Delayed Funds Force Cutbacks at Legal NGO

The Cambodian Defenders Project, a local NGO providing free legal defense to the nation’s vulnerable and destitute, has been forced to severely cut back its work­load because of delays in funding, CDP officials said Mon­day.

“We have the donors who have committed to provide funds to us, but their disbursal is very slow and has been delayed so far,” said Sok Sam Oeun, CDP director.

“We have lobbied them to give it to us, and they promise, next week and next week, since January,” he said.

Until that money arrives, most of CDP’s work will have to be postponed, Sok Sam Oeun said.

One staff member said Mon­day that staff had not received salaries for the last three months.

Soun Visal, who is charged with appointing CDP’s attorneys to clients, said the NGO’s staff met Monday morning to try to formulate a strategy.

“We talked about if we have no funds at the end of the month, what we should do. Whether we should take some money from clients or look for other donors to help us,” he said.

Soun Visal said that 50 to 60 people ask CDP for help each month and the organization is also tending to more than 1,000 open criminal and civil cases.

The courts are proceeding with or without CDP, he noted.

“If the lawyer is not also going ahead, how can we defend our people?” he asked.

Soun Visal said that the anticipated funding is to come from the US Agency for International Dev­elopment, through the East-West Management Institute and the Swedish aid agency Forum Syd.

“Nothing’s been promised to anybody,” Jeffrey Falt of East-West Management Institute said on Monday. But Falt added that CDP would receive funding.

He said the agency received more than 60 proposals from groups seeking money and has narrowed the field to about 20 tentatively approved candidates.

He said the letters of tentative approval will begin going out today or Wednesday. But in some cases, proposals may need clarification or modification, Falt said. He also said that his agency would encourage some applicants to diversify their funding sources.

CDP’s other donor, Forum Syd, will be disbursing funds “as soon as possible,” according to its field director, Lars-Eric Mackhe.

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