Cablegate: Cambodian Bar Association Altering Policies,

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Not for dissemination on the Internet.

1. (SBU) Summary. Last week, the Ambassador met with
Cambodian Bar Association (CBA) President Ky Tech laying the
groundwork for dialogue to rebuild a relationship between
USAID and the CBA after USAID suspended support earlier this
year (ref). A renewed relationship addresses the need for a
structure under which USAID and the CBA can restart the
disrupted USAID-funded legal fellows program. Still
unresolved is Ky Tech's apparent lack of commitment to allow
lawyers to work with non-governmental organizations. What is
certain is Ky Tech's resolve that the CBA take charge to
ensure all lawyers in Cambodia abide by CBA regulations. End


2. (SBU) Last week, the Ambassador met with CBA President Ky
Tech laying the groundwork to rebuild a relationship between
the CBA and USAID. The meeting was partially prompted by Ky
Tech's recent decisions that the 2007 class of intern lawyers
placed with some local human rights non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) not be admitted to the Bar unless they
resign from those internships. Further, Ky Tech told the
intern lawyers that the Bar may not admit them if they have
employment contracts with NGOs when they apply for Bar
membership. Ky Tech maintains that he questions the
independence of lawyers who do not work for other lawyers as
they would be supervised by non-legal professionals in an
NGO. Starting in 2006, USAID funded a legal fellows program
sponsoring internships for 12 intern lawyers with human
rights NGOs. The 2006 class of law fellows was successful
and completed their training with NGOs without intervention
from the CBA. On May 10, the USAID-sponsored class of 2007
legal fellows resigned en masse from their internships in
hopes of salvaging their chances to enter the Bar. USAID
made the decision to suspend support for collaborative
projects with the CBA until an acceptable, formal working
agreement, such as a memorandum of understanding, is laid
out. Additional fallout was the departure of an American Bar
Association (ABA)-sponsored legal advisor to the now-closing
Legal Consultation Office at the Bar's Lawyer Training
Center. The advisor felt he could no longer be effective
after a perceived lack of support from the CBA.


3. (SBU) The Ambassador welcomed the news that the CBA would
support the lawyers in a high-profile land case. In part,
this was a way to encourage positive steps while signaling
concern over the perception that the CBA is exercising muscle
to clamp down on human rights NGOs. The Ambassador was
referring to a high-profile Ratanakiri land dispute case in
which legal aid NGOs are representing poor community members.
The community members are filing a suit against Keat Kolney,
sister of the Senior Minister of the Ministry of Economy and
Finance and wife of Secretary of State for the Ministry of
Land. She is alleged to have illegally acquired some of the
community's land. In retaliation, she filed a complaint with
the CBA against the legal aid lawyers. The Bar is currently
backing the lawyers. (However, the lawyers told USAID
Officers that in a July 4 closed-door meeting, Ky Tech
expressed anger at the lawyers for going public with the
complaints and for talking with the media. He also warned
them about getting involved with "political" activity. Ky
Tech told them about his concern that lawyers working for
NGOs "hinders the independence of lawyers" -- the same
message he brought up during his meeting with the Ambassador.)

4. (SBU) During his meeting with Ky Tech, the Ambassador was
encouraging of the CBA's current support for the Community
Legal Education Center (CLEC) and Legal Aid of Cambodia (LAC)
lawyers who came under fire in the Ratanakiri case. The
Ambassador also applauded the CBA's cooperation with last
month's adoption of the Internal Rules of the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to bring Khmer
Rouge perpetrators to justice. However, he also stated he
did not see eye-to-eye with Ky Tech on the issue of lawyers
working with NGOs to protect the rights of the poor. The
Ambassador urged the CBA to find a way for lawyers to
continue their jobs with NGOs. Ky Tech responded that he
supports the work of NGOs and supports lawyers helping the
poor but that he wants the work to take place with the
cooperation of the CBA and under a legal framework such as

PHNOM PENH 00001000 002 OF 002

retainer relationships.


5. (SBU) On July 30, the former legal fellows met with a
USAID Officers for a read out of the Ambassador's meeting
with Ky Tech. Some of the intern lawyers relayed news that
they are seeking employment with the Cambodian Defenders
Project (CDP) and LAC. CDP and LAC seem to have a positive
relationship with the CBA and had previous (though now
expired) memorandums of understanding with the CBA regarding
legal work through the NGOs. However, the CBA is still
trying to mandate that the intern lawyers are not allowed to
be "employed" by the NGOs but that they could be hired
through retainer agreements or a similar arrangement. Human
rights NGO Director Naly Pilorge of LICADHO also attended the
meeting with the law fellows and she stated that a situation
where lawyers could only work under retainer agreements would
not be acceptable to LICADHO. This issue remains unresolved.


6. (SBU) The legal fellows program was initiated while CBA
was immobilized by internal disputes stemming from
disagreements over whether Ky Tech had rightful claim to the
Bar presidency. As the Bar moves beyond this dispute phase,
Ky Tech is asserting his command of the association's
mandate. Some observers say that Ky Tech is a known CPP
member and that he is trying to quiet human rights groups for
political reasons. In particular, some say that he does not
want to see NGOs employing the legal system to support human
rights and judicial reforms. Others recognize the role of
the CBA in formalizing and monitoring the professional
behavior of its members and say that Ky Tech's MOU
requirements are an extension of that role.

7. (SBU) The Ambassador's discussion with Ky Tech leaves the
door open for continued dialogue between USAID and the CBA.
The relationship may look slightly different than before but
will now likely be codified in an MOU. Post is hopeful that
a mutually agreeable MOU will lay the groundwork for a
continued legal training programs, such as the law fellows
program, possibly starting as early as May 2008, and the
resurrection of ABA legal technical assistance to the Lawyer
Training Center.

8. (SBU) In practice, lawyers are still working with NGOs.
A few examples of NGOs in Cambodia that continue to have
lawyers on staff are: CLEC, CDP, LAC and the Cambodian Center
for Human Rights (CCHR). But it appears that the CBA is
attempting to consolidate control of the legal profession by
mandating the types of professional relationships that
lawyers can have and thus clamping down on the near-absolute
freedom lawyers used to have to practice law with NGOs in
Cambodia. At the end of the day while lawyers are likely to
find structures allowing them to work with NGOs, the episode
has already sent a chilling message to lawyers with NGOs that
they are under Ky Tech's watch. Despite our concern about
these developments, we note that regulating lawyers'
adherence to internal rules and professional conduct are
normal roles played by Bar associations in most countries.
We will seek to engage with Ky Tech both on the political
level and via negotiation of an MOU to keep him on the right
side of that line. (Note: We forwarded to the Department
copies of a letter from the Ambassador to the ABA President
and from USAID Acting Mission Director to Ky Tech reiterating
points from the Ambassador's meeting.)

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