA CAMBODIA (Apr. 4, 2018)
138 Verstraeten, supra note 99, at 42.
139 “Fifty-six percent of Cambodians said that local government ‘is like a father and the people like a child.’” People
expect for government to operate as a mutual assistance scheme, like children obey their parents and parents care for their
children. Tara Urs, Voices from Cambodia: Imagining locally-motivated accountability for mass atrocities, SUR (Jan.
responsabilizacao-por-atrocidades-sistematicas. See also Dr. Judy Ledgerwood, Understanding Cambodia: Social
Hierarchy, Patron-Client Relationships and Power, N. ILL. U.,
140 Dr. Ledgerwood, supra note 139.
141 Louise Coventry, ‘It’s Complicated’: Cambodia’s NGOs and International Donors, IAPS DIALOGUE (Aug. 7, 2017),