US Legal Advisers End Stint

The financially-strapped Cambodian operation of the Am­­er­­ican Bar Association ended five years in the country Monday, turning over its office space and equipment to the Bar Association of the King­dom of Cambodia in a small 2 1/2-hour gathering.

The country director is scheduled to leave for the US today.

Say Bory, former president of the Cambodian bar, said that the American counterpart, a long-time adviser to the legal community here, will be sorely missed. “I’m very sorry that [the] Ameri­can Bar Association is leaving. It was a pillar, the grand support of the Cambodian Bar Association,” he said.

The US-government-funded American bar played a sup­porting role in developing its Cambodian counterpart, providing funds, project advice and office equipment since its inception in 1995, the American bar’s country director, Jeffrey Falt, said.

He added that the American bar had also advised the Ministry of Justice in drafting eight types of law. At its height, the American bar had 18 staff members in addition to four long-term American advisers and three full-time Amer­ican administrators.

The American bar had been strug­gling to continue operating since July 1997, when, in res­ponse to Cambodian civil unrest, the US cut funding to Cambodia. USAID had been the American bar’s primary donor.

Falt spoke of the end of his or­ganization’s activities with regret.

“I would not criticize the US government for cutting USAID. That was a decision the US had to make on its own. [But] it’s hurt a lot of organizations…It’s hard when you’re 12,000 miles away to make decisions on a micro level.”

Still, Falk remained hopeful that the American bar could re­turn to Cambodia and resume op­erations. In June 1999, the Amer­i­can bar plans to submit budget plans for Cambodia.

If approved, the American bar could restart here in the year 2000, he said.

The Asia Foun­dation will help fund some legal programs spearheaded by the American bar, said Jon Sum­mers, an Asia foundation representative.




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